Ernest Malinowski Engineer Enterpreneur Adventurer
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Ernest Malinowski Engineer Enterpreneur Adventurer

Ernest Malinowski, Polish engineer, builder of trains in the Peruvian Andes.

Ernest Malinowski was born in 1818 in Seweryny, in Poland. He died in 1899 in Lima, Peru, far from home, an ex-pat, but also a hero. Ernest was a an engineer. He built harbours and train lines. He built the highest elevated railroad in the world (at the time). He was also my great great granduncle, although I'm a bit fuzzy on the number of "greats."

Malinowski was a pretty interesting figure. He embodied the Victorian era of expansion and progress well. With his father and brother fled Poland after the fall of the November uprising in 1832. They moved to France and there he studied at the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole de Ponts and Chaussees. He worked in France building railroads and then later in Algeria, building roads in the Bone province and the harbour in Algiers. In 1852 he signed a six-year contract to work as a government engineer in Peru.

train bridge

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In Lima, Malinowski took part in founding the Comisión Central de Ingenieros Civiles (Central Commission of Civil Engineers) and the first polytechnic, the Escuela Central de Ingenieros Civiles (Central School for Civil Engineers). In 1859, together with Mario Alleon and Gerrit Backus he designed the railroad Pisco-Ica, 74 km in length and in 1864 with Stephen Crosby and D.N. Paddison, the Chimbote to Huarez line, 277 km long, with a 3 thousand meter difference in height between the two end points. Perhaps his greatest feat as an engineer is the rail line from Lima to Cerro de Pasco, in the interior of the country, which then turned into the trans-Andes rail meant to reach the Atlantic. It was an unusually difficult project. Over 30 new bridges had to be built. High mountains needed to be crossed, either with the use of tunnels or by an innovative (for the time) zig-zag pattern where the rail line did not circle the mountain but rather zig-zagged on just one side, with track switches at end points. Malinowski oversaw the construction personally. He was also responsible for importing supplies and book keeping for the project. In 1847, there was a financial crisis in Peru and the government stopped the funding for the railway. The Meiggins company (a partner in the building) and Malinowski continued out of their personal funds. The work continued, eventually reaching the height of 4817,8 meters above sea level, in a town called La Cima, the highest rail road in the world, until 2005. The first section (Callao to Chicla) was finally opened in 1878.

jungle train

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Ernest continued with building projects and published a few articles about monetary matters and railway building. He was an elegant man and fairly attractive. Many a young lady showed him interest in the salons of Lima and Quito, but he never married. He was reported to be shy and a bit sad. He died March 2, 1899 in Lima.

Ernest is well remembered. A statue in Lima bears a bas relief with his figure. A coin was minted in Poland to commemorate his birth and train with his name runs every day from Warsaw to the south of Poland. His achievements and interests were many. He lived a full life, albeit it was away from his country of birth, which was in turmoil, but always promoting other Polish engineers and Polish interests. He was my ancestor and I'm proud. 

Malinowski coin

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