The International Steam Pages

The Dominican Republic
Public Railways

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 visited the Dominican Republic with Torsten Schneider from 24th February to 14th March 2014, the other reports are:

Two public railways once served parts of the north of the country. Today the only public railway is the modern Santo Domingo metro. There are plans for a modern high-speed railway to link the capital with the central city of Santiago, for carrying both passengers and freight.

In 2007, there were also plans for a 12-station 22 km-long light rail line between Santiago de los Caballeros and Cibao International Airport. The line was to be built by Spanish narrow gauge railway operator FEVE, but the project has been put on hold.

In the early 1900s, animal-powered street tramways existed in the cities of Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata and Monte Cristi.

F.C. Unidos Dominicanos (FUD), Sanchez – La Vega / S.F. de Macoris / Moca: (March 8th/9th)

Opened in 1886 as the F.C. Samana – Santiago, this 77 mile-long 1067 mm gauge railway never reached either of its ends. It started at the small port of Sanchez (33 km west of Samana), it ran west mainly through swampland via Molinillos (MP 12), Arenoso (MP 18), Villa Riva (MP 21), Pimentel (MP 34), La Jina (MP 45), La Jagua (MP 60) and Camu (MP 74), ending at La Vega (36 km southeast of Santiago). In 1897, a seven mile branch from La Jina to San Francisco de Macoris was added and in 1905 an eleven mile branch from Las Cabullas (near the end of the line) to Salcedo, which was extended by seven miles in 1917 to connect with the 762 mm gauge line from Puerto Plata at Moca in 1917. East of Sanchez, a line was built along the coast to Samana as far as Santa Capuza, but that section was quickly abandoned. 

The railway was built with Scottish capital. Due to the marshy nature of the terrain west of Sanchez, 170 bridges and 20 concrete culverts were needed. Construction in fact absorbed much of the capital and not much was left for locomotives and rolling stock. In 1923 the railway owned six 25 ton side tank locos, three 15-ton side-tank locos and two 10-ton shunting locos, all built by NBL in Scotland. Rolling stock included 10 passenger coaches (four 1st class, four 2nd class and two composite), 115 goods wagons (61 box cars, four flat cars, 20 wharf cars and 40 ballast cars, all 10-ton capacity) and two brake vans. Work equipment consisted of a gasoline inspection trolley, 14 pump trolleys, four 2.5 tons steam cranes (built by Wilson & Co., Sandhill, Liverpool), a concrete mixer and a steam shovel. The railway workshops were at Sanchez, while La Vega had a one-engine loco shed.

The last part of this railway closed on 3rd February 1976. For some years thereafter, the workshops of the railway remained in place, kept as a railway museum by the FUD’s last director, “Papi” Valdez. The shops contained the frames of two six-wheel Plymouth diesel locos built in 1957 (18 tons, 140 h.p.), two of the four Wilson & Co. steam cranes and a wooden clerestory roof passenger coach. Around 2002, however, the whole area, including the former station building, was cleared and made way for a plaza and a children’s playground (which incorporated some railway car wheels). All that is left today at Sanchez are the remains of the old steel pier, with the remains of one of the Wilson steam cranes at the end of it.

The former line to Sanchez can still be followed for much of its length on Google Earth. At the other end at La Vega, a loco was for a long time plinthed in the middle of Avenida Rivas east of the centre of town. This was, however, not a FUD loco, but metre gauge Ingenio Barahona 0-4-0ST No. 5 (Baldwin 54310/21). In 2011 it was removed to the municipal transport yard for some restoration work, where we found it stored under cover.

FC Central Dominicano (FCD), Puerto Plata – Santiago – Moca: (March 5th/7th 2014)

This 762 mm gauge railway was started by Belgian investors, and construction started with the help of Belgian engineers. To overcome the steep 1 in 20 gradients just south of Puerto Plata, the engineers opted for an Abt rack section, worked by four steam locomotives built by Cail in 1890/91. The construction costs, however, proved too high and as a result the Belgian interests in the line were taken over by the U.S.-owned Santo Domingo Improvement Company. The 11 mile section from Puerto Plata (on the north coast) to Bajabonico was opened between 1891 and 1893. In 1895-97 it was extended across the Cordillera Septentrional (Northern Mountain Range) to Santiago de los Caballeros, and in 1906-08 to Moca, a total of 62 miles with 41 bridges and one tunnel. In 1908, Santo Domingo Improvement Co. resold its interests to the Dominican Government. In 1917 the Abt rack section between Marcos (2 miles out of Puerto Plata), La Sabana and Barrabas, worked with four Cail steam locomotives built in 1890/91, was replaced by using specially-acquired Shay locomotives between San Marcos and La Sabana and by relaying the track on a less steeper course between La Sabana and Barrabas. From 1917 the FCD connected with the 1067 mm gauge FUD at Moca, however the break of gauge meant that there were two stations and that any through goods had to be transhipped.

By 1923, the railway had twelve U.S.-built steam locomotives (two 48-ton Baldwin 2-6-0s, two 42-ton Lima two-truck Shays, five 38-ton Baldwin 2-6-0s, one 30-ton Baldwin 2-4-0 and two 12-ton Bell 0-4-0Ts), six passenger coaches and 122 freight cars (76 wooden box cars, 10 steel box cars, 16 flat cars, four 2000 gal. oil tank cars and 16 coal cars), as well as 16 7-ton capacity flat cars for use on Puerto Plata’s wharf. The workshops were at Puerto Plata.

The FCD was closed in 1951 and dismantled, with the rails destined for the planned Barahona – San José railway. Today, much of the line between Imbert and Santiago has been converted into Route 5 (Carretera Navarette – Puerto Plata) and Route 1 (Autopista Duarte). The FUD’s only tunnel at La Cumbre, Altamira (elevation 700 feet) has been enlarged to allow the road through it. At Santiago, the railway station had to make way for the local fire station.

Other remains include:

Tracks on Puerto Plata’s old pier;

Baldwin 2-4-0 36205/1911 (30 tons) plinthed without tender next to the Puerto Plata station (now in use as the port’s immigration office and civil defence station), at the intersection of Avenida Colón and Calle Duarte;

Concrete bridge pillars near Puerto Plata;

A steel bridge at Barrabás (near Imbert), in use as road bridge;

Baldwin 2-6-0 35078/1910 (38 tons) plinthed without tender on a steel viaduct span at Plaza del Viaducto (Avenida Sosa) in Moca. This loco was formerly numbered M-086 or M 0866.

Metro de Santo Domingo: (February 25th)

Operated by ‘Oficina Para el Reordenamiento del Transporte (OPRET,’, the standard gauge light metro consists of two lines. Linea 1 from Centro de los Héroes (South) to Mamá Tingo (North) is 14.5 km long, has 16 stations (10 underground, 1 level, 5 elevated), is covered by trains in 25 minutes and was opened in January 2009. North of the city centre, the line emerges at Máximo Gómez, where the maintenance centre is located. From there it continues on a viaduct across the Rio Isabella to Mamá Tingo. The five northern station are all elevated and there are good photo opportunities from the pedestrian footbridges at Máximo Gómez and Hermanas Mirabal stations. Photography is also possible from the platforms after asking the ever-present security personnel. The maintenance centre can be photographed through open windows inside Máximo Gómez station and over a small wall along the wall along the road over the southern end of the yard.

Linea 2 from Estación Eduardo Brito (East), not far from the banks of the Rio Ozama, to Estación Maria Montez (West) is 13 km long, has 10 underground stations, is covered in 17 minutes and was opened in December 2012. The two lines connect at Juan Pablo Duarte station.

The metro has been very much criticised, especially because it does not serve either the historical centre of Santo Domingo or the heavily-populated suburbs of Santo Domingo Este across from the Rio Ozama. However, the trains, which operate every six minutes from 06.00-22.00 daily and every four minutes during Mo-Fr rush hour (06.30-07.30 & 16.00-18.00) were well patronized throughout the day. In 2012, total ridership was 30.9 million passengers. The fare for a single journey is RD$20 (=US$ 0,45).

There are a total of 34 Metropolis 9000 three-car walk-through trainsets (102 cars) built by Alstom in Belgium, France and Spain in 2008 and 2012, subdivided into two sub-series:

  • 19 trainsets built in 2008 No. M1001/R1003/M1006 – M1109/R1111//M1114, for use on Linea 1;
  • 15 trainsets built in 2012 No. M1201/R1203/M1206 – M12085/R1287/M1290, for use on Linea 2.

On Line 1, 17 of the line’s 19 trainsets are needed during rush hour service. There are no major differences between the two series. Presently the trainsets have a capacity of 617 passengers each, are air-conditioned and equipped with surveillance cameras and a passenger information system. The electric power supply is by overhead catenary. Three intermediate numbers in each trainset have been left blank to allow them to eventually be extended to six cars. The platforms at all stations already have a six-car capacity. Trainsets of the same type are in use in Barcelona, Spain (50 5-car sets) and Lima, Peru (19 5-car sets).

The large maintenance centre has 19 inside tracks, plus at least 4 outside storage tracks. An attached two-track PWD workshops contained a German Skl track work railcar, as well as three Mercedes-Benz Unimog road-rail trucks, a Ford Hi-Rail pick-up truck, as well as a small assortment of works cars.

A third line (20 km, 20 stations) is planned, but given the high cost for building the first two lines, it is doubtful it will be built in the near future.

OPRET also has plans for a high-speed passenger and freight railway to link Bajos de Haina (southwest of Santo Domingo) with Santiago de los Caballeros, using much of the right-of-way of the closed standard gauge Ingenio Rio Haina railway for much of the way. That railway would connect with the metro’s Linea 2 at its western end.

Rob Dickinson