Railways in Guyana

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The Railways of Guyana comprised two public railways and several industrial railways, including the first in South America.

Demerara-Berbice railway[edit]

Stamp of 1899 depicting Mount Roraima with a Travelling Post Office cancellation of the East Coast Railway

The Demerara-Berbice Railway, built in then British Guiana (now Guyana), was the first railway system on the South American continent.[1] It was first operated by the Demerara Railway Company, a private concern, but sold to the Colonial Transport Department of the Government, which assumed control from 1 January 1922.[1]

Route[edit]

The railway ran for 60.5 miles (97.4 km) along the coast from the capital and main port Georgetown in Demerara to Rosignol in Berbice,[2] whence it was connected by ferry steamer across the Berbice River to New Amsterdam.

History[edit]

The bill proposing the construction of the railway was passed in July 1846.[1] The railway was designed, surveyed and built by the British-American architect and artist Frederick Catherwood. All the railway stations, bridges, stores and other facilities were constructed by John Bradshaw Sharples.[3] Financing was provided by the Demerera Sugar Company who wished to transport their product to the dock of Georgetown. Construction was in sections with the first, from Georgetown to Plaisance, opening on 3 November 1848. The opening day's festivities featured the death of one of the railway's directors by being run over by the locomotive.

An extension to Belfield was completed in 1854, to Mahaica in 1864 and finally to Rosignol during 1897-1900.

In 1948 the railway system in Bermuda was dismantled and sold 'lock, stock & barrel' to the government of British Guyana (as the country then was) to rejuvenate the former system. The locomotives (petrol or diesel [just 2]) and coaches were fully restored, the latter being painted dark green. In 1953 the public lines in the colony carried 1,772,954 passengers and 92,769 tonnes of freight. A bold plan to extend the railway south to Brazil was never proceeded with.

The public railway system was dismantled in stages in the early 1970s by then President Forbes Burnham.

The Lamaha Street terminus of the Demerara-Berbice Railway was converted into a bus terminal subsequent to the closing of the railway.

Service[edit]

Following the opening in 1848, there were two return trains per day between Georgetown and Plaisance.[4]

In 1922 there was one train each week day, departing Georgetown at 08:00 and returning in the evening.[2]

The Georgetown-Rosignol railway service ended in 1972.

Locomotives[edit]

Acquired Disposed Name Cost Use Notes
1847 Mosquito [4]
1847 Sandfly [4]
1847 Firefly [4]
1863 Alexandra £1,593 Relief engine [5]
1863 1921 Victoria £1,593 [5]

Infrastructure[edit]

There were three major bridges on the line, all constructed of iron, across the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary Rivers.[4]

Stations included:

  • Georgetown
  • Plaisance
  • Buxton 12 miles (19 km)
  • Rosignol 60.5 miles (97.4 km)

Demerara-Essequibo railway[edit]

Route[edit]

Guyana's second railway, the Demerara-Essequibo Railway ran for 18.5 miles (29.8 km)[2] along the West Coast of Demerara from Vreed en Hoop on the left bank of the Demerara River to Parika on the Essequibo River.

History[edit]

Its first section was laid to Greenwich Park c1899 and it was extended to Parika in 1914. The Demerara-Essequibo railway service ended in 1974.

Service[edit]

In 1922 there were three return trains each day, timed to interconnect with arriving and departing steam ferries.[2]

Infrastructure[edit]

By 1974 there were nine railway stations along the Demerara-Essequibo line:

  • Vreed-en-Hoop
  • Windsor Forest
  • Hague
  • Leonora
  • Uitvlugt
  • Boeraserie
  • Tuschen
  • Vergenoegen
  • Parika

A number of minor stops, called platforms, were located between the stations, e.g., at Crane, Den Amstel, Stewartville, De Willem.

There was one railway bridge of iron construction across the Boeraserie River.

Industrial railways[edit]

The industrial railway systems continued to operate following the closure of the public system and included several at bauxite mining sites and another linking Port Kaituma and Matthew's Ridge in the Northwest District.

In 1922, one of these was described as an 18.5-mile (29.8 km) 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) (metre gauge) railway running from Wismar to Rockstone across the watershed between the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers.[6]

Bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "The Old Railway Station, Lamaha Street, Cummingsburg". Georgetown, Guyana: National Trust of Guyana. Retrieved 2009-11-07. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d The British Guiana Handbook 1922. 
  3. ^ Hernandez, Lennox J (2009-09-29). "Architecture... Sharples house, Duke Street, Kingston: an icon of our wooden building heritage". Stabroek News. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d e The early period of road and railway transport, Chapter 73, Guyana History, Guyana News and Information.
  5. ^ a b History of the British Guiana Railway System – Georgetown to Mahaica, Part 4, Stabroek News, 2009-07-09.
  6. ^ "River transport". Georgetown, Guyana: Stabroek News. 2009-07-30. Retrieved 2009-11-07.