Train Cemetery - History and Facts | History Hit

Train Cemetery

Municipio Uyuni, PSI, Bolivia

The train graveyard outside Uyuni, in Bolivia holds remains of dozens of steam engines, dumped when the railways in South America were dismantled.

Image Credit: canyalcin / Shutterstock

About Train Cemetery

Just outside the town of Uyuni, in Bolivia, lies the ‘Great Train Graveyard’, where the remains of dozens of abandoned steam engines lie.

History of the Train Cemetery

The town of Uyuni, high on the Andean plains, was an important colonial transportation hub in South America, connecting several major towns as part of the ambitious European project to link east and west South America. Imperial expansion meant that there were plans to grow the network of trains running through, but these were gradually abandoned as relations

Trains and railway building equipment were simply abandoned, left to rust, as it was easier than transporting them back to transport hubs, given Uyuni’s remote location. The majority of the locomotives are early 20th century British trains. Abandoned trains are far from special in themselves, but the salt winds that whip across the plains in Uyuni corroded the steel, leaving a somewhat more eerie sight.

The Train Cemetery today

No matter how many pictures you’ve seen, the Train Cemetery remains magical. The light – particularly at dawn or dusk – on the salt plains is beautiful, and there’s something haunting about these steel giants being reclaimed by the powers of nature.

The trains are in far from good condition – they were picked over for pieces over a hundred years ago, and combined with increasing tourist numbers and exposure to the elements, they’re in pretty bad shape. It’s worth bearing this in mind before you jump all over them!

The site itself gets extremely busy during the day as almost every tour company will visit en route to or from the salt flats – if you really want to experience the site at its most atmospheric, come for sunrise or sunset to make the most of the relative emptiness and the ethereal light.

Don’t come expecting there to be much however: whilst it is absolutely worth a visit, there isn’t an extensive site nor any information to read. It’s a place to come to soak up the atmosphere and remoteness of the Andean plains rather than a tourist hotspot.

Getting to the Train Cemetery

The cemetery is about 10 minutes outside the town of Uyuni – taxis or local buses will be able to drop you here easily if you don’t have your own transport. It’s about half an hour’s walk from the centre of town if you want to stretch your legs, although you might want to avoid this if you’re going early or late i.e. not in daylight.

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