The International Steam Pages


The Public Railways of Guyana, 2014, Part 2


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,

He reports on his visit with Torsten Schneider to Guyana, 6th - 10th September 2014.

See also:


For an interesting sideline view of the railway, check out this page - http://www.guyanesefolksongs.com/2018/08/27/manin-train-ah-pass (added 28th August 2018).


The Co-operative Republic of Guyana (British Guiana until 1966) has a 270-mile long coast line reaching almost from the mouth of the Orinoco (Venezuela) to the Corentyne River (Suriname). The northern coastal region, which extends between 10 and 40 miles inland, is low-lying (mostly below sea-level), flat and swampy. Rice and sugarcane cultivation is predominant in this area. It is succeeded by a broader and slightly elevated track of land composed of sand and clay. 

West Coast Railway (WCR) or Demerara – Essequibo Railway:

Significant amounts of new material were added on 10th August 2015 and some mistakes corrected. These concerned the locomotive list.

Between 1897 and 1900, the Demerara Railway Co. built a 15 mile long 42-inch gauge line between Vreed-en-Hope (across the Demerara River from Georgetown) west to Greenwich Park. In 1914 the railway was extended by 3.5 miles to Parika, on the eastern shore of the Essequibo River. There were six intermediate stations. Together with the ECR, the WCR was acquired by the Government in 1922 and became part of the BGGR, later GGR. That year, the ferry “SS Queriman” sailed hourly between Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop, connecting with the thre daily departures to Parika. From Parika, river steamers connected with Leguan, Wakenaam, Supenaam, Arura, Adventure and Bartica. In 1923 the WCR carried 269,000 passengers and 4,500 tons of mixed freight (sugar and molasses from Leonora and Uitvlugt estates and rice). In 1962 it carried 500,000 passengers. It survived the ECR by at least two years, as it was still operating in 1974.

Locomotives of WCR

SS = Sharp Stewart, HL = Hawthorn Leslie, VF = Vulcan Fopundry, RSH = Robert Stepenson & Hawthorn, WB = Bagnall

6? St. Philip 0-6-0T WB 1310 1890
7? St. Andrew 0-6-0T WB 1308 1890
These ex The Barbados General Ry. in c1898 for construction trains, probably scrapped/sold c1901
1 Luard 2-4-2T  SS  4708 1900 13”x18” cyl., 18 tons, 7908 lbs, scr. 1953
2 Coraline  2-4-2T  SS 4709 1900 13”x18” cyl., 18 tons, 7908 lbs, scr. 04.1946
3 Russell  2-4-2T  SS 4461 1899 13”x18” cyl., 18 tons, 7908 lbs, scr. 1956
4 Egerton  2-4-2T  HL 3094 1915  13”x18” cyl., 18 tons, 7908 lbs, scr. 1953
(until 1934 3 locos were 17.0 tons and 1 loco 15.1 tons (boiler replacements ?)
11 ex PL 1 0-4-0PM  Baguley 3044 1942  Ford V8 engine, 1961 rblt into 4wDM
12 ex PL 2 0-4-0PM  Baguley 3045 1942  Ford V8 engine, 1961 rblt into 4wDM
13 ex PL 3 0-4-0PM  Baguley 3046 1942  Ford V8 engine, wdn. 1956
14 ex PL 4 0-4-0PM  Baguley 3047 1942  Ford V8 engine, wdn. 1956
15 0-4-0PM Brookville 3037 1945  Ford V8 engine, 07.1949 ex ECR PLE 3 (regauged), wdn. 1956
(at least one of 13-15 went to Port Kaituma in 1956 as a construction loco for the 42" gauge MMC mining railway)
16 0-4-0PM Baguley 3411 1954  32 HP Ford V8 engine, 1962 rblt into 4wDM
17 0-4-0PM Baguley 3412 1954  32 HP Ford V8 engine, 1961 rblt into 4wDM
21  0-6-0DM VF  D262 / DC 2533  01/1955 204 HP Gardner 8L3 engine
22  0-6-0DM VF  D263 / DC 2534  04/1955 204 HP Gardner 8L3 engine
23 0-6-0DM RSH  7885 / DC 2553  07/1955 204 HP Gardner 8L3 engine
24 0-6-0DM VF   D279 / DC 2570 04/1956 204 HP Gardner 8L3 engine

In 1965, the WCR was operated with 4 petrol and 4 diesel-mechanical locos, 29 passenger coaching vehicles and 45 goods wagons. That year, the Transport & Harbour Department operated a passenger and cargo road service from Bartica over 126 miles to Potaro and Issano with 10 diesel-powered trucks.

In September 2014 we found the following relics of the WCR:

Activity at the Vreed-en-Hoop stelling (= pier, quay) has been reduced since construction of the Demerara River floating bridge, which meant an end for the ferry service. Speedboats however still connect the stelling with Stabroek market in Georgetown right across the river. We found the old railway station hidden behind a row of shops. While it was still complete a few years ago, the yard has recently been turned into a Guyana Power & Light Inc. compound. Part of the station building (lower two pictures) is used as a private workshop:

In front of the gate of GuySuCo’s Uitvlugt Sugar Factory (12 miles west of Vreed-en-Hoop), the railway crossed a canal on a small bridge, of which only the concrete abutments are left (left below). Both Uitvlugt and Leonora sugar factories were served by private sidings:

Aside from 104 smaller bridges across canals and other waterways, the only large steel bridge was located between Meeten-Meer-Zorg and Tuschen (14.5 miles west of Vreed-en-Hoop). It is still in place:

At Parika, the railway station next to the T&HD ferry stelling has been cleared to make way for the market. The remains of an abandoned steam loco somewhere beside the former track had been reported in the past, but we could find no trace of it.

Sprotson’s Dock & Foundry Co., Demerara – Essequibo Railway (DER):

Linden, the capital of Upper Demerara-Berbice region and Guyana’s second-largest town, is located 65 miles south of Georgetown. It is made up of the communities Christianburg (settled by the Dutch at the end of the 18th century), Wismar (settled by German immigrants in the 1830s) and Mackenzie. The town is named after fromer President of Guyana Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.

In 1897, a 18¾-mile long metre gauge railway was opened between Wismar, on the West bank of the Demerara, and Rockstone, on the east bank of the Essequibo. River navigation on the Essequibo lower course of the Essequibo was hampered by a number of falls, while Wismar could be reached from Georgetown by river steamer. The objective was to access the new Potaro goldfields inland. Sprotson’s already operated a fleet of river steamers. The opening of the line also encouraged the development of logging in the area (photos at Linden Museum of Industrial & Socio-Cultural Heritage).

The journey from Georgetown to the goldfields would take two-and-a-half days and be covered in four stages. Day one would start with the eight-hour sailing boat trip down the river (65 miles) to Wismar, followed by the hour-long train ride to Rockstone, were passengers could spend the night in the company own hotel. On Day 2 they would continue by river launch up the Essequibo and then the Potaro to Tumatumari (65 miles), where they would again spend the night. On Day 3, the last 12 miles to Potaro would again be covered in a launch.

In 1925, the railway was operated with five steam locos (including the first two built by Avonside) and 52 cars, including 31 flat cars and 18 box cars. The railway has never been well documented, but some photos can be found on http://guyanathenandnow.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/the-demerara-essequibo-railway-der/ and the railway features between 1:02 and 3:08 on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veLcxMekgiY. In 1927, Sprotson’s started thrice-weekly eight-hour passenger and cargo service from Georgetown to Wismar with the river steamer R.H. Carr (http://guyanathenandnow.wordpress.com/rh-carr/, model at the Linden Museum), built at Saltney (Wales). The pictures below are displayed in the museum too.

The railway is thought to have closed in 1957, while the R.H. Carr continued service until 1969, one year after the highway between Georgetown and Linden was completed. The ship, converted to diesel with two Lister-Blackstone engines in 1950s, was then turned over to the Government for use on the Berbice Ferry Service between Rosignol and New Amsterdam. In 1988, it was sold to A. Mazaharally & Sons for timber work on the Essequibo and its tributaries and later ended her days grounded at Skull Point on the Mazaruni River.

We chartered a taxi to take us to Rockstone. The unmarked turn-off is 7 miles from Linden on the unpaved Linden – Lethem Road (on the border to Brazil), from where it’s another 14 miles to Rockstone. Once we got there, we couldn’t at first find anything reminding us of the railway, apart from a steel water tank. When we asked a local Amerindian lady, she told us that the dirt road we drove over to get there was the former railway and that after strong rains, old rails sometimes stuck out of the mud. She also showed us a rail sticking out of the ground in front of her house, with the vegetation in the back being the old wooden pier. On the way back, we noticed that the bridges were former railway bridges and noticed many rails.

The Christianburg Waterwheel can be found at the site of the former Patterson sawmill. It was built by Mirrlees, Tait & Watson in Glasgow and local sources variously quote 1855 and 1895 for its installation. (This version of the Mirrlees Company name was used between 1868 and 1882, so the later date seems more probable, the Mr. Watson concerned being just 17 in 1855. RD):

Planned Railways:

A cattle trail has long existed between the southern part of the country and the coast and proposals for a railway into the interior and onwards to Brazil have first surfaced in 1902. A line from Georgetown to the Takutu River calculated at 340 miles long. It was expected that once built with colonial government funds, the Brazilians would extend it all the way to Manaus on the Amazon River. The cattle industry, agriculture, the mining industry and the timber trade were expected to benefit from such a railway, as well as give Brazil an outlet to the sea closer to North America, but it was never built. Since 2011, new proposals for such a line to link Boa Vista, the capital Brazilian state of Roraima, with a projected deep-sea port on the Guyanese coast are again being raised, but this time it seems the project’s advocates are expecting the Brazilians to pay for it in its entirety.

Sources :

  • W. Rodney Long, “Railways of Central America and the West Indies”, Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, 1925;
  • Transport & Harbour Department annual reports from 1936 to 1965;
  • J. Allan E. Young (General Manager, T&HD), “The British Guiana Government Railways – the development of British Guiana’s public railways during 115 years”, in The Railway Magazine (January 1964), pp. 174-181;
  • Omer Lavallée, “On Being First in South America: The Demerara Railway”, in R&LHS Railroad History No. 154 (Spring 1986), pp. 125-126;
  • David H. Shayt, “The Demerara Railway Revisited”, in R&LHS Railroad History No. 166 (Spring 1992), pp. 126-129;
  • D. Trevor Rowe, “The Locomotives of South America” (The Guianas), St. Teath, Cornwall: Locomotives International, 2000;
  • David Rollinson, “Railways of the Caribbean”, Oxford: MacMillan Caribbean, 2001;
  • Alan Barnes, “RH Carr: the steamboat at Skull Point”, in Old Glory October 2010, pp. 78-80.


Rob Dickinson

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