History of the Trinidad Railways

excerpt from
Trinidad and Tobago : A Traveller's Guide
Mike East

In the 1800s it was the great merchants and plantation owners of Trinidad who supplied the impetus for development when there was inaction from the colonial administration. So it was with the coming of the railways.

The first line from Princes Town to San Fernando was little more than a tramway; the track was laid in 1859. Waggons were drawn along by horses and mules and carried agricultural produce to the coast. Then by popular demand the service was extended to carry passengers and mail. It became known as 'the Cipero Tramroad' after the river it crossed; the fare was 36 cents.

The idea of a railway proper had been around since 1846 when the Trinidad Railway Company was formed. Routes were surveyed, yet it proved impossible to raise the finance until the Cipero Tramroad had shown the way.

In 1873 construction began and on 31st August 1876 a line linking Port of Spain with Arima opened. A mini railway mania hit the country as people of influence clamoured to have a branch put through to their own town or estates. In 1882 San Fernando was reached; in 1897 the network had been expanded to take in Sangre Grande, Tabaquite, Siparia and Rio Claro.

The service ran successfully for decades then after independence, the government started to have misgivings about it and the lines were gradually closed down. The final run to San Fernando from Port of Spain was a memorable event; people struggled to get a place on board, Calypsonians sang of the railway's demise. The final track was pulled up in 1968; in some places roads were laid along the old routes.

Little remains today; Engine 11 stands in San Fernando's Harris Promenade, whilst its sister locomotive occupies a corner of the bus depot in Port of Spain. The capital's railway station is now the headquarters of the Public Transport Service Corporation. All are monuments of this bygone age.

The above is an extract from the travel guide Trinidad and Tobago by Mike East.
Return to [ History | 1876 | the Platform ]

This page is maintained by Chris Lawson (chris.lawson@virgin.net)
Last Updated 27th September 1997