The International Steam Pages
Railways in Haiti
Thomas Kautzor has been to several Caribbean islands to check out what is left of their railways and industrial heritage.
For the full general index, see Railway Relics (and more) in the Caribbean,
Thomas Kautzor has now visited Haiti in February 2014 with Torsten Schneider and a report of the relics they found is now available.
This piece by Thomas Kautzor originally appeared on the Yahoo CRC newsgroup. There are many old pictures of the railway as well as the trams mentioned below on Allen Morrison's excellent site - http://www.tramz.com/ht/ppe.html.
Most of the following information is based on Dr Georges Michel, "Les Chemins de Fer de l'Ile d'Haiti" (1989) and Reg Carter, "Railways of Haiti" (2000).
The Compagnie Nationale des Chemins de Fer (CNCFH, 42-in. gauge) operated three sections of railway between Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien. The sections out of Gonaïves and Cap-Haïtien were started by local private investors, soon after nationalized and sold to the U.S.-owned MacDonald company which operated the CNCF until it was nationalized in 1948.
Cap-Haïtien – Grande-Rivière du Nord – Lacombe – Bahon (39 km):
Gonaïves – Passe-Reine – Ennery (33 km):
Port-au-Prince – St-Marc – Les Verrettes (145 km):
Linking the three sections of the CNCFH had always been a plan, and only two sections totaling 90 km would have been needed to create a link between Haiti's two largest cities. A line linking Port-au-Prince with Leogane and Les Cayes, on the southern peninsula, was also planned but never built.
Compagnie des Chemins de fer de la Plaine du Cul-de-Sac (PCS) operated two 30" (762mm) gauge lines out of Port-au-Prince's Gare du Nord. The first went east to Croix-de-Bouquets, Thomazeau and Manneville on lake Azuei, where a wharf was built for onward service to the Dominican Republic. It was 42.5 km and opened in 1903. The second line followed the coast west to Carrefour and Léogâne, a distance of 36 km opened in 1907 and 1910. In 1917, following a deadly accident on the Thor ramp, the section between Bizoton and Mariani was realigned. Construction on a third line to Chancerelles and Pétionville was commenced in 1907 but later abandoned. Both the PCS and the Haitian American Sugar Company (HASCO) were owned the same consortium, which also controlled the Port-au-Prince wharf, through Adminstration de Port au Prince (APP). HASCO also operated branched into its sugarcane plantations at Croix-de-Bouquet (25-27 km) and Léogâne (6 km) using its own locos. The APP had its own Davenport diesel loco, which reverted to HASCO when the connection to the port was lifted. In 1932 the PCS was absorbed by HASCO, but remained a separate entity. It however at that time stopped public passenger and freight service and only concentrated on transporting cane for HASCO to its sugar mill at Port-au-Prince. The connection to Gare du Nord remained in place and the station was used for sugar storage until the 1980s, when it was converted into a market. In 1983 the line to Léogâne was closed, lifted and the rails stored with the intension of opening more branches in the plantations of the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac. However the HASCO sugar factory and railway were also closed in c.1990. At that time HASCO/PCS operated a fleet of nine diesels (the two Whitcombs are the electrics mentioned in the Railway Directory):
The two Whitcombs survive at the closed HASCO factory in Port-au-Prince, just next to the large Cité Soleil slum, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/64268485@N06/ for photos.
The frame of PCS 2-6-0 No. 20 (HK Porter 4778/1911) was turned into a scale test wagon while PCS 2-6-0 No. 21 survives in preservation at the Musée de la Canne à Sucre in Tabarre, close to Port-au-Prince International Airport, see http://ngdiscussion.net/phorum/read.php?1,174327 and http://www.flickr.com/photos/curci/1258679803/in/set-72157601727964791/ for photos.
From 1901 PCS also operated the 30" (762mm) gauge Port-au-Prince tramway network (using HK Porter, Krauss and Tubize steam locos, later replaced by gasoline railcars), described in detail at http://www.tramz.com/ht/ppe.html. It was closed in 1932.
Apart from the already mentioned industrial or plantation railways, a number of others existed, the most important being the ones at the Haitian American Development Corp. Plantation Dauphin (30-in. gauge, still in use in 1989), those serving three cocoa factories at Dame-Marie (500mm gauge) and the Madras sisal factory in the north (30-in. (762mm) gauge, closed in the 1960s). There also cableways at Port-de-Paix – Bassin Bleu (north) and Ganthier – Forêt-des-Pins.