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