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Excluding the Darién Gap (which you'd have to take a ferry across), is it possible to travel from, say, New York, NY to Buenos Aires, Argentina via train?

  • 3
    There was a proposal to build a rail line from Mexico to Panama, but it never happened: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/FERISTSA – Nate Eldredge Aug 2 '15 at 3:18
  • I went 100% by train in 1993 from Tapachula, Chiapas on the border to Guatemala to Veracruz (forgot the name of that state) on the east coast or Gulf coast of Mexico. I changed trains there to get to Mexico City. In Mexico City I changed to a train that went from Mexico City to Juarez, Mexico just across the border from El Paso, TX. I went second class all the way. I left Tapachula with $38 to my name. Once I was in the US I hitched from El Paso back to Minnesota. That was 24 years ago! – Winfred Jul 7 '17 at 6:43
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No. Wikipedia has a page on rail transport in Central America with an overview of the situation in each country. The Man in Seat 61 also has a page about Central and South America (though it does look somewhat incomplete, at least for South America).

Overall, each country has, or doesn't have, its own network. There is currently no railway crossing any border anywhere between Mexico and Columbia, at least. According to this map, in South America, the only international connections are between Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil (neither of the two links between Bolivia and the Chilean coast, to Arica or Antofagasta, carry passengers, and the Arica line is currently closed).

If you want to go from Mexico to Panama, railways won't help you much. Guatemala has none. El Salvador has only a few commuter trains that would save you at most a few miles. Honduras has a few goods trains and commuter trains but there too I don't think any are helpful to cross the country. Nicaragua is another trainless gap. Costa Rica currently only has a commuter line around San José. In Panama the only railway is the one that runs parallel to the Canal.

From Colombia to the South, you'll need to go via Peru or Venezuela. In Colombia, the existing tracks wouldn't help you much, and anyway the only passenger train is in the Bogotá region. Venezuela has a few trains but there are still large gaps if you want to reach Brazil, and then the only trains in the north of Brazil are on the coast. In Peru, finally, there are trains that will take you part of the way between Ecuador and Bolivia, but with several large gaps. You can go from [Cusco to Puno](http://www.seat61.com/Peru.htm#Cusco to Puno) on the shore of Lake Titicaca, then a ferry to Guaqui in Bolivia (if it's currently running — I can't find reliable information) and there a train to La Paz. Bolivia has several passenger networks, but here too there are gaps between these networks, and there are no tracks connecting the eastern and western network. The western network runs to Villazón on the Argentinean border. The Argentinean network no longer runs to La Quiaca, so you'll need a combination of buses and optionally a tourist line, the Tren a las Nubes, in Salta, to reach the main network at Tucuman.

  • Unless you consider The Beast as a possibility... – gerrit Aug 5 '15 at 23:06
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    @gerrit How so? It helps you cross Mexico, but it's the gap between Mexico and Argentina that's the problem. – Gilles Aug 5 '15 at 23:12
  • I didn't mean to say that it's trivial to cross all the way, but in theory one might reach farther if hopping freight trains is a possibility, than if it isn't. ;-) – gerrit Aug 5 '15 at 23:15
  • @gerrit Not much really, and in particular there are no cross-border trains, even freight trains, anywhere between Mexico and Bolivia. – Gilles Aug 5 '15 at 23:19
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To the best of my knowledge it's not.

The passenger train service in Mexico doesn't seem to have long distance trains and in the United States you can get to the Mexican border in El Paso or San Diego but you never actually cross it in a train. So your trip is going to be cut short long before you get to the Darien Gap.

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    In San Diego you can take the trolley (light rail) to a stop just a few hundred meters from the border, then walk across. But it does not appear there are any long distance passenger trains south from Tijuana. – Nate Eldredge Aug 2 '15 at 3:22
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Author Paul Theroux tried it in the 1970's, as documented in his book 'The Old Patagonian Express' [ISBN 0141189150] - I think he had quite a few gaps though, and used several lines that are no longer in use...

Wikipedia

On that basis, I'd say that no, it isn't, and it is in fact less possible now than it was 30 years ago.

  • edited to make it more of an answer... – Nick C Aug 4 '15 at 12:24

protected by phoog Jul 7 '17 at 15:02

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