Winter 2023 - The Red Oriental

One theory is that the chilling moniker is a response to the jarring, rattling nature of the train ride. Yet, based upon my time on this train, I found the theory ridiculous. Yes, it was cold overnight in the carriage; yes, my seat conspired constantly to deposit me in a heap on the floor; and, yes, the carriage reeked of vomit after the misbehaviour of the drunk. But after so many miles by train – for me, at least – this had all become rather quotidian, quintessential even, of the Latin American railway experience …


Ian Birch taught business and finance at universities in British Columbia and Ontario before retiring onto a wooded acreage in the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands to pursue diverse projects. This article is an excerpt from the author’s book The Last Train through the Heart of the Americas: By Rail and Road across Two Hemispheres, for which he is currently seeking an agent/publisher (

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