The International Steam Pages

Costa Rica Railways

See also James Waite' April 2012 report.

Heinz Buehler updates Louis Cerny's 2004 information below (7th November 2005).

The tourist train that is operated by Americatravel between San Jose and Puerto Calderas runs Saturdays and/or Sundays, and is used by mostly local folks. Ask for current information at the Pacifico station ticket counter, especially during the rainy/few-tourist season. The train features music and drinks and is a real party train. I have seen two of these trains pass, and they were crammed - and this was in October, the rainiest month in Costa Rica. I was allowed into the station and shop area to take pictures - simply by asking the armed guard for this at the shops entrance. He made a series of telephone calls to whoever, but finally I got permission to get in. There is a nice park with trees and park benches within the station area, which makes waiting for the train to leave quite relaxing. 

San José
The museum at the Atlantico station is no longer a Railway museum, it is now the museo but previously noted in these columns is located in the Atlantico Station. 
It is now open to the public, although most visitors are school children. The Baldwin 2-6-0 is displayed at the east end of the station is not any more behind fences. 
There are still armed guards on the premises, but this is easy living Costa Rica - so just speak to them, but before trying to trespass - they will just help you, you'll see. 

There is - since about 5 weeks now - passenger service on the line between both ends of the city. Several trains operate in the early morning hours, and also in the 
evening hours (two or three trains, following a complicated train table that I have not been able to understand). The track between the Pacifico station and the 
Atlantico station is therefore used several times per day, and photography is best done in the morning hours (in the evening the trains run after dark). 

The hotel 'Fleur de Lys' is located just next to this bit of tracks, and this is also where I have taken some of my pictures, which will appear on this site soon,

Louis Cerny comments on his visit in January 2004 (added 7th February 2004):

"The 1067mm gauge line from the Pacifico station in San Jose to the port of Caldera on the Pacific has been restored to operation since 2001. There is occasional freight, sometimes not for weeks and then other times daily for a few days when a ship is being unloaded at Caldera. There is a Sunday-only passenger train which leaves San Jose in the morning for Caldera, and returns in the evening. On January 18, 2004 the train had eight cars with 383 passengers. I travelled the entire 93km line by inspection car on January 13th, 2004. The train is available for charter. Juan Paniagua is the manager and can be contacted at There are two steam locomotives plinthed at the Pacifico station, a 2-4-0 and an 0-4-2T. I was told that there are two 2-8-2 914mm gauge locomotives derelict at Golfito in the extreme southeastern part of the country."

I get occasional queries about it so I added a snippet with minor steam interest. (4th October 1999) Colin Martindale was here earlier in the year and reports:

Dole Banana Plantations, Heredia Province
A road tour of the Dole plantations west of the Chirripó River showed that the railways here had not been used for many years. However most of the track work was still in situ although heavily overgrown in typically tropical fashion.

Four locomotives are stored here in a fenced compound, along with track maintenance vehicles and equipment. A security guard toting a six gun was patrolling the yard. Outside the yard several short lines of passenger and freight stock were parked. The track work in the area of the shed and station was well maintained with points greased, etc. The condition of the rails showed that one or two trains per week must be running. The station has been let, or sold, to several local businesses including a funeral parlour. On the south side of the station are two plaques commemorating the 1982 upgrading and electrification of the line.

Siquirres - San José
This section of line appears to be completely disused but the track is still in situ. At all locations the overhead wires have been removed as have most headspan wires and many support poles. At Turrialba the line was crossed without being seen! In Cartago the line is being used as a bus station near the centre of town and piles of refuse are dumped on it elsewhere. On the eastern approaches to San José the track is very rusty and the sleepers clearly rotting.

San José
The Railway Museum previously noted in these columns is located in the Atlantico Station. The museum is not open to the public, only to school students on organized visits. A Baldwin 2-6-0 is displayed at the east end of the station behind a high wire fence. The locomotive can be accessed via the museum but casual visitors are warned that it is protected by motion sensors, your correspondent was escorted from the premises by another pistol packing security guard!

The Pacifico Shops are located immediately to the south of the Pacifico Station. The bulk of the railway's locomotives are stored here. At least two locomotives were undergoing major overhaul although the shops appeared only to have a skeleton staff. The condition of the rails indicated that a fair amount of shunting must take place, at least within the yard. The line connecting the Pacifico and Atlantico stations is in similarly disused condition to that between Siquirres and San José. The Pacifico station is good condition with polished floors and functioning offices, it is now to be the headquarters for the railway.

Rob Dickinson