The International Steam Pages

Sugar Railways of Antigua October 2013

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, Other report for the eastern islands in this series comprise:

Thomas Kautzor writes about his October 2013 visit and gives a November 2014 update:

Sugar cultivation was introduced to Antigua in 1674, when Christopher Codrington came from Barbados and settled at Betty’s Hope Estate, bringing the latest sugar technology with him. In 1901 it was decided that two large central sugar factories should be built to replace the numerous small sugar estates.

Antigua Sugar Factory (ASF) at Gunthorpe’s Estate:

Construction of the factory started in 1903 and in 1905 the first crop was processed. The 30-in. (762mm) gauge railway network, which reached out into five directions with numerous branches (including one to the Sugar Terminal in St. John’s) eventually reached 40 miles and after the 1939 take-over of BSF trackage 50.8 miles. By 1953 the mill at ASF had a crushing capacity of 80 tons/hour. The cutting season lasted six months of the year.

In 1971 a political decision was made for Antigua’s economy to concentrate on tourism and abandon sugar production and ASF was closed in 1972/73. An attempt to operate a tourist service dubbed “The Sunshine Shu Shu” using steam loco No. 5 GEORGE and five converted cane cars in 1968/69 and again in 1972/73 failed.

After closure, ASF and its assets were handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture and the factory fell into ruins. 

However, a few buildings are still in use today: the Mechanical Workshops, where the machinery was driven by a Ruston engine via a series of overhead belts and drive shafts, were taken over by a former ASF apprentice, while the Sugar Store is in use as a car repair shop (TK 2013).

In St. John’s, there are some track remains between the former Sugar Terminal and the pier. Elsewhere most of the track was stolen and is now used as fence posts, telephone poles, etc… all over the island (TK 2013).

Bendals Sugar Factory (BSF) at Belvedere Estate:

It is thought that the 24-in. (610mm) gauge railway started operating in 1903/04. In 1913 assets showed 5 miles of track and 65 wagons, but no locos. Until then, animal traction was probably used. Later the network, which consisted of lines into three directions plus branches, was extended to 8 miles. In September 1939 BSF was taken over by ASF and a 30-in. (762mm) gauge connection built between the two mills, with all of the cane being processed at ASF. Later the remaining BSF lines were either converted to 30-in. (762mm) gauge or abandoned, as were the BSF petrol locos. Today, nothing of the mill remains; the milling equipment was sold and is suspected to have ended up Mt. Bentinck Sugar Estate in St. Vincent.


A total of 26 steam, petrol and diesel locos are known to have worked in Antigua, of which 19 survive today, including five on the island. Some of the steam locos have been renumbered over the years, so they are listed here in the order in which they were delivered.

ASF SIR NEVILLE LUBBOCK 0-4-2ST Kerr Stuart Tattoo 857 1904 to Henckell du Buisson Ltd. for ASF 17/09/1904; boiler, frame and wheels present in 2001, frame and wheels shipped to the U.K. in 10/2013 and sold
ASF SIR GERARD STRICKLAND 0-4-2ST Kerr Stuart Tattoo 858 1904 to Henckell du Buisson Ltd. for ASF 19/09/1904; frame and wheels present in 2001
ASF ST. JOHN’S 0-4-2ST Kerr Stuart Tattoo 1005 1907 to Henckell du Buisson Ltd. for ASF 12/10/1907; disposition unknown
ASF 2 GUNTHORPES, then LENA 0-4-2ST Kerr Stuart Brazil 1098 1910 to Henckell du Buisson Ltd. for ASF 08/12/1910; damaged in collision (bent frame), derelict in 2001, shipped to U.K. by 09/2014 (for sale)
ASF 4 MARION 0-4-2ST Kerr Stuart Brazil 1178 1910 to Henckell du Buisson Ltd. for ASF 08/12/1910; derelict in 2001, restored for display at Betty’s Hope by 07/2014
BSF 1 THISTLE 0-6-0WT O&K 20 HP 6741 1913 to La Spooner & Co., Antigua 09/1913; disposition unknown
BSF 2 ROSE 0-6-0WT O&K 20 HP 6742 1913 to La Spooner & Co., Antigua 09/2013; disposition unknown
ASF 6 LUCY 0-4-2ST Kerr Stuart Brazil 1313 1916 to Henckell du Buisson Ltd. for ASF 10/04/1916, oil fired; derelict/complete in 2001, shipped to U.K. by 09/2014 (for sale)
ASF 1 BRAZIL, then EDITH 0-4-2ST Kerr Stuart Brazil 3025 1919 to Henckell du Buisson Ltd. for ASF 10/01/1919, oil fired; derelict in 2001, shipped to U.K. in 10/2013 (for sale)
ASF 3 JUDIE 0-4-2ST Kerr Stuart Brazil 4209 1920 to Henckell du Buisson Ltd. for ASF 28/09/1920, oil fired; derelict in 2001, stored at U.S. Navy Base(now American Univ. of Antigua) and probably scrapped
ASF 7 JOAN 0-6-2T Kerr Stuart Matary 4404 1927 to ASF 24/09/1927; sold to Welshpool & Llanfair Lt. Ry. (Wales) in 10/1971, operational as No. 12 JOAN
ASF 5 GEORGE 0-4-2ST Hunslet Eng. Brazil 1989 1938 to ASF 27/01/1938; used on tourist train 1968-73, then as stationary boiler at High Point Dock, then buried at Government Dump (2001) and probably scrapped
ASF 8 BESSIE 4wPM Motor Rail MR40 2177 1922 40 HP, to ASF 27/09/1922, rebuild of MR Armoured Simplex No. 466 of 1917; derelict 2001, restored for display by 07/2014
ASF 9 4wDM Hudson-Hunsl. 40 HP 2259 1940 50 HP Perkins P6 engine, to ASF 16/09/1940; shipped to U.K. by 09/2014 (for sale)
ASF 10 4wDM Hudson-Hunsl. 40 HP 2260 1940 50 HP Perkins P6 engine, to ASF 26/09/1940; plinthed at failed Emerald Cove Resort project, shipped to U.K. by 09/2014 (for sale)
BSF 1, then ASF 11 4wPM Plymouth BL 513 1918 30 HP Pittsburgh 4 cyl engine, to BSF 09/1918, to ASF 09/1939 and regauged/re-engined with 50 HP Buda type 1771J 4 cyl; derelict in 2001, to U.K. by 09/2013 (for sale)
BSF 2, then ASF 12 4wPM Plymouth BL 514 1918 30 HP Pittsburgh 4 cyl engine, to BSF 09/1918, to ASF 09/1939 and regauged; derelict w/o engine in 2001, preserved in Antigua
BSF 3, then ASF 13 4wPM Plymouth BL 743 1919 to BSF 09/1919, to ASF 09/1939 and regauged; derelict in 2001, under restoration for display by 11/2014
ASF 14 4wDM VIW 12T/GL 4783 1946 to ASF; buried into concrete pier
ASF 15 4wDM Hudson-Hunsl. 40 HP 3442 1946 50 HP Perkins P6 engine, to ASF 16/10/1946; restored for display by 07/2014

In the 1950s, six Ruston & Hornsby 100DL diesel locos were acquired in an effort to modernize the rail operations. The first of these were originally 24-in.(610mm) gauge for working on the ex-Bendals section and later regauged. All six were sold to the St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corp. (SSMC) after closure.

ASF 1D, then 2 0-6-0DM RH 100DL 302766 1954 to ASF 05/1954, 24” (610mm) gauge, later regauged to 30” (762mm); 1979 to SSMC No. 8, rebuilt as 0-6-0DH No. 8 by ESCA Engineering Ltd. L7/1997, stored in St. Kitts 10/2013
ASF 2D, then 3 0-6-0DM RH 100DL 302767 1956 to ASF 02/1956; 1983 to SSMC No. 18, rebuilt as 0-6-0DH No. 18 by ESCA Engineering Ltd. L8/1997, stored in St. Kitts 10/2013
ASF 3D, then 1 0-6-0DM RH 100DL 302768 1956 to ASF 02/1956; 1979 to SSMC No. 10, rebuilt as 0-6-0DH No. 10 PAULINE by ESCA Engineering Ltd. L6/1997, stored in St. Kitts 10/2013
ASF 4 0-6-0DM RH 100DL 302769 1957 to ASF 10/1957; 1979 to SSMC No. 11, derelict in St. Kitts 10/2013
ASF 5 0-6-0DM RH 100DL 302770 1958 to ASF 01/1958; 1983 to SSMC No. 19, derelict in St. Kitts 10/2013
ASF 6 0-6-0DM RH 100DL 285318 1952 new to Ruston’s London Agent for Overseas, to ASF 1958; 1983 to SSMC No. 20 (for spares), derelict in St. Kitts 10/2013

Some photos of the abandoned locos at ASF in 02/1979 (2) and in 04/1991 (6) can be found at

Back to Life – Antigua Sugar Locomotives Project:

This project, started in 2011, is an attempt to restore some of the ASF locomotives for public display before nothing is left of them (scrap theft has been an increasing problem on the island). It is a common project of the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda, The Betty’s Hope Trust (now an historical site with a restored windmill), Lawrence Gameson of T. Gameson & Sons Ltd. (England), the Ministries of Tourism and Agriculture, and the Public Works Department, and with the assistance of local resident Douglas Luery as locomotive consultant.

Since then, L. Gameson has repeatedly spent time in Antigua restoring four of the locos, one of each of the types left on the island, for display. The locos are KS 0-4-2ST No. 4 MARION, MR 4wPM No. 8 BESSIE, Plymouth 4wPM No. 13 and Hudson-Hunslet 4wDM No.15. In exchange he was allowed to acquire the remaining locos for resale in the U.K. (four steam, two diesel and one petrol). Work is now coming to an end on the locos and the plan is to eventually put them on display at Betty’s Hope Plantation (now an historical site with a restored windmill and a small museum) in Pares, near the eastern end of the island, in two open-sided buildings. These structures are to be built by the Ministry of Tourism. A 500 metre long working narrow gauge railway between a parking lot on the main road and the site is also projected.

L. Gameson and D. Luery have also approached the St. Kitts National Trust in view of returning one of the three not rebuilt Ruston 100DL to Antigua, but the proposal was turned down.

Meanwhile, on 11th November 2014 restored loco No. 15 was put on temporary display in front of the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda, Long Street, St. John’s. The museum already has a small display on the island’s sugar industry as well as three wagon axles (two 30-in. (762mm) and one 24-in. (mm) gauge). It is open Mo-Fr 08.30 am-4 pm and Sa 10 am-2 pm. Progress with the project can followed on the Museum's Facebook page

As of September 2015, all four (green) restored locomotives are on display outside the Museum, pending completion of the Betty's Hope project which is currently stalled.

Rolling Stock:

Before closure, rolling stock comprised:

300 high-sided cane cars (mainly Robert Hudson & Gregg);
30 flat trucks for farmer’s cane;
6 molasses tank wagons;
12 mid trucks;
3 bogie trucks;
5 workers’ cars (converted from cane cars).

Most of the rolling stock was scrapped over the years, but at least seven cane cars as well as two workers’ car have been preserved and one of each type will go on display with the restored locos. The base of a Bedford Engineering Co. rail crane has also been preserved.


  • Robert R. Darsley, “Caribbean Cane Tramways – (1) The Lesser Antilles”, in Industrial Railway Record No. 93 (June 1982), pp. 421-430;
  • David Rollinson, “Railways of the Caribbean”, Oxford: MacMillan Caribbean, 2001, pp. 79-81;
  • Douglas Luery, “An Introduction to Antigua Narrow Gauge Railways”, October 2001.

The photos of the locos in Antigua were provided by TGS Ltd and those of the locos in the U.K. by FMB Engineering Ltd. Persons interested in purchasing a loco can contact Brian Gent at:

FMB Engineering Co. Ltd., 34 East Street, Fareham, Hampshire, PO16 0BY, UK

Tel. 01329 483023, Mobile: 07850-001186, Email:

Museum of Antigua and Barbuda (TK 2013)

ASF 7 Joan on the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway, UK (TK, 27th May 2013)

The following pictures from Antigua are courtesy of TGS Ltd

The initial pictures show the newly restored locos, firstly KS 0-4-2ST 4 Marion:

Plymouth 4wPM 13

MR 4wPM 8 Bessie and Hudson-Hunslet 4wDM No.15, the latter outside the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

The following pictures from the UK are courtesy of  FMB Engineering Ltd and show locos in the UK and now for sale.

Hudson-Hunslet 4wDM ASF 10 and Plymouth 4wPM ASF 11.

One of the two Kerr Stuart Brazils

Rob Dickinson