One of the better known attractions in Ushuaia is a journey on a short (5 mi - 8 km) but scenic stretch of railway known as 'Tren del Fin del Mundo,' or the 'Train of the End of the World.' As Ushuaia is the southern most city in the world and this the southernmost railway on earth, the name is not as hyperbolic as it might originally seem.
The first tracks were constructed in the late 19th century to transport supplies to the penitentiary being built in Ushuaia. These tracks were made of wood and used for ox-pulled carts, but by the early twentieth century they had been upgraded to iron rails that conveyed a steam locomotive. The rails connected the prison in Ushuaia with a nearby forestry work camp, and it also became known as the 'Train of the Prisoners' (Tren de los Presos). It brought prison labor to the forest and returned them with a load of the wood they'd harvested to be used for construction, cooking and heating the prison. The track needed to be extended deeper into the forest as the trees near Ushuaia were depleted.
In 1947 the prison in Ushuaia closed and its buildings were incorporated into a naval station. A few years later an earthquake knocked rock onto the track and blocked a portion of the line, and it was abandoned for more than 40 years before being reopened in the 1990s as a tourist attraction, complete with new locomotives.
Today Tren Fin del Mundo transports tourists through the scenic Patagonian landscape to Tierra del Fuego National Park. Besides lush forests and shrouded mountains, you'll see waterfalls, horses grazing, and a large valley filled with tree stumps -- a reminder of the railway's history.
Trains leave from the 'End of the World' station (about 10 km west of Ushuaia's Airport), so the ride is much shorter than the one the prisoners made although the route remains the same. You'll journey along the Pipo Valley to Cascada de la Macarena station, where you can disembark and climb alongside a cascading fall to a viewpoint. Be careful as it's often slippery when wet, and dress warm as it's always cold.
There is a 15 minute stop at the waterfalls and it was on this spot that I took last weekend's One Clue Mystery Photo. Congratulations to George G, who recognized where we were.
The train journey ends at Estación del Parque (Park Station) in Tierra del Fuego National Park, and from here you can return to your point of origin (usually on a return train journey) or explore the park.
We were in Patagonia in the summer, and it was very damp and chilly, so a ride in a cozy train with nice mountain and forest views was most pleasant.