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Ernest Malinowski: railroad in the clouds

A Railroad in the Clouds

Polish engineer, Ernest Malinowski (1808 - 1899), was the originator and builder of the highest altitude railroad in the world. After the fall of the November Uprising (1830) he left for France, where he graduated from the elite Ecole des Ponts et des Chaussees and subsequently, in 1852, moved to Peru as an expert in the field of railroad construction.

The railroad project he suggested, which would facilitate transport of minerals and valuable types of wood from the Ucayali river, across High Andes to the Peru capital and on to Callao ocean port was originally discarded as too revolutionary. But in 1871, the Congress of the Republic of Peru approved Malinowski's project. Construction on the project began in 1872, and already in spring of the next year it reached the Ticlio Pass at the altitude of 4,818 meters (15,806 ft), the highest railway spot in the world. To get there, the railway leads through a 1,200 m long tunnel hewn in solid rock and passes 30 bridges and viaducts, as well as 62 tunnels with the total length of 6 km. The bridge over the Verrugas Canyon is among the biggest in the world - it is 77 meters high and 175 meters long. Special turntables have been installed in 11 places to enable change of direction. The highest viaduct reaches 70 meters. Construction was interrupted by the Chile-Peruvian war. After the war, the Oroya section was completed, and after Ernest Malinowski's death, it was extended to Cerro de Pasco, Peru's largest mining district.

Malinowski also worked in Ecuador, were in 1886 he directed the construction of a railroad from Guayaquil to Quito. After returning to Peru, he took the chair of a professor and the head of the Faculty of Topography at the Lima University.

Ernest Malinowski is regarded as a national hero in Peru. His achievement is immortalized by a monument on the Ticlio Pass.

The Peruvian Government plans to extend the trans-Andean railroad to the Ucayali River.

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