Facebook Page
The Ultimate Steam Page

The Ultimate Steam Page

The Santa Fe Steam Locomotives
of the Red Ferro Industrial Rio Turbio (RFIRT)

Updated 24 December 2011

Porta and crew in front of 2-10-2 # 110 "Santa Cruz"

(around 1960)
photo from the Richard Campbell collection
courtesy of Roberto Yommi

Ing. L. D. Porta's most successful and extensive steam locomotive project was conducted during his employment as the manager of the RFIRT, commonly called the Rio Turbio. Porta came to the railway in 1957 and inherited a small fleet of 2-10-2's built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan in 1956. These locomotives had earlier replaced Henschel-built 2-8-2s originally used on the line. The new locomotives were suffering from signicant steaming problems due to the clinkering tendency of the sub-bituminous Rio Turbio coal. Porta saw this as the perfect application for his Gas Producer Combustion System, previously applied to his experimental 4-8-0. 3 engines were initially fitted, and proved capable of steaming indefinitely without clinkering. In addition, maximum power was significantly increased.

Ing. Porta left the line in 1960 to return to INTI as head of the thermodynamics department, but he maintained a close working relationship with the railway and continued to devise improvements for these locomotives.

Following the successful modifications to first 3 engines, in 1964 a further 10 engines were ordered from Mitsubishi with these and other improvements, including higher boiler pressure and a reduced number of tubes to increase the superheat temperature. The locomotives proved capable of sustaining 1200 DBHP indefinitely. Over the next few years, the first series of engines were back-fitted with Kylpor exhausts and the GPCS as they were shopped for overhauls. One engine, no. 120, was fitted with an improved version of the GPCS called the cyclonic GPCS. The idea here was to admit the secondary air so as to cause rotary motion of the gases in the firebox, thus separating unburned coal particles from the gas stream to allow more complete combustion.

In the 1970's, during the oil crisis, it was expected that demand for the coal from this line would dramatically increase and orders for new motive power were contemplated. Diesel, electric, and new steam locomotives were carefully considered and steam came out the clear economic winner for the line. Porta studied various concepts for much larger steam locomotives, including Garratts and Mallets. The final configuration chosen was a 2-12-12-0, and an order was nearly placed to build the first of these monstrous locomotives. Unfortunately, changed conditions killed the project and the Mitsubishi 2-10-2's soldiered on for another 20 years.

Finally, in the early 1990's, without the presence of Ing. Porta to advocate steam and to ensure that strict maintenance standards were maintained, railway management began looking for replacement motive power. Naturally by this time, diesels were the default choice and Henschel narrow-gauge V160 diesel-hydraulic locomotives were procured from Bulgaria, where they are designated as Class 75 and regauged for use on the Rio Turbio. It's ironic that in their home country they had replaced a batch of modern 2-10-2T's. Steam continued on in switching duties and to provide braking assist for heavy coal trains until 1997, when the remaining steamers were taken out of service. About half of these 20 engines now lie derelict in Rio Gallegos, while the other half remain in operable condition in Rio Turbio.

In March 2004, it was reported that efforts are underway to establish regular steam-powered tourist trains on the line which would be extended to connect with the neighboring country of Chile. This would allow coast-to-coast trains to be run between the Atlantic and Pacific. This project has the support of high level government officials in both countries, so hopefully it will be successful.


Rio Turbio 2-10-2 Data

Year Constructed 1956 1964
Road Numbers 101-110 111-120
Type & Gauge 2-10-2, 2 ft. 5-1/2 in. (750 mm) gauge 2-10-2, 2 ft. 5-1/2 in.(750 mm) gauge
No. Cyls. 2 2
Cyl. Dimensions 16-1/2 inches x 17-3/8 inches 16-1/2 inches x 17-3/8 inches
Coupled wheel diameter 34 inches 34 inches
Boiler pressure 199 PSIG 228 PSIG
No. Tubes 108 88
No. Flues 18 18
Superheater Type A Type A
Heating Surface
? 950 square feet
Grate Area 23 square feet 23 square feet
Fuel Sub-bituminous coal, ~14% ash, ~10,000 BTUH/pound heat content Sub-bituminous coal, ~14% ash, ~10,000 BTUH/pound heat content
Effective Firebox Volume 125 cubic feet 125 cubic feet
Adhesive Weight 38 tons 38 tons
Loco. Weight 48 tons 48 tons
Max. DBHP 1075 1200
DBHP per ton 21 25
Specific fuel consumption 2.64 pounds/DBHP/hour (estimated) 2.2 pounds/DBHP/hour
Rated tonnage 1200-1500 tons, coal drag service 1200-1500 tons, coal drag service
Remarks Kylpor exhaust system, Gas Producer Combustion System, Belpaire firebox, light-weight, multi-ring piston valves and pistons, stokers Kylpor exhaust system, Gas Producer Combustion System, Belpaire firebox, light-weight, multi-ring piston valves and pistons, stokers
Built by Mihara Eng. Works, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan Mihara Eng. Works, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan

Locomotive in Service in the Early 1980's

photo by Ron Johnson

Original Construction Drawing for 1964 Series Locomotives
Showing Smokebox Arrangement Including Kylpor Exhaust System

Mihara Engineering Works, Mitsubishi Heavy Indudustries

2-10-2 Model

Photo of RFRT 2-10-2 Model, from Wikipedia Commons

For more information on these engines, visit the following pages:

Martyn Bane visited the engines in January 2004. See his page at:

For a listing of the present status of these engines, go here:
Status of Steam Locomotives of the Red Ferro Industrial Rio Turbio (RFIRT)

For photographs of the inoperable engines at Rio Gallegos, go here:
2-10-2 Photos

For photographs showing details of the Kylpor exhaust systems, go here:
Kylpor Exhaust System Photos

For details of various railways in Patagonia, including the RFIRT, see Martin Coombs' pages at:

The Railways of the Far South page includes photos of these locomotives being loaded in Japan for shipment to Argentina, which are well worth a look:

For more information on the railways and locomotives of Argentina, see "El Ferrocarril en Internet" written by Sergio L. Klimovsky at:


Also see magazine articles:

"Rail Classics" magazine, May 1982 issue, "World's Most Southerly Railroad" by Ron Johnson

"Locomotive & Railway Preservation" magazine, Issue 44, November-December 1993, "The Tiny Giants of Patagonia" by Gary A. Hunter