Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

Video: The End of the World Train

Patagonia is well known for its incredible landscapes in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is accessible either by highway or by the End of the World Train. Beginning in 1883, Ushuaia, Argentina was simply a prison colony intended for repeat offenders and serious criminals, following the example of the British prison colony in Tasmania and the French colony in Devil’s Island.

In 1909, the penal colony needed a way to get men from the jail to the woodcutting site where they would obtain firewood for cooking and heat. Eventually this “Convict Train” was used to create workshops in the area, where prisoners could learn the skills needed to find employment once they were released. As the community grew, opportunities became available for convicts at a press, bakery, sawmill, blacksmith, tailor, and a shoemaker. Other workshops included photography, carpentry, and cabinetmaking. The jail transitioned into a naval base in the 1940s, and after a particularly violent earthquake in 1949, the train stopped running. It was brought back to life in 1994, and now provides tourists a unique way to the entrance of Tierra del Fuego National Park.

You can see Ushuaia and the stunning Patagonia landscape where these men worked on our Patagonia and the Natural Wonders of Argentina and Chile tour.

What trade would you want to learn while living in Ushuaia?