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Railway Bridge at Mahaicony
Former railway bridge at Mahaicony, on the line from Georgetown to Rosignol.

The first railway in what was then British Guiana, and the first railway on the South American continent, opened in 1848 between Georgetown and Plaisance, a distance of about 5 miles (8km). It was built to standard (1435mm) gauge and would become the first stage of the East Coast Railway, also known as the Demerara Railway, which eventually extended to Rosignol. It facilitated local communications and provided an export route for the sugar cane industry.

Other lines were subsequently built but there was never any planned network and the result was a disjointed collection of lines of various gauges. Most of these lines were dedicated to mineral traffic, notably bauxite and manganese.

By the time of independence in the 1960s the railways were languishing and public services did not last many years. The mineral railways, too, declined in importance and closed soon afterwards, with the result that there are no active railways in the country today.

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Photo image © Thomas Kautzor