Every day, a train leaves the Cuajone mine – 210 km from Ilo - at 3 am and crosses the 30 km long tunnels leading to El Sargento, at the junction with the line coming from Toquepala. At 3:30 am, another train leaves the Toquepala mine – 186 km from Ilo – and slowly follows the Cuajone train about 15 – 30 mn apart. When the sun rises, the 2 trains are around the “Desvio km 119” siding, just above what I use to call the “great plain of meanders”, an incredible flat and inclined plateau where the line can be seen for 16 km / 10 miles drawing 11 big curves on the desert floor between the km 115 and Illusion siding (km 103). This picture shows the plain of meanders viewed from above.
When the sun fully lights that area, the 2 trains are travelling one behind the other on the same track, with radio communications avoiding them from getting too close to each other. This is one of the few sections where one can watch the 2 trains together. I have seen several trains moving simultaneously or train traffic jams elsewhere, at Tehachapi or in huge stations in big cities, like Paris St Lazare. But given the barren desert landscape and open space, these two trains are probably the most fascinating I’ve seen.
On this picture, the first train, far away, barely visible, is close to km 107. The second train is approaching km 116. The line can be seen as far as km 100, i.e. 11 km or 16.5 miles of line are on the picture.
Coordinates of the photographer: South 17d 22’ 51.66’’ – West 70d 50’ 52.254’’ – 1574 m / 5164 ft.