An Update on the St. Kitts Railway
In Branchline in January 1982 and July /August 1983 I wrote articles relating to the sugar cane railway on the island of St.Kitts. I have just heard from Steve Hites, President & Director of the St. Kitts Scenic Railway Ltd. who has provided an update. The railway was built to bring sugar cane from the cane fields to the sugar factory in
A St. Kitts Railway train going north crosses a loaded St.Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation heading south at Lodge Station. SSMC locomotive 14 on the cane train is somewhat dwarfed by the double decker ‘Island Series’ coaches of the scenic train.
Photo: April 2003,
“The little parade cars had no springs,
was like riding on a 1880s wooden buckboard wagon on a bad dirt
“Lastly, we immediately saw that the
little cars were so low
to the rail that you were in a deep canyon of cane on both sides of
in cuts or on bridges could you really "see" out of this canyon to
get the scenery. If we wanted to be a "scenic railway" tour (and
we felt the SSMC (St.Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation) had a
railway, to be sure!), we needed to be able to get the guests up high
that they could see over the top of the cane. Even a conventional
be too low (we knew this from riding around the island in vans, buses,
“The result, of course, was the
new concept for the
double-decked "Island Series" railcars, designed by Thomas G.
Rader of Colorado Railcar (who designs and builds the full dome cars
for all of
the tour companies in Alaska, and for the Rocky Mountaineer), and built
Hamilton of Hamilton Construction. We have five of the cars in service,
five more are stored in
"No other trains are operating now except the Scenic Railway excursion trains.
"We usually run five to six days a week in the fall/winter/spring, and will run every Thursday this summer for the "Carnival Destiny" cruise ship that now comes to St. Kitts year around (starting in January 2008). The port calls of this single ship will now allow the Railway enough business to keep our key employees on staff, and keep our train and track crews minimally engaged.
"Without this ship we would have to suspend rail service between May and October, which makes it very difficult to reopen the line again come fall. We had to suspend service in both the summer of 2006 and 2007 as there were no summer ships during those two years.”
The SKSR train ascending the grade at key in April 2003. Note the greatly extended exhaust pipe on the locomotive, fitted for all-too apparent reasons!
Photo: SKSR, Courtesy of Steve Hites.
Mr. Hites also mentioned that “even though we initially started running in the full 30-mile circle around the island, we now run just the 18 miles from Needsmust Station out to La Valle, all on the "North Line", which we think of as the "Wild West Indies" part of St. Kitts, the most beautiful, scenic, and undeveloped...a representation for visitors of what the old Caribbean once looked like when most of the islands had rail systems instead of roads. (Our current 18-mile run is made in 1 hour 45 minutes on average, and we own a fleet of sightseeing buses that take passengers on the final 12 miles on around the island to town on the Main Road, making the full circle by rail/highway in only 3 hours), while the original excursions made the 30 mile trip completely around the island.”
The narrow gauge sugar trains no longer
run on the island
but the railway has a healthy future carrying tourists.
Having passed through the SSMC yards, the Scenic Railway train approaches its terminus at Needsmust. Photo: SKSR, courtesy of Steve Hites.
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, February 2008.