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, Other
report for the eastern islands in this series comprise:
This page updates the Railways
of Guadeloupe 2013 report, if you are not familiar with that it would be
sensible to read it first.
Guadeloupe consists of the twin islands of Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre, both of which had railways in the past (at least 15 on Grande-Terre and 8 on Basse-Terre), as well as a number of smaller islands, of which only Marie-Galante is known to have had railways (at least 4 recorded). All railways (up to 160 km) served the sugar industry. In the 1960s the sugar industry started its decline, accentuated by a succession of hurricanes and recurring droughts, and in the 1980s bananas overtook sugar cane as Guadeloupe’s major export crop. The last to close was the one at Beauport in 1989.
Gauges in use included 500, 600, 750, 1000, 1200 and 1460 mm. Unlike in Martinique, a larger variety of steam locomotive builders were represented in Guadeloupe (Cail, Corpet-Louvet, Decauville, Couillet, Tubize, Franco-Belge, St-Leonard, Borsig and Krauss). After WWII diesel locos from Brookville and CFD Montmirail came to the island. In 1970 there were still 15 active diesel locomotives on the islands (2 large and 13 smaller ones). Locomotives are preserved in at least three locations on the main islands.
This part of the main islands, mostly flat and ideally suited for sugar cane cultivation, is where the two major railway networks branching out from the large central factories at Darboussier (SIAPAP, see below) and Beauport (SAUB, see below) were located. Smaller systems existed at Blanchet (SIAPAP, 1200mm gauge, factory in activity 1864-1979), Usine de Gardel (1870-still active), Usine de Courcelles (600mm gauge, 1862-1965) and Saine-Marthe (Sucrerie d’Outre Mer, SOM, 1864-1974). A projected public railway line between Pointe-à-Pitre and Le Moule (Grande-Terre) was never realized.
Société Agricole et Industrielle de Pointe-à-Pitre (SIAPAP), Usine Darbousier, Pointe-à-Pitre
The turntable on display in the park at La Maison Coloniale de Zévallos in Le Moule turns out to be standard gauge, so might have come from SIAPAP (1460 mm).
Usine de Beauport, Port Louis:
The tourist train was operating, with only one of the two regauged ex-SNCF type 3M motor trolleys operational. It was hauling passengers trailer No. 1 & 2 out to Poyen and pushing them back. SOCOFER 4wDH type 324-3 No. 681/2002 was out-of-use, awaiting a new fuel pump from the builders.
The stage next to ex-Usine Darbousier Cail type 59 0-4-0T No. 1659/1868 has been removed, allowing a better picture from the side.
I talked to the person in charge of the railway, who has been at Beauport since 1999. He had heard of the Krauss 0-6-0T photographed by Philippe Kurasch, but told it was already gone when he got there and he had no idea what had become of it. He said that of the three Brookville seen by Philippe, the third had been used as a spare parts donor for the two now on display.
Usine de Gardel, Le Moule:
Grande Terre’s last operating sugar factory once had an extensive narrow gauge field railway. Three pictures taken 1968 and 1977 by B. Chomenko at
show a yellow diesel loco at work and a Campagne petrol loco dumped.
I talked to some of the factory’s pensioners, who were playing cards behind the company store, and who told me that the locos remained dumped behind the factory for some time before being sold for scrap.
The large steel viaduct across Ravine Corneille was part of the line linking the factory with the port of Le Moule, from where the sugar was exported.
Usine de Courcelles, Sainte-Anne:
This sugar mill (1862-1965), now a tree nursery, used to have a 600 mm gauge railway. The only trace of it that I could find was this concrete bridge right next to the road bridge on the N4.
Usine du Comté de Lohéac, Sainte-Rose:
The cabless 0-4-0T now known to be a 1930s Jung was covered in less vegetation than last October, allowing better pictures.
Usine de Marquisat, Capesterre-Belle-Eau:
A 12 km long 750-760 mm gauge railway from Goyave along the eastern coast of Basse Terre used to end at this sugar mill. The pedestrian bridge with railway tracks across Rivière Saint-Denis used to link the mill to the south with a warehouse north of it, from where the line would have continued
into Goyave. North of town, a very overgrown metal bridge allowed the railway to cross Rivière du Pérou.