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CHAPTER VIII RAILWAYS, PORTS AND IMMIGRATION
RAILWAYS, PORTS AND IMMIGRATION
RAILWAYS

It is often said that the foreign, mostly British, railway community on the River Plate constitutes an Imperium in Imperio.

There is no denying the great influence of that community, but that influence has been rendered inevitable and is wholly justified by the very large amount of capital which the railway companies have at stake in these countries; amounting in Argentina to some £200,000,000 and in Uruguay some £12,000,000, making a total of some 212 millions sterling. Of this total a very large proportion in Argentina and the whole in Uruguay is British.

The total length of railway lines in Argentina is close on 21,000 miles, and in Uruguay close on 1050 miles.

The predominant gauge in Argentina is that in use by the four “great” railway companies of that country, viz. the Buenos Aires Western, the Central Argentine, the Buenos Aires Great Southern and the Buenos Aires Pacific, that is to say, the broad, 5 feet 6 inches, while in Uruguay the great railway company of that country, the Central Uruguay of Montevideo, and its subsidiary companies use the Standard Gauge, 4 feet 8? inches.

TRANSPORTER BRIDGE, PORT OF BUENOS AIRES

Until 1909 each of the Argentine railway companies was (as the Uruguayan still are) controlled by the terms of its particular concession or concessions. In that year, however, a Law was passed, usually called the “Mitre Law,” after its initiator, the late Se?or Emilio Mitre (an eminent[123] Argentine statesman and son of the famous General Mitre, perhaps Argentina’s greatest President and Historian), by which all then existing companies agreeing to be bound by its provisions should be exempt from all National, Provincial and Municipal taxation and Import Duties on material until the year 1947; they, on their part, to pay to the National Government a single tax of 3% on their net earnings, the amount of such earnings to be ascertained by deducting 10% (for working expenses) from their gross receipts.

Only one Company was then enjoying even more favourable terms under its original concession than those given by the Mitre Law; but as that concession was approaching the time of its expiration it would have been ill-judged on the part of the Company to have shown itself recalcitrant to the evident wishes of the Argentine Government.

Therefore it exercised its option in favour of the Mitre Law, as did all the other Companies.

Though the Argentine and Uruguayan Railway Companies rely for their usually very handsome profits much more on haulage of Cereals and Live Stock than on their passenger traffic, it must not be supposed that the latter is in any way neglected by them. Quite the contrary is the case. Possibly nowhere else in the world (except, perhaps, in Russia) is railway travelling as comfortable as on the River Plate, either as regards day or night accommodation or catering, the latter at moderate prices. All is roomy, well arranged and extremely comfortable; but the trains de luxe of the River Plate are those which the Buenos Aires Great Southern Company runs to and from Mar-del-Plata in the season, with Pullman Drawing-room and Dining Cars. The permanent way is good and the running smooth over almost the whole of the two Republics. Trains going to the hotter regions are provided with baths.

Besides British, considerable French and Belgian capital is invested in Argentine railways. The “Province of Santa[124] Fé” and the “Province of Buenos Aires” railways are controlled by French Companies.

Incidentally it may be mentioned that in recent years most of the shares of the “Anglo-Argentine” Tramways Company (which owns the principal tramway system of the Capital) had found their way to Belgium.

A short while ago a United States Syndicate, deemed powerful and feared as menacing a monopoly, obtained control of some of the River Plate lines, notably those of the Central Córdoba, Santa Fé and Entre Rios Companies, under certain arrangements. This Syndicate has since, however, been unable to command the capital necessary to fulfil its part of those arrangements, and, practically, the control of the lines has now reverted to the original Companies, the first and last named of which are British.

The Argentine National Government has during the past few years built and has under construction several lines intended to develop districts which as yet do not offer sufficient temptation to private Companies.

No fresh construction has been begun in either country since the outbreak of the War, the Government and various Companies confining themselves only to such construction work as is absolutely necessary for the completion of extensions already commenced.

Railway construction in these countries does not usually offer any great difficulties. The triumphs of River Plate railway engineering were the line of the Buenos Aires Pacific Railway up and through the Andes and some parts of the lines of the Entre Rios Railway Company in parts of that Province in which for long it seemed impossible to discover a route amid the marshy or spongy soil. Another such triumph will probably occur when the Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway penetrates the Andes, as it no doubt will do one day, much further south than the Buenos Aires Pacific line.

[125]
PORTS

The River Plate Republics are very accessible to foreign Commerce; possessing Atlantic Coasts, the River Plate and its two great navigable tributaries, the Uruguay and the Paraná.

The Port of Buenos Aires ranks seventh among the ports of the world in respect of the value of merchandise which enters and leaves it, and second in America, that is to say, coming immediately after New York. The next most important Argentine ports are those of Rosario, Bahia Blanca and La Plata; after which come Santa Fé, San Nicholás, Campana and Zárate, and many others on the Paraná and Rio Gallegos, Puerto Madryn, San Antonio and others on the South Atlantic. A new Port is in course of construction at Mar-del-Plata.

Montevideo only ranks in point of cargo values just before Bahia Blanca; that is to say, with some £15,000,000 as against the £115,500,000 trade of the Port of Buenos Aires.[22] Uruguay is, however, preparing in this regard for her further development by large new port works which have been under construction for some years past. On the Uruguay she has Fray Bentos, Paysandú (both largely concerned with meat extract and preserved meats export), Salto and Santa Rosa; and on the River Plate, besides Montevideo, Colonia and Maldonado; besides several relatively unimportant ports having as yet but scanty or no effective accommodation for vessels. This could also have been said of many of Argentina’s minor ports not so very long ago. Port accommodation in Uruguay will follow the increase and demands of her export produce and the requirements of her consequently enhanced prosperity.

[126]
IMMIGRATION

As has been noticed under the heading “Racial Elements,” most of the immigration to the River Plate has hitherto passed Montevideo and landed at Buenos Aires. Over 300,000 immigrants landed in Argentina in 1913; composed chiefly, and in point of numerical importance, in the following order, of Spaniards, Italians, “Turcos” (Syrians or Levantines), Russians (mostly Jewish), French, Germans, Austrians, Portuguese and British. British arrivals on the River Plate consist chiefly of the salaried classes; who, not being classed as immigrants, do not appear on the Government returns from which the above figures are taken. The only other noteworthy point about Argentine immigration is that now the Spanish element largely predominates instead of, as formerly, the Italian.

GRAIN ELEVATORS: MADERO DOCK, BUENOS AIRES



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