Flag of Jamaica

Railways in


Jamalco train
An EMD GP38-3 Bo-Bo diesel electric locomotive of Jamalco
with a train of tank wagons tranporting caustic soda, used in the bauxite refining process

The first railway in Jamaica opened in 1845 between Kingston and Spanish Town, a distance of 21km. It was built to standard (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 79km section remained in operation for the transport of alumina (processed bauxite) from works at Ewarton to Port Esquivel for shipping overseas. Trains were operated by the works owners under a lease arrangement with Jamaica Railways Corporation. A further 42km connected with works at Kirkvine. All operations ceased in 2019 with the shutdown of the Ewarton plant.

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, reopened in 2017 under new ownership, but closed again in 2019. Another line, from mines in St Jago and North Manchester to Rocky Point, a total of about 50 route km, partly on infrastructure owned by Jamaica Railway, remains open.

In April 2011, Jamaica Railway Corporation trialled a revived passenger train service from May Pen via Spanish Town to Linstead, a distance of about 64km. Regular services commenced in July, but were discontinued in August 2012.

In 2022, dedicated school train services began operating between Old Harbour, Linstead and Spanish Town.

Also in 2022, planning work commenced on a project to create a tourist service between the Kingston terminus and Three Mile. The terminus would become a railway museum, in conjunction with the Culture Yard Museum in Trench Town, which would have a bus connection with Three Mile. It is anticipated that trains could be running by late 2023.

In a separate development, a private investor is proposing a tourist service between Montego Bay and Appleton, with tours of the Appleton Estate sugar cane plantations and rum distillery. A first stage would operate between Montpelier and Appleton, to be extended into Montego Bay at a later date.

Donald Hanson, General Manager of Jamaica Railway Corporation, has expressed an ambition to reopen the entire route from Kingston to Montego Bay. The first step would be an extension of the Kingston Community Project to Spanish Town, although this would entail considerable expense to replace a collapsed bridge over the Sandy Gully near Seaview Gardens. From there it should be relatively straightforward to extend to Appleton to join up with the tourist initiative there.

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Photo image from the website of Jamalco