Cuban Railways, Touristic Attraction
TEXT AND PHOTOS: F. CAMPOS
Cuba’s railway history, particularly Havana’s, forms part of the thousands of attractions that invite tourists to visit the Caribbean island.
The inaugurating train departed at 19th of November in 1873 with a trip between Havana and Bejucal, the Cuban railway was the seventh in the world and the first in the Hispanic community, including Spain, the metropolis at the time, to function successfully. The opening train parted at 8:00 am with 70 passengers on board and three days later was already transporting passengers and packages on a regular basis.
Similar to the British railway system in Birmingham, its locomotors and wagons were designed by Stephenson and made in London. Eight vapor-run locomotives composed the railway station with 50 wagons holding a capacity of two to five tons of which forty-nine were built in Havana together with eight carriages holding twenty-four to twenty-six passengers each.
Out of the eight locomotives that were bought in England; the first four were made by Braithwaite and arrived in Havana on the 28th of April of 1837. The remaining were made by Reanis and arrived in Havana harbor on the 23rd of February of 1838.
Pieces to RememberThe old Cristina railway station in old Havana was opened in the year 2000, as the Cuban Railway Museum. Amongst its possessions it holds wide and narrow locomotives, diesel and electric, photographs, documents, artifacts relating to the movement of trains and signs amongst many other interesting objects that attract visitors on a weekly basis.
In the year 2002, the Cristina Station was declared a national monument based on it being named the first Railway Enterprise on the west coast. Its name was derived from the very street it was found on, honorific to the governess María Cristina de Borbón, regent of the Spanish government. Its most recent restructure was in 1902 and conserves a grate part of its original elements.
One of the most emblematic pieces of the museum is a locomotive with the name of “La Junta” or “The Joint” which was constructed in 1842 in the United States and got to the Matanzas province in January of 1873. It is the oldest locomotive conserved in Havana and keeps more than 70% of its original pieces.
Another locomotive that is of great interest to the public was named after the factory where it was built, “Manning” in 1873. It is the only British vapor-run locomotive that the country conserves and one of the oldest Manning-made in the world.
Experts value the important railway collection in the Cristina at seven million dollars.