Vehicle graveyards are just that—places where vehicles go to die, slowly succumbing to rust until they are saved or scrapped. The decaying vehicles can often be an eerie sight, and many of the largest vehicle graveyards boast some fairly strange stories.
10 Bolivia’s Train Graveyard
High in the Andes, in the southwest of Bolivia, lies the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt plain. In 1888, as the local mining industry boomed, British engineers were invited to build a railway network that stretched down to the Pacific. Despite constant sabotage from the local Aymara indigenous people who saw the railway as a threat to their way of life, the lines were completed in 1892.
However, by the 1940s the mining economy had collapsed as mineral deposits became exhausted. As the railway fell into disuse, many of the steam trains were simply abandoned on the salt flats. Even today, it makes for a strange sight: lines of rusting steam engines, many of them manufactured in the UK, baking under the desert sun. Since there are no fences or guards, most of the trains have had metal components stolen from them—some of the gutted parts litter the surrounding area. There are plans to turn the graveyard into a museum, but until then the trains are at the mercy of the locals and the environment.
9 Chatillon Forest Car Graveyard
Until recently, the deep woods around the small Belgian town of Chatillon concealed four car graveyards, containing over 500 vehicles slowly being claimed by moss and rust. There is some disagreement over the origin of the vehicles. The most frequently repeated story is that the graveyards began at the end of World War II, when American soldiers unable to afford to ship their cars back home simply left them in the forest, with more being added over the years. Another, less interesting story holds that they were simply the remains of an abandoned junkyard.
Most of the cars were produced in the 1950s and ’60s, and many were highly collectible. As such, a large number were missing parts, either salvaged by collectors or taken by souvenir hunters looking for trinkets. The last of the graveyards was cleared in 2010 amid environmental concerns, but plenty of eerie photos remain.
8 Oranjemund Diamond Vehicle Scrapyard
Oranjemund, Namibia is a small town entirely owned by a company called Namdeb, a joint venture between the Namibian government and the De Beers diamond cartel. Located close to the mouth of the Orange River, it is home to large diamond reserves—the town was built to house the mineworkers. The area is incredibly restricted—armed guards patrol the perimeter and you’re not even allowed through the airport turnstiles without a permit. Anyone found in unauthorized possession of a diamond faces up to 15 years in prison and workers have been known to try and smuggle the gems out hidden up their noses or shoot them over the fences with homemade crossbows. On one occasion, a homing pigeon was discovered wearing a tiny jacket stuffed full of diamonds.
Oranjemund is also home to one of the world’s largest earth-moving fleets, second only to the US Army. Once a vehicle enters the mine compound, it is never allowed to leave, apparently to stop them from being used to smuggle out diamonds. Some of the rusting machinery dates back to the 1920s and includes World War II tanks formerly used to bulldoze sand. Company executives used to proudly show off the collection, but now, conscious of their public image, have begun refusing to let photographs be taken of the graveyard.