Cuban railways, a story on iron wheels.
Despite the fact that the railroads in Cuba are not of great tourist interest because there are quicker and more effective means, knowing the history of the iron road may be another way of understanding Cuba, its history, its people and its culture.
As important information to encourage you to visit the Railway Museum and to stay reading, I comment that it was introduced in Cuba in 1830 and that it was the first country in Latin America and the seventh in the world to use it.
In the construction of its first sections, more than 2,000 workers died, many of them in slavery.
The Cuban railways, rolling comes to the island.
The railway first appeared in England in 1825 and was followed by major powers in using it.
France, Germany, Belgium and Russia and twelve years later he arrived in Cuba, being a pioneer in all of Latin America and second in America, only after the United States.
1830 marked the beginning of a process that cost thousands of lives and tears. The Governor General of Cuba, Francisco Dionisio Vives created the Junta de Caminos de Hierro to study the construction of the Havana-Güines Railway.
But in December the project was paralyzed and was resumed two years later by Claudio Martínez de Pinillos, Count of Villanueva, appointed president of the Royal Development Board of Havana.
Alfred Cruger was the main engineer of Habana-Bejucal, 27 and a half kilometers was the first completed section of the project approved by the Queen of Spain Isabel II, 2 million pesos negotiated in England.
When 1839 ended, the Havana railway reached 44.5 km, reaching its projected destination, the city of Güines, at that time the head of a rich agricultural and sugar region southeast of Havana.
Its main purpose was the sugar industry, so without haste but without pause the local railway networks followed, starting from Matanzas, Cárdenas, Cienfuegos and Sagua La Grande, in the west and center of the island, that is, where production was concentrated sugar bowl.
And the East?
It was a slower process although the idea was from 1853. At first reached Matanzas, then in sections to Sagua la Grande, which allowed rail communication between the west and the center of the island, to the cities of Santa Clara and Cienfuegos, to through Crosses.
Contrasting with the networks of the west and center, the eastern half of the island had a poor development before 1898.
Fewer population, mountainous terrain and less development of the sugar industry, as well as the Ten Years War, were factors that affected.
Camagüey obtained its project quickly but it took until its conclusion in 1851. In Santiago de Cuba, a narrow-gauge railway was built in 1844 to the El Cobre mines, the oldest in that region.
The road disappeared years later and later, in 1859, the construction of the first railroad that went from Santiago to Maroto and Sabanilla began, reaching San Luis, Alto Songo and La Maya.
Also between Guantánamo and the port of Caimanera, a short railway was built in 1858, which would later extend to the entire Guantánamo valley.
The Cuban Railway between 1898-1902.
When the first North American Intervention in Cuba concluded and the Spanish-American War ended, in Cuba there was a great contrast between the economy and the population of the western half of the island and the eastern half.
The rail network was poor and a change was needed. It was then that William van Horne became the main promoter of the most important work in the development of the Cuban railway in the 20th century: the so-called Cuban Railway.
This project linked Santa Clara with Santiago de Cuba, 573 km executed in record time between 1898 and 1902.
Cuban railways After 1959.
In 1961 the Consolidated Company of National Railways was created, and in the following years 80 locomotives were imported from the USSR, France and England.
The central line, 1,291 kilometers of track, 1,888 kilometers of grading, 229 bridges, 909 factory works and all passenger stations and technical buildings, between Havana and Santiago de Cuba, were rebuilt.
In 1984 the work was completed and on November 19, 2002 the Cuban Railway Museum was inaugurated.
The Cuban railway today.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Cuban road network has gradually improved with the acquisition of second-hand equipment from Canada, Mexico and some European nations.
The Cuban Railways Union is working on a recovery and development program that will run until 2028 and that has great ambitions regarding improvements in the train system.
There are two categories: long distance, with national trains; and short distance, with inter-territorial and local character.
But neither the purchase of equipment nor the repairs manage to stabilize the service. Illegalities and other aspects of an economic nature that threaten passenger service are added.
Some Chinese in Cuba to improve the service
2019 marked a definitive change in the comfort of passenger transport across the railroad, 80 new high-comfort cars from China.
They are intended to rescue Havana-Holguín out-of-service routes and at the same time benefit the routes to Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo and Bayamo-Manzanillo.
However, many people wonder how long the new wagons will last, if the passage is according to the service or if it will be better to take a plane or bus and if in the end they will endure the stipulated 30 years of life. A challenge for the Cuban railway industry.
The Mambí Wagon.
Known by various names, suspended in time and preserving a piece of Cuban history is El Vagón mambí. The Mambí Train, Car or Wagon as it is also known, is located in the Callejón de Churruca y Oficios, in Old Havana.
It was inaugurated in 2000, although its origin is centennial. 1900 was the date of its construction and was the third of three railroad cars built on behalf of the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.
It is also called the Presidential Car and although it was dedicated to Tomás Estrada Palma specifically, several presidents also traveled, including José Miguel Gómez, Mario García Menocal, Alfredo Zayas and Fulgencio Batista.
It was restored in the early nineties of the last century and when you visit it you can relive the atmosphere of the recreated era.
There the wooden shutters, the exquisite interior design and the elegant dining room harmonize.
It has a protocol room, kitchen, four bedrooms with their bathrooms, fridge and a terrace.
Showcases with glassware, silverware and other utensils are imposed.
The Mambí Wagon became a cultural heritage from 1959. On your way through Havana you can visit it, it has free admission and you can get a part of the history of the railway.