Cuba 2003 IV... Tropical Adventure Hershey Railway (50 p.) is a free online Railroad Discussion Forum and Railroad Photo Gallery for railroaders, railfans, model railroaders and anyone else who is interested in railroads. We cover a wide variety of topics, including freight trains, passenger and commuter railroads, rail news and information, tourist railroads, railway museums and railroad history.


Proud Earthling

To the previous trip report part:
Cuba 2003 III... Estaciones de La Habana (50 p.)

February 19 2003

About the Hershey Railway: the line had been constructed by American chocolate company Hershey in 1916, after having acquired large sugar cane plantations 30 miles east of Havanna about half way to Matanzas, a large sugar factory also had been built there. Due to a competitor the railroad was not allowed to end in the city center, so a terminal was established at Casablanca. In 1922 electrification of the line started.
More about it can be learnt on this page:

Two types of electric vehicles had been purchased:

On one hand these GE 7230B locomotives, here #20803, a total number of 12 had been built since 1920.

On the other hand 16 Brill Interurban EMUs, constructed from 1923. Until the "new" trainsets were introduced, these formed the passenger backbone of the railway.

Just #3008 and #3006 still were operational, the first with a functioning pantograph, the latter featuring working traction motors.

Here you can discern the reason for the partly adventurous pantograph constructions: These fitted perfectly, for the other vehicles some improvisation was called for.

However, the consist only formed a tourist special up to Hershey, it was not in regular service anymore. The driver proved to be accordingly friendly and glammed up, I managed to have a nice chat with him using my knowledge of the Spanish language.

I was invited into the cab interior furnished by wooden floor planks. Note the driver's "Cuba"-socks. ;-)

I could take a seat, here a view from the engineer's position, below you can spot the driving order from Hershey to Casablanca.

Cap as well as vest were decorated with the proud title "maquinista".

Departure time soon drew nearer, I entered my train in the last coach, you could peek into the open cab without hindrance.

The GE shunted the Brill-consist to the second track and moved on to the back of the station.

Departure! Good bye, Havanna, a beautiful tropical journey was about to start...

Only on the first mile the line ran as a tramway on the street/agrarian road.

Almost at every siding you met stabled tank cars, this one seemed most trustworthy.

Despite many passengers boarding I stayed relatively alone at the back of the train, due to a simple reason: at almost every smaller stop along the line only a single set of steps led to the first door of the three car consist - causing insane clusters of people in an otherwise empty landscape!

Gradually we left Havanna urban area behind us.

Level crossing next to a cemetary.

In the middle of the beautiful landscape you suddenly came across a sawed off front of an EMU...

Magnificent view - Cuba is about as "cheap" a tropical experience as you can get: (theoretically) easy to reach and absolutely no nasty animals (except for crocodiles, but they usually stay where they are ;-)).


We approached the intermediate station Hershey.

Colorful workmen gang.

Meeting the train into the opposite direction, consisting of an identical rake.


Hombres among themselves.

We left, the other train had departed earlier. Notice one of many ingeniously creative pictures: celebrating the "rejuvenation of the railroad" an older and a younger EMU were shaking hands! ;-)

Now we turned right to the sugar factory here . Naturally it was called Hershey originally but had been renamed Central Camillo Cienfuegos after the revolution. Central was a prefix for all sugar combines. It had been closed shortly before my visit, in July 2002, after 86 years of continuous work. Hershey Railway shed still can be found here, sadly my view was blocked by stabled cars.

On this bit you could suddenly hear a short noise coming from the train, ...

... however, it continued into the next left curve, only to stop there ...

... and reverse back into the freight yard!

Suddenly a railroad employee jumped out of the train, picked up this car-bumper-like piece - which obviously had fallen off the EMU - and calmly stored it on the floor of my car.

Next we managed to continue our trip through tropical wonderland as if nothing had happened!

Jibacoa, one of many stops. Another line branched off here, Cuba owns one of the densest railroad networks in the world due to sugar cane railroading.


Typical rural scene with "vaquero" - we were about to see more along the road.

This railroad featured color light signalling.

A familiar sign...

Macosa is also well known to me, they built for example Slovenian class 644 "Spanka" GM-licensed diesel locomotives.


The last part of the journey led along Rio Yumuri estuary, finally we reached here Matanzas terminal.

Made it, in more than four hours after leaving Casablanca.



Engineer and his engine.


Inside the waiting area - seats only for passenger - , below you could find a box for complaints and suggestions!

Now the situation was the following: my relatives should be getting a big rental car this morning and follow me. My cousin had proposed that I should look out for a train further towards Santa Clara, as this was our principal direction. You also should know, that at that time on Cuba only a small GSM 900 mobile network existed around Havanna. We had great luck that one bar of it was left in Matanzas, so we were able to communicate. Around noon I learnt that there was no sign of a car to be seen in Havanna, that's why I went on a search for Matanzas mainline station. Of course this was a time before Google Maps when you could not just get a plan for every town on the planet. So, I was on my own without any map.

These tracks obviously had been electrified in earlier times.

Rio Yumuri narrows again and is being traversed by this small bridge.

A scene like in America decades ago...

Navigable Rio San Juan featured this swing bridge.

I often asked for the station, and finally - I had found the station hall, a few busses in front...

Wait a minute! Something is not right in this picture.... ;-)
Actually it was the old, disused station here , today just serving as bus terminal...

So, some further questions to the local population, and...

Yeah, found it! Here: (the location currently indicated on Google Maps as Matanzas main station is NOT correct).

However, there was a problem: many people were waiting, as always on Cuba, but no open counter or any kind of information could be found. The tracks were deserted - apart from this grazing horse. On we go, into the new millenium, with Fidel and the glorious revolution!

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