Esquel is a town in the northwest of the province of Chubut, in the Argentine
Patagonia. It is located in the Futaleufú, of which it is the head town. The town's name derives from a Mapucheterm meaning "thorn", which refers to the characteristics of the local flora, including several spiny bushes, most famously the Calafate (" Berberis buxifolia").
The founding of the town dates back to the arrival of Welsh immigrants in Chubut in 1865. The settlement was created on
25 February, 1906, as an extension of the Colonia 16 de Octubre, now known as Trevelin.
The city, the main town of the area, is located by the Esquel Stream and surrounded by the mountains La Zeta, La Cruz, Cerro 21 and La Hoya. La Hoya is known as a
skiresort with good quality snow right through the spring. The Los Alerces National Parkis convert|50|km|mi|0|abbr=on|sp=us northwest of the city.
Another important tourist attraction is the narrow-gauge
train(with 75 cm between the rails), known as " La Trochita" locally and in English as "The Old Patagonian Express", after the book by Paul Theroux. It is said to be the only narrow-gauge long-distance train in operation and the southernmost railway in the world. The first fifty locomotives were brought from Germany( Henschel & Sohn) in 1922 and were originally modified to use fuel oiland steam. Later twenty-five locomotives were bought from the Baldwin Locomotive Worksof Philadelphia. The train remains in operation and authentic thanks to the effort of the team of workers at "Talleres Ferroviarios El Maiten", that make a lot of pieces and parts by hand. The trains now run as a tourist excursionbetween Esquel and the small settlement of Nahuel Pan, located at the foot of the volcanoof the same name, with other services all the way to El Maitén. Until 1993, the train ran all the way to the city of Ingeniero Jacobacciin Río Negro, from where trains ran to Viedmaand from there to Buenos Aires, forming the General Roca railway.
According to the census-ar|2001, the Esquel district had about 28,000 inhabitants, with one of the highest rates of growth in the province, mainly as result of the immigration of people from Buenos Aires, but also from other provinces.
In 1951 a farmer found a
meteoriteof convert|755|kg|lb, later called Esquel, while digging a hole for a water tank. When cut and polished, the meteorite shown beautiful yellowish olivine(peridot) crystals. The Esquel meteorite is world wide known among collectors and meteoritical scientific community.
* [http://www.esquel.gov.ar/ Municipality of Esquel] - General, government and tourism information (in English and Spanish).
* [http://www.latrochita.org.ar/TrochiIngles/historia.htm La Trochita]
* [http://www.esquelonline.com/ Tourism information, photographs]
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