Site menu Roaming again at Contestado Railway (part 1 of 3)

Roaming again at Contestado Railway (part 1 of 3)

During the first roam around the Contestado railway, I mostly covered the east-west part, and just a small section of the north-south section (Porto União/SC to Marcelino Ramos/RS). In this second visit to the area, I intended to cover this gap, and also to visit again some interesting places around Porto União.

For the people that didn't read the other article, "Contestado Railway" is kind of a nickname of the section of Itararé-Uruguai railroad that runs through the state of Santa Catarina. That was the very first "rapid" terrestial transport between São Paulo and the South, and established a railroad connection with Argentina and Uruguai.

First day

The first day was mostly spent in traveling to Porto União/SC and visiting the outskirts of the city, covering some bases that were neglected in the first visit, like the old freight yard, the "13th kilometer" waterfall, Legru district and Timbó valley.

Figure 1: Railroad bridge over Timbó river, near the mouth into Iguaçú river

Since the Timbó river is east of Porto União, my initial plan was to follow the bank until the Timbó Grande district, a place that was kind of the epicenter of the Contestado War. I went as far as Santa Cruz do Timbó and then came back; the road had incredible amounts of airborne dust, and the place had nothing of interest to be seen. The place looks dead; it is curious how the shadow of the Contestado ordeal still lingers around.

Figure 2: Railroad bridge over Iguaçú river, converted to road bridge after a railroad segment was eradicated.
Figure 3: União station. The state border crosses exactly in the middle of it.

Figure 4: São Francisco and Itararé-Uruguai railroads, running parallel from the yard to this point. They begin to diverge here.

At União, I tried to be a good tourist and bought the locally-produced (and famous) Steinhäger Double W gin. The factory looks like old military quarters, well taken care of, and clean. Here in Brazil, this beverage is seldom consumed neat; most people like it in a variation of the Brazilian official drink, "Caipirinha" (the gin takes the place of "cachaça" as the alcoholic ingredient). This gin stays in liquid state even in a freezer, so the drink can be prepared damn cold.

Figure 5: Steinhäger factory at Porto União/SC

Anyway, once in Porto União I went for a small segment of the original railroad (now a dirt road) at Legru district, that I had forgotten to visit. There is nothing special there, just the fetish of knowing every turn of the original uphill way. (A variant was built in the 1940s.) At least two Brazilian presidents, and even a USA president, had traveled through the place. (The original railroad was built by an American entrepeneur, Mr. Percival Farquhar.)

In the last visit, I went lost in the "13th kilometer" district, but this time I had a better performance in navigation. On top of that, most roads got new and readable signposts. I found the famous "13th km waterfall".

Figure 6: Pintadinho river at 13th kilometer

Figure 7: Railroad and waterfall at 13th kilometer

It is kind of dangerous to visit this place alone — security hasn't been an issue, but safety is a big concern. No fences between you and a 100ft fall, and it would take days for someone to find you by chance. In any case, everything went well in my turn. I even made a small walk-around video:

Video: 13th kilometer waterfall
Figure 8: Railroad and 13th km waterfall (Set/2015)
Figure 9: Railroad and 13th km waterfall (Jan/2020)
Figure 10: Railroad and 13th km waterfall (Set/2015)
Figure 11: Railroad and 13th km waterfall (Jan/2020)

The heavy rains in 2014 washed out some embarkments and caused some landslides. The already ailing railroad went off for good. Without maintenance, grass and bushes reclaimed the railway. In 2019, a local initiative ("Trem das Etnias") set out to fix a section spanning two stations, from downtown to Stenghel. This will allow the steam train (a cherished tourist attraction) to roll again.

Figure 12: Rocks crumbled on the railroad, near the waterfall (Set/2015)
Figure 13: Rocks removed and tracks fixed, near the waterfall (Jan/2020)
Figure 14: Washed-out enbankment beneath the tracks (Set/2015)
Figure 15: Embarkment and tracks fixed (Jan/2020)

I went back to the city through the "8th kilometer" district (yes, these districts were named after the railway milestones).

This article is divided in three parts. This is the first part Click here to read the next part.