The International Steam Pages

Oranjestad Battery Tram, Aruba, 2014

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,

Thomas Kautzor reports on his visit with Torsten Schneider to Aruba, 22nd - 23rd September 2014, click here for his visit to sister island Curaçao. The third island of the former Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire, never had a railway as far as is known.

Together with Torsten Schneider, I spent two days on the island of Aruba, a small island off the coast of Venezuela which was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986, since when it has been a country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Our main objective was to see the new standard gauge Oranjestad battery tram, which opened in 12/2012.

While in Aruba, we also had a look at what little is left of the island’s earlier railways, this is covered in a separate report.

Named Arutram / Downtown ORANJESTAD Streetcar System, this is essentially a tourist operation, very popular with the mainly Venezuelan tourists, especially as the rides are free, and operates daily from 10.00 to 17.00 along the main downtown shopping streets between the Cruise Ship Terminal at Paarden Baai and Plaza Nicky, a distance of roughly 3 km. At the time of our visit two streetcars were in use, both built by TIG/m Modern Street Railways in Los Angeles, California: green single-deck ('SD') No. 1265 (delivered 2012, 42 seats, bogies ex Boston PCC car, originally built for Eilan Hotel & Housing Project near San Antonio, Texas) and a blue double-decker ('DD', delivered 2013, 64 seats, bogies ex Cleveland PCC car). Two more cars are expected before the end of 2014, another single and another double-decker, one of which will be painted “fire fighter” red, the other orange to honor the Dutch colors. The cars are housed and maintained in a two-stall shed near the Cruise Ship Terminal.

For more on Arutram, see

We found that tram, officially named "Arutram", as on the worker's polo shirts, or "Downtown ORANJESTAD Streetcar System", as on the double-decker, to be very Disneyesque, which the mostly Venezuelan tourists loved. At the time of our visit, both cars operated daily from 10.00 to 17.00, departing from both ends every 30 minutes, with crossing taking place either on the separated city section or at the crossing loop one station away from the end of the line. The single-decker however needs a one-hour break at midday to recharge its batteries. The balloon loops at both ends of the line were not in use, with the one at the cruise ship terminal still partly under construction. They are expecting the two other cars ordered from TIG/m, one single-decker and one double-decker, before the end of this year. One will be painted in "fire fighter" red, the other in orange to honor the Dutch colors. Once they have the additional cars, departures will be every twenty minutes, with the fourth car kept in reserve at the shed. Each car has a crew of four.

As you can see there are not too many photo positions. Most of the route is lined with ugly stores, as most tourists in downtown are Venezuelans and other Latin Americans looking for cheap deals. The North American and European tourists tend to stay in and around their beach resorts, where enough large U.S.-style shopping malls have been built for their shopping needs.

The DD leaving the shed shortly before 10am;

The crew of the DD + a supervisor at the cruise terminal;

The controller of the DD.

When it started to rain around noon (a rare occurrence in Aruba), the SD quickly retreated to the shed, where its batteries were soon going to be recharged anyway, followed quickly thereafter by the DD. The rain stopped a few minutes later, but operations only resumed around 15.00; shortly afterwards, it was discovered that someone had parked his car too close to the track on the separated city section, which meant that the DD was stopped for another hour or so, waiting for the police tow truck. Meanwhile the SD, which had arrived at the cruise ship terminal, was rerouted back onto the normally one-way track of the separated section;

After the car was removed, both trams met at the crossing loop.

The SD at the crossing loop;

At Renaissance Mall halt on its way back to the Cruise Ship Terminal;

At the wye where the separated lines join;

The DD at the wye;

No. 1265 at the wye, with the DD in the back.

Rob Dickinson