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St Kitts Railway

August 11, 2012 08:24AM
A fascinating report on the demise and resurrection of the St Kitt's railroad by Thomas Kautzor.


St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation (SSMC) :

The railway on St. Kitts is described in details in Jim Horsford, “The St. Kitts Railway” (Locomotives International, 2004, ISBN 1-900340-18-6). A Central Sugar Factory was opened at Basseterre in 1912 to replace the individual mills and boiling-houses on the island’s estates. The first branch of the 30-in. gauge railway to open was between the factory pier and the factory (1.½ miles). During construction it was used to transport parts of the factory and later to transport bulk sugar and molassesto the wharehouses and tanks at the pier. In 1981 the branch was extended to serve the newly-built Deep Water Pier. For the transportation of sugar cane, lines were built both northeast and northwest of the factory. These were later linked to form a complete circle around the island (30 miles). Ten transfer sidings were used to transfer cut cane to the railway. A few additional passing loops allowed additional train crossings. The railway was worked in three sections, with the northern section served by a locomotive based at Sandy Point Terminus (mp 18.¾), all controlled by a central dispatcher.

In 1972 the sugar estates were taken over by the government and in 1976 the sugar factory was nationalized. Following years of producing at a loss, it was decided to close the factory after the 2005 season, and to base the economy mainly on tourism. Since then the sugar estates have been abandoned, although some are being developed into residential areas. Parts of the factory have already been scrapped, while most of what remains is slowly decaying. The workshops are still operating and a furniture maker has set up his offices in the yard and re-employed some of the former factory workers. At the end of June 2012 the SSMC was to be dissolved, with its assets to be turned over to a new entity. The government also has plans for a Sugar Museum, either at the factory site or at Belmont Plantation in the north of the island.

St. Kitts Scenic Railway (SKSR, [www.stkittsscenicrailway.com]):

In December 2002 this company started operating tourist trains over the tracks of the SSMC, in conjunction with the cruise-ship lines calling at Basseterre. At first the ride went around the whole island, but it was later deemed too long (4 hours) and more profitable to only operate from Needsmust Station (mp 0.½), the first siding east of the factory and right next to the international airport, along the Atlantic coast of the island, to La Vallee Siding (mp 18) in the northwest. In this way the train is able to make two daily round-trips, with the passengers traveling along the Caribbean side of the island by bus from/to Basseterre. During cruising when several ships call daily at Basseterre, this amounts to 560 passengers daily (4x140/train). During the low season (April-September), operations shut down in the past, but this year they started one round-trip operations on Fridays only, as the Carnival Victory calls that day. The SKSR has also started clearing the not-used 12 miles of track on the Caribbean side of the island as they plan to again start service around the whole island. This will be some hard work, as everything is very overgrown and some road crossings have been tarred over. The branch to the Factory Pier has been abandoned since 2005 and is heavily overgrown, but the track is still in place, except at the pier itself, where it has been lifted and the molasses tanks scrapped. The sugar store is still there and some warehouses have been taken over by the RSKNDF Coast Guard.

The SKSR’s operational center is at Needsmust Station, with a ticket booth, the administrative offices, a two-road workshop, an outside inspection pit and a loop to turn the train. All points have been removed at the seven intermediate crossing points and sidings between Needsmust and La Vallee, except for one at Bellevue, which was used to get the tamper going back to Needsmust out of the way on the day we rode the train. At La Vallee a loop has also been laid to turn the train.

Locomotives & Rolling Stock:

Seven steam locomotives are known to have operated on St. Kitts, all Kerr Stuart “Brazil” class 0-4-2PTs with open-sided cabs. These were withdrawn in the late 1950s and scrapped in 1972, with the exception of No. 5 (KS 1314/1916), which has for some reason survived to this day, although in very poor condition. While it was due to be preserved, someone moved it with a bulldozer sometime after 2005, when part of the factory complex was cleared to make way for a new power plant. At that time it lost its cab and chimney, and all that remains today are the frame, wheel set, boiler and water tanks.

Two of the railway’s early petrol locos are thought to be privately preserved in the U.K. They are:
• 4wPM No. 8 (Plymouth 1910, 4 tons, 32 hp), which was withdrawn in c.1961 and taken to the U.K. after 1991;
• 4wPM No. S (MR 3663/24, 32 hp, rebuilt from War Department 24-in. gauge MR 435/17), which was out-of-use by 1972 and sold to Mike Hart in the U.K. in February 1998 (supposedly for use on the Ffestiniog Railway).

The following list shows the SSMC petrol and diesel locos still thought to be on the railway in 2005 and my findings (some of the locos have of course been renumbered over the years and some numbers are occupied more than once, plates found on locos are underlined):
• 6wDM No. 1 (HE 5202/57, 12 tons, 116 hp) operational in 2005, stored at SKSR;
• 6wDM No. 2 (HE 5216/57, 12 tons, 116 hp) operational in 2005, stored in loco shed;
• 6wDM No. 3 (HE 5236/58, shown as 5217/57 by Horsford, 12 tons, 116 hp) operational in 2005, stored at cane tipper;
• 4wDM No. 4” (RH 48DL 300350/50 or 300530/51, 48 hp, ex No. 14”) withdrawn by 2002, stored at SKSR;
• 6wDM No. 5 (HE 5217/57, shown as 5236/58 by Horsford, 12 tons, 116 hp) operational in 2005, stored at cane tipper;
• 6wDM No. 6 (HE 5235/58, 12 tons, 116 hp) operational in 2005, stored at SKSR;
• 6wDM No. 7 (HE 5237/58, 12 tons, 116 hp) operational in 2005, stored at SKSR;
• 0-6-0DH No. 8 (ESCA L7/97, 134 hp, rebuilt from 0-6-0DM RH 100DL 302766/56, 14 tons, 1979-80 ex Antigua Sugar Factory Ltd., 1958 regauged from 24-in. gauge) operational in 2005, not seen;
• 4wDM No. 9 (RH 48DL, 283900/51, 7 tons, 48 hp) operational in 2005, not seen;
• 4wPM No. 10 (MR 3666/24, 5 tons, 32 hp, rebuilt from War Department 24-in. gauge MR 452/17) derelict by 1972, derelict at factory;
• 4wPM or DM No. 11 (Davenport 2045/25, 10 tons, 45 hp) derelict by 1972, not seen;
• 0-6-0DM No. 11” (RH 100DL 302769/57, 14 tons, 100 hp, 1979-80 ex Antigua Sugar Factory Ltd.) withdrawn by 2002, not seen;
• 0-4-0DE No. 12 (AW D40/34, 12 tons, 85 hp) operational in 2005, stored at SKSR;
• 0-6-0DM “Churchill” (Davenport 3030/47, 14 tons, 150 hp, ex No. 13) withdrawn by 1991, not seen;
• 0-6-0DM No. 14 (Davenport, 145 hp) withdrawn by 2002, not seen;
• 6wDM No. 14” (HE 5218/58, 12 tons, 101 hp, 1989 ex No. 4) withdrawn by 02/2002, awaiting restoration at SKSR workshop;
• 0-6-0DM No. 15 (Davenport 3120/49, 14-15 tons, 150 hp, ex Jamaica) withdrawn by 1982, not seen;
• 0-6-0DH No. 15” (HE 9086/82, 18 tons, 160 hp) operational in 2005, under restoration at SKSR;
• 0-6-0DM No. 16 (Whitcomb 40637/34, 15 tons, 150 hp, ex Jamaica) operational in 2005, stored at SKSR;
• 0-6-0DM No. 17 (Whitcomb 40018/48, 15 tons, 150 hp, ex Jamaica) withdrawn by 2002, not seen;
• 0-6-0DH No. 18 (ESCA L8/97, 134 hp, rebuilt from 0-6-0DM RH 100DL 302768/56, 14 tons, 1980 ex Antigua Sugar Factory Ltd.) operational in 2005, stored at loco shed;
• 0-6-0DM No. 19 (RH 100DL 302770/58, 14 tons, 100 hp, 1983 ex Antigua Sugar Factory Ltd. No. 5) withdrawn by 2002, not seen;
• 0-6-0DM No. 20 (RH 100DL 285318/52, 14 tons, 100 hp, 1983 ex Antigua Sugar Factory Ltd., No. 3) withdrawn by 1991, not seen;
• 0-6-0DH No. 21 “Pauline” (ESCA L6/96, 134 hp, rebuilt from 0-6-0DM No. 10” RH 100DL 302768/56, 14 tons, 1979-80 ex Antigua Sugar Factory Ltd.) operational in 2005, not seen.

A number of locomotives have been saved by the St. Kitts National Trust and moved to the main line next to SKSR’s Needsmust Station. No. 12 used to haul the sugar and molasses trains between the factory and the pier. During my visit No. 15” was being repainted to be put on display at Needsmust Station together with some cane wagons and a cane transfer crane. No. 14” was to follow next, possibly to be put on display in front of the National Museum in Basseterre. Others are destined for the planned Sugar Museum. It’s a pity that armoured MR No. 10 was not among those. At least one other locomotive was hidden by vegetation at the factory and could not be identified, but I was unable to find out the fate of the other locos on the list, whether they were scrapped, sold or moved to some other location.

The diesel locos used to operate with water and sand ‘tenders’ used for adhesion. Three are stored at Needsmust (No. 1, 8 and 14), while at least another was at the factory (No. 6).

Small motor trolleys were used for track inspections. At least three were taken over and initially used by SKSR, but only the cut-up remains could be seen at Needsmust.

Passenger cars for inspection and track gang cars have been rebuilt from cane wagons and three of those have also been stored at the SKSR station.

There were three types of cane wagons, all built by Robert Hudson in the U.K. of 3 ton capacity:
• 500x weighing 2.25 tons;
• 50x weighing 2.60 tons, ex-Antigua;
• 30x hybrid 2.35 tons, with Antigua wheelsets and St. Kitts bodies.
Not many seem to be left nowadays. A few are stored between the factory and Needsmust, while eight were at Hermitage Siding (mp 4.½) and another two at Belmont Siding (mp 15.½). Cane wagon No. 707 has been turned into a flat wagon by SKSR. There were also 49 mud wagons, 25 bagasse wagons and 6 bogie flat wagons.

For transports to the pier there were eighteen 11-ton capacity bogie sugar bin wagons and four 15-ton capacity bogie molasses tank wagons, of which sugar wagons No. 5 and 6 and molasses tank wagons No. 1 (round tank) and No. 5 (square tank) have been stored at the SKSR station, together with an older four-wheel tank wagon (Eaton). A four-wheel steel crane (Isles Ltd., Stanningley, 1910), formerly used to transfer goods at the pier, has also been moved to the SKSR station.

Two operate its tourist trains, the SKSR bought the following three diesels from Interlok in Poland, were they had been regauged from 750mm to 762mm gauge and repowered with Henschel 16H12A 450 hp engines:
• 0-6-0DH No. 01 (FAUR L30H 23396/77, 25 tons, ex Cukrownia Dobre CO-01, 1989 ex Cukrownia Ostrowy) operational;
• 0-6-0DH No. 02 (FAUR L30H 24062/80, 25 tons, ex Cukrownia Dobre CD-01) operational;
• 0-6-0DH No. 03 (FAUR L30H 24067/80, 25 tons, ex Cukrownia Dobre CO-02, 1989 ex Cukrownia Ostrowy) dumped without engine.

A new bogie diesel-electric locomotive is being built by Global Locomotive in Washington State (the company that repowered the White Pass & Yukon class 90 diesels) and expected for delivery in September 2012.

The single trainset is made up of a power generation van and five ‘Island Series’ double-decker luxury passenger coaches (No. 1-5). Both the coaches lower-level air-conditioned parlor interior and top-level observation deck have 28 seats each, allowing passengers to choose where to sit. Complementary drinks are served by attendants and there are bathrooms at the lower level of each coach. The coaches were designed by the Tom Rader of the Colorado Railcar Manufacturing in Fort Lupton, Colorado, and built by Hamilton Manufacturing Company of Burlington, WA (who also built narrow gauge coaches for the White Pass & Yukon and the Edaville Railroad).

The SKSR also brought some track maintenance equipment with it from North America, including two Fairmont motor trolleys (one precedes the passenger train), a tamper (No. 1126) and a Kershaw spreader.

While the SKSR advertises itself as the “Last Railway in the West Indies”, this certainly fails to take into account the bauxite mining railways in Jamaica or the two short tourist lines in Guadeloupe and Martinique. It is however certainly the most beautiful and entertaining train ride for passengers in the Caribbean.

Best regards,
Thomas Kautzor.
Subject Author Posted

St Kitts Railway

Trevor Heath August 11, 2012 08:24AM

Re: St Kitts Railway

Steve Singer August 11, 2012 09:29AM

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Tower Operator August 11, 2012 12:34PM

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