The Twisted Track
In the late 19th century, modernisation in Patagonia hit a snag. Industry was growing on the eastern ports and demanded faster, more reliable transport for the raw materials it needed to keep Europe in luxury goods. The central lowlands were surrounded by impassible objects on all sides. To the east, south and west, mountains, dry and arid rose sheer and reproachful of all who would seek to cross them. In the north, the lowlands drained into swamp and jungle. Disease and death hunted those who entered without knowledge and skill. Life had carried on in these regions at it’s own pace for thousands of years unchanged by the hand of progress much to the disappointment of those who would make money. A meeting of investors from Europe and statesman was held in Buenos Aires to assess the situation. It was decided that the great South American plains needed a railroad but what it needed more was someone to build it.
An advertisement calling for engineers was posted in the respectable newspapers of all major east and west coast American cities, and they were not disappointed. Over 200 replies were received, from Washington to San Fransisco making need of a whole department to deal with them. Chinese families, Irish farmers, even Clondyke panners and Newfoundland Whalers stood forward to answer the call of cold hard cash. After 6 months of meetings, telegrams, bribes and 2 shootings. The decision was taken to commission 2 brothers from Kentucky by the names of Hogarth and Kenneth Hoyden.
The Hoydens had joined the army in their late teens and shown an aptitude for solving problems. In 5 years they were heading up the construction of bridges and road building around Fort Colorado and Ringgold in Texas. Their first railroad was constructed for the Hudson Bay trading company in the Northwest territories. Some said that the military training had given the brothers a sense of discipline that they instilled in their workforce. Many of the men who worked for them had been ex soldiers and engineers operating cannons and heavy guns. They had knowledge and experience of establishing supply chains, using local knowledge and, most importantly, working with large quantities of explosives. Many of the devices they used had been designed and patented by Hogarth.
Hogarth was a pragmatist, taking time to look at the environment around him, using local materials and labour. Hogarth’s philosophical approach to every task meant that costs could be kept to a minimum. He stood a clear 5 inches taller than his brother, his jaw was longer in his clean kept features, he dressed conservatively and almost never smiled except politely when a lady gave him a compliment. In 1874 he had impressed his Hudson Bay guides by listening to the Inuits living in the area and identifying local sources of food for workers. As well as building the railroad, Hogarth had established local economies, town halls and trading posts, improving the lives of almost all of the local communities as he would see it.
Kenneth or “King Ken.” as many who worked for him called him was a people man, a man of words and politics. Shorter than his brother, he used wit and charm to get most of what was needed to get any job done. He kept a well groomed Blondie moustache and wore his hair much longer than his brother, (although he usually sported a Boss of the plains.) Kenneth was as comfortable drinking with the men as he was drinking with the investors. He presented the motivation, negotiation and uncompromising ambition. Building through inhabited areas often meant bribes and politics Hogarth had no interest in. Kenneth was the oil on Hogarth’s wheels of progress sweeping indigenous populations into the arms of the rapidly approaching modern world.
Hogarth’s shrewd business practice and Kenneth’s politics had meant that out of the 33 projects they had completed for the HBTC, they had never ran over budget. This and Kenneth’s shared interest in poker with the business representatives of Patagonia meant that there was only ever one choice that would be made. In the autumn of 1877 the brothers were starting to prepare for their biggest job yet, a trans-Patagonian railroad network.
Switching location from the northern to southern hemisphere was a long a drawn out task. Hogarth insisted on spending several months in the area travelling and reviewing the landscape before any work began. In the meantime Kenneth stayed in Buenos Aires arranging the delivery of supplies, men and equipment and providing hospitality for all of the investors. This long time apart from one another was to prove the downfall of a 15 year partnership. Some blamed it on change of climate. Hogarth had suffered from altitude sickness, and the dry inland climate, very different from the damp and icy northern landscape he had spent many years coming to know made him clumsy in the eyes of the local guides. Climbing and short steep slope to join them for a better view of a river system, he stumbled, lost his balance and twisted his ankle which never recovered fully. Some blamed it on Kenneth’s lack of brotherly temperance, being left with the rogues of Buenos Aires for a prolonged time without Hogarth’s words of wisdom. He was alone and doing what he knew best, entertaining the money.
Kenneth had received the news whilst attending a dinner party at the President’s palace. He saw the story as an opportunity to show the courage and determination they both shared to assist this young great nation in it’s transformation. With embellishment, he drew a picture of his brother which guaranteed his return as the heroic adventurer, conquering the unknown territories of the wilderness for the good of all mankind. Kenneth was a changed man also. He now saw that a man could be bought in Patagonia at a fraction of the cost of machinery and knowledge. The land was rife with natural resources, rich farmland and colonial money. Without consent, he had already invested in shipping and was pouring the profits into lobbying and powerful relationships.
By the time spring of 1878 came both Hogarth and Kenneth were changed men. Hogarth returned to Buenos Aires. Now he walked with a slow, dignified limp tempered with an ornate Mahogany cane sent as a gift from the President daughter, concerned at Kenneth’s stories of his heroic brother. Hogarth was not happy with the attention his brother had brought him. He was more interested in organising the mule trains and equipment needed for the task. It was obvious there was something not quite right with the two men. Hogarth who usually breakfasted with his younger brother ate alone in his room and Kenneth was never awake before nine in the morning.
The split happened in July when base camp was established in the central plains. Kenneth had been insistent that the railroad should be built heading into Buenos Aires to maximise the publicity. Hogarth reluctantly commissioned supplies to be routed to a central base. He had already started a logging operation to provide timbers from the northern jungles and the cleared land supported cattle to feed workers on the line. Kenneth had assembled a massive workforce, promising completion quicker. Farms had been emptied and whole families moved to assemble a small city in the plains. With workers came merchants, bartenders, prostitution, and thieves. In the plains, Kenneth was the law and the newly formed Patagonian Railroad Company weaved his web of control.
2 days before the operation was ready to start, the argument started. Kenneth was unhappy at the cost of all of the mining equipment Hogarth wanted to ship in. He felt that the job could be done cheaper with labour, pick axes and shovels. Hogarth had wanted to take the railroad through a valley to the east reducing the amount of labour needed. Kenneth wanted a tunnel reducing travel time to the coast. The arguments raged into the small hours of the night. Kenneth took to drinking and eventually they decided to split their efforts. A bet was wagered that Kenneth could reach the east coast using cheap labour quicker than Hogarth’s machinery. They said some things they probably both regretted but both now angry and confused at the others inability to see their own perspective, set out the very next morning to achieve their goals.
In September of 1879, Kenneth heard via the supply chain that Hogarth was ahead by two miles of track. Kenneth could not understand how Hogarth had done this. He had manipulated the flow of resources so that his eastern efforts took the most support, but Hogarth was finding new solutions, acquiring new supplies and labour everyday. He had finally received the support of the guides and staff he used while Kenneth felt smaller amongst the foremen with each hour that passed. When they finally reached the mountains, He had handed over almost all of the running to a loud and red faced American called Charles Wayne. Wayne used brute force to keep the men working. Every day there were stories of people leaving, heading back over the mountains to the city and the ports. Kenneth was now using capital from the shipping ventures to finance more men, more supplies to try and keep ahead of his brother.
Hogarth was aware of the money that Kenneth was spending and sent legal letters to the banks to stop him from exceeding set amounts but Kenneth had friends in the banks, knew where to ask a favour and apply pressure to get what he wanted; what he needed to prove his point to his older brother. The problem was that it wasn’t working. Wayne had found the remains of an old mine that he was pretty sure they could use to begin tunnelling for the passage through the east coast. There were already ventilation shafts and the tunnels all ran horizontally into the mountain. The problems started after two months. Heavy rain had marked the beginning of the winter, and the digging became treacherous for all involved. There were local stories of ancient curses on the mine. The workers demanded more money, lives were lost and the newspaper reporters who sent back new stories over the mountains every day now started to bring doubt to the investors in Buenos Aires.
Hogarth had used valleys, widening them where he needed to, building bridges where the water ran too fast and generally making good use of his surroundings. Now acclimatised to the altitudes, he forces his way over and through the mountains to reach the pacific in record time. When he rode the train into the Newly completed Santiago on the 8th of March in 1880, he sent word to his brother that he was returning to help him finish the final stages. The journey across the mountains took him a week by train, he could already see how the coal yards and stations were starting to transform the landscape but in some places he saw how grasses had grown up around the track and the wild had returned. Once he had passed the mid point of their work, it became worse. In some places, tracks had been stolen by bandits, they had to defend themselves several times against poor and angry locals. There was much resentment of the line. No word came back from his brother.
In the central plains, many of the workers had settled on the new farms created by the land clearance. Here there were water shortages, epidemics and communities scared of roaming bandits. There was no word of his brother, only orders from Wayne for food and liquor. Only when he reached the entrance to the tunnels did he receive the news that Kenneth was severely ill. Several weeks earlier, Kenneth had been drinking again, he spent the night with a prostitute who had arrived with the supply chain from over the mountains. She had disappeared shortly after but Kenneth had started to suffer from a fever. As the rains started, he lay in a tent outside the tunnel entrance and slowly but surely slipped into a coma. An old woman who had taken pity on him had stayed by his bedside when all others had deserted him.
Hogarth wrote to the investors explaining as diplomatically as he could his brothers lack of progress. He discovered that Kenneth had given Wayne direct access to the accounts and to Hogarth’s surprise, he found that Kenneth had started debts all over the area to keep things going. Men were leaving the site, stealing what they could, He found Wayne had embezzled a small fortune from selling alcohol to the local villages. Bandits demanded protection money and the banks were in the process of seizing the shipping company Kenneth had started several years earlier.
Hogarth, settling his brothers affairs as best he could, left the Patagonian Railroad unfinished and returned home to his native Kentucky where he hoped to aid his brother’s recovery. They took up residency on the family farm where after months of brain fever, Kenneth finally regained a semblance of his former condition. Hogarth waited patiently while his brother came to terms with the loss of feeling in his legs. He sat with him through nights of self pity and loathing, listening to Kenneth blame everyone for his downfall until, in 1882, Kenneth was taken under the wing of the local church. He became a preacher, travelling from town to town selling bibles for the cause.
Hogarth must have felt he had done all he could for his brother. He invested what little remained of his money in a small grocery shop and married a German lady named Analiese. They had 3 children, all boys. He never spoke of his life before the shop, of his achievements because he could never think of them that way. When Hogarth thought of the strange lands had crossed and conquered. When he thought of the mountains and the rivers he had crossed, all he could see was the day he had left his younger brother half dead.