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The first railway in Colombia was in fact the Panama Railroad which crossed the isthmus of Panama in 1855. However, in 1903, Panama became a country in ins own right; as a result, the first railway in present day Colombia was the line opened in 1871 between Barranquilla and Sabanilla (present day Puerto Salgar), a distance of about 22km. The gauge is variously reported as 1080mm or 1067mm; however, subsequent railway development in the country was mainly to a gauge of 3ft (914mm).

The much run down and near bankrupt national railway system all but closed down in the late 20th century. Passenger services ceased and an international link with Venezuela was severed. Freight services were franchised to two companies, operating separate groups of lines on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the country.

The Pacific group was a single route, about 196km from the port of Buenaventura to Palmira, just north of Cali. The line was reported to have ceased operations in early 2016.

The Atlantic group was a single route, about 250km from the port of Santa Marta to Chiriguaná. A 767km abandoned section of line continuing from Chiriguaná to La Dorada was restored to traffic in 2016.

A third group, formed by the reconstruction of a 300km abandoned line between Bogotá and Belencito with branches to Zipaquirá and Facatativá, opened around 2015. The operating contract was awarded to Dracol Líneas Férreas but may be reawarded during 2017.

As well as the concessions and operating contracts, there is an independent (1435mm standard gauge) mineral railway, a tourist railway operating out of Bogotá, and the Medellin Metro.

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Flag image from CIA World Factbook