Iron horses. The forging of old and new paths
“IRON HORSES. THE FORGING OF OLD AND NEW PATHS”
This little gem of a book is a history of South American railroads, focusing on Chile, and the role they played in bringing a continent to the forefront of the technological age. One day human and animal power were doing the slow work of transportation of minerals and the next iron horses took over. It points to the English, North American, German, Bolivian, Peruvian, and later Chilean ingenuity that went into creating a railroad system that complemented the booming mining industries of the northern Atacama Desert, slightly behind the European industrial revolution. At the same time, this photo-essay is a travelogue, replete with b&w images of historical and/or tourist trains that are still in use today, offering up to the reader the best rides available to the fanatical railroad lover. It is a short book with enough information to get a full picture of the railroad scene of yesterday and today. The images are not typical, although some are from excellent pictorial archives like the British National Railroad Museum’s Science and Society collection. Although there are photos of old locomotives, like one would expect, most images are uniquely personal from the author’s own travel journals. The public needs an English primer on South American railroads, with an updated account of the tourist scene, but in a fun anecdotal fashion, similar to the best of Chatwin and Theroux. A labor of love from a train enthusiast.
Victoria Schele (Santiago, 1947)
Belongs to one of a long line of immigrating generations that have tested their destiny between Chile and the United States of America. Her formal and informal yankee education dictates that her narrative be in her second language, English. This history of the Chilean railroads (her first publication in Chile) follows a previous project, which took almost 20 years to complete, an unpublished novel in 3 volumes entitled “Upon the Shoulders of Giants”. In this first serious attempt at writing what would turn out to be a multi-generational saga highlighting the cultural flowering of the medieval Iberian Peninsula, she chose its most important monotheisms as the catalyst for its renaissance: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Her immersion into the history of such a diverse culture opened her eyes to other stories whose dynamics impacted differently, like technology in the case of “Iron Horses”. The second part of this Ceibo publication is a travelogue of the best “rides” to be found on American historical trains the author has sought out. Narrated in the first person, most of the second-section photos are uniquely personal from her own travel journals. Jointly, the de rigueur historical archive image of a locomotive or railroad appears alongside. The theme of migration versus colonization is a stream that flows throughout the book. The author resides in Santiago de Chile with her partner of 26 years. She has a daughter from a first marriage in the U.S. She maintains that her heart remains trapped in the mystical Patagonia that has no physical boundries.