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Old railcar at Onverwacht station
A delapidated railcar stands at Overwacht station.
The railcar is one of several built for Suriname in the 1950s by the German firm Linke-Hofmann-Busch.

The first railway in the Dutch colony of Suriname, also known at that time as Dutch Guiana, opened in the late 1890s, serving the sugar cane industry around Mariënburg. The operation closed in the 1980s. A number of railway relics remain.

The first public railway opened around 1903 between Paramaraibo and Lelydorp, a distance of about 13km. It was a metre gauge line, the choice being partly determined by the gauge proposed for use in neighbouring French Guiana, although in the event no railway was ever built in the latter territory.

By 1905, the line had been extended to Republiek, and by 1912 to Sarakreek, 137km from Paramaraibo. It had been intended that the railway would eventually run some 350km into the interior to serve the gold prospecting area of the Lawa river, but disappointing finds there meant that Sarakreek would remain the southern terminus. There was also a major obstacle: south of Brownsweg lay a major crossing of the Suriname river. A railway bridge over the river was never contructed owing to lack of funding. Instead, passengers and freight were conveyed across the river between the two sections of the railway, intially by an aerial cablecar, later by a ferry boat.

For these reasons the railway was never very successful, although it continued to operate into the latter half of the 20th century. In the 1960s, construction of a hydroelectric scheme on the Suriname river would flood part of the line and services ceased south of Brownsweg. At about the same time, the section between Paramarabo and Onverwacht closed, owing to difficulties with its maintenance. The remaining 85km section between Onverwacht and Brownsweg continued in operation until finally closed in 1987. An attempt was made in the 1990s to revive the service as a tourist operation, but this did not come to fruition. Various locomotives and rolling stock remain, in a poor state of repair, at Onverwacht station.

In the mid 1970s, a 70km railway was constructed from Apoera on the Corantijn river to the Bakhuis mountain area. It was intended to carry bauxite from the mountains to a port facility at Apoera. The railway was completed and test trains ran, but it never entered commercial operation. The large main line diesel locomotive remains, in very poor condition, at Apoera.

A feasibility study was conducted in 2014 for a new 29 km light rail line connecting central Paramaribo with the suburb of Onverwacht. A further extension of the line to Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport in Zanderij was being considered. However, the proposals have been put on hold indefinitely.

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Photo image by Mark Ahsmann from Wikimedia Commons