Great Train Graveyard – Uyuni, Bolivia - Atlas Obscura

Uyuni, Bolivia

Great Train Graveyard

On the outskirts of a desert trading village high on the Andean plain, steel giants have been destroyed by salt winds. 

It’s a cemetery for trains, for locomotives. And it’s so big that it looks as though all of the trains in South America were moved to Uyuni, Bolivia, to chug their last chug. It’s only about 3 km away from the Uyuni train station.

Filled with hollowed out bodies that have completely rusted over and other remains, the “Great Train Graveyard” (also known as Train Cemetery or ‘Cemeterio de Trenes’ in Spanish) can be found on the otherwise deserted outskirts of Uyuni, a small trading region high in the Andean plain.

Uyuni has long been known as an important transportation hub in South America and it connects several major cities. In the early 19th century, big plans were made to build an even bigger network of trains out of Uyuni, but the project was abandoned because of a combination of technical difficulties and tension with neighboring countries. The trains and other equipment were left to rust and fade out of memory. There are no restrictions in approaching the trains, so visitors often climb atop or go inside the train cars for taking pictures.

Most of the trains that can be found in the Graveyard date back to the early 20th century and were imported from Britain. There are over 100 train cars with unique structure and occasional graffitis. In other places in the world, the mighty steel trains would have held up better. The salt winds that blow over Uyuni, which hosts the world’s largest salt plain, have corroded all of the metal. Without guards or even a fence, these pieces were picked over and vandalized long ago. 

Know Before You Go

Since nearly every single salt flat tour company in town visits the Train graveyard at roughly the same time in the late morning to early afternoon, it can easily get drowned out with crowds of people, ultimately disenchanting the abandoned ambience of the place. It's best to visit in the evening (after 5 pm) or early morning (before 8 am) when the buses full of tourist are long gone/haven't arrived yet. It's in walkable distance from the center of Uyuni or you can take a cab for around 10 bolivianos ( $1,30).

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