End of the Line

A train takes clients to the end of the world

By: Janeen Christoff

A stationmaster calls “all aboard,” and just as we step off the bus, our group sees an old-fashioned, red locomotive steam off toward Tierra del Fuego National Park.

On a cruise tour offered aboard Celebrity’s Millennium, my friend and I were exploring the Tierra del Fuego (land of fire) by steam-powered locomotive. The old-fashioned trains run along tracks originally used by a different kind of patron. A prison train, much more primitive than the one currently in use, transported inmates back and forth for logging in the area between 1884 and 1947, when the city of Ushuaia was primarily known as a prison colony.

These days, clients can ride the Train at the End of the World into Tierra del Fuego National Park to see the lonely stumps of trees cleared by inmates, explore reconstructed Yamanas and Shelknam Indian camps the region’s first inhabitants and admire the beauty of the flora and fauna on a narrated journey through the forest.
Located at the tip of South America, Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world. Sprawled along the shores of Beagle Channel and abutting the Martial Mountains, it is the capital of the Tierra del Fuego province, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands, which belong to Argentina.

During its time as a prison colony, the city was home to some of South America’s most notorious criminals. Political prisoners were brought to Ushuaia because of its remote location, and also because the area, surrounded by high mountain ridges and frigid waters, was next to impossible to escape. One of the prison’s most famous inhabitants was Russian anarchist Simon Radowitzky, who assassinated the police chief of Buenos Aires, Ramon Falcon, during a May Day massacre in 1909.

The prison was instrumental to the growth of Ushuaia, now home to 40,000 people. For many years, life in the town revolved around the inmates, so much so that prisoners were taken into the forest (now part of Tierra del Fuego National Park) to cut wood that residents used for heating.

Now tourism is a major industry in Ushuaia. Not only is the city a popular cruise port, but as a jumping-off point for many travelers exploring Antarctica and Patagonia, visitors frequently begin or end trips in the port to explore Tierra del Fuego National Park, Beagle Channel, the lighthouse at the end of the world and more.

The penal institution, which housed 800 inmates in 380 cells, is now the Maritime Museum. And along with scale models of famous ships, clients can get an understanding of the prison’s history.

Getting There

Celebrity Cruises offers commissionable cruise tours in Ushuaia, on South America itineraries. Clients can also book tours through Beagle Channel, penguin excursions, tours of Tierra del Fuego National Park and trips to the Maritime Museum.

For the best possible experience, book clients on a morning tour, so the afternoon can be used to explore the charming city of Ushuaia.

For $115, the Train at the End of the World trip takes about three hours and ends with a live gaucho performance.