The first railway in Jamaica opened in 1845 between Kingston and Spanish Town, a distance of 13 miles (21km). It was built to standard (4ft 8½in, 1435mm) gauge. This was gradually expanded to a network of around 220 miles (350km) serving most populated parts of the island. In addition, there were a few short, privately owned lines serving the sugar cane industry, but these had all closed by the 1980s.
The bulk of the network ceased operation in 1992. A 49 mile (79km) section remains in operation for the transport of alumina (processed bauxite) from works at Ewarton to Port Esquivel for shipping overseas. Trains are operated by the works owners under a lease arrangement with Jamaica Railways Corporation. A further 26 miles (42km) connecting with works at Kirkvine ceased operation in 2009 but is proposed for reopening. Apart from the national network, there were several independent lines related to the bauxite industry. One of these, an 18km line from Nain to Port Kaiser, closed in 2008 but reopened in 2017 under new ownership.
In April 2011, Jamaica Railway Corporation trialled a revived passenger train service from May Pen via Spanish Town to Linstead (a distance of about 40 miles, 64km). Regular services commenced in July, but were discontinued in August 2012.
In 2013, two companies separately expressed an interest in forming a public-private partnership to restore and operate parts of the network. In 2016, the Jamaican government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Herzog group for a study. Three sections are proposed for reopening: Montego Bay to Appleton (58 miles, 93km); Spanish Town to Ewarton (28 miles, 45km); and Spanish Town to Clarendon (50 miles, 80km).
Flag image from CIA World Factbook