The International Steam Pages

Steam in Guatemala 1998 - 2001

For a comprehensive review of the railway in Guatemala (and El Salvador) in February 2001, check out the photo-album on It has a massive initial frame to download so be patient. The regular Latin Tracks newsletter Edition 30 included a picture of 204 and 205 freshly repainted for the new season (20th January 2002). You can read a report of the TUT visit in January 2002 (27th March 2002).

The Latin Tracks digest reports - "On January 24th 2001, Ferrovias Guatemala (FVG) launched the "Guatemala Choo-Choo", a steam hauled tourist train service as part of its first anniversary celebrations. Two days later, FVG ran another VIP steam hauled special for the benefit of investors, customers and friends of the railway. These events served to put FVG on the front pages of the Guatemalan press. Referring to the steam powered train operations, FVG Chairman of the Board, Henry Posner III, said that 'for better or for worse, the public identifies more with the nostalgia of the steam locomotive than with our diesel freight operation. Numerous people at high levels have indicated their pleasure that the train is finally back, unaware that we have been operating as a freight railway for over a year. This is not unusual, in that in the USA the public identifies most closely with passenger service, but is indicative of the relatively low profile we enjoy as an industry worldwide (in the USA, freight railways refer to themselves as a Stealth Industry). But for us, what counts most is freight revenue. Toward this end, our recent newspaper advertisements appear to be much more successful than a similar program that we ran in the USA at Conrail. This reflects the opportunity of starting from zero - we have no place to go but up', summed up Posner."

Ian Thomson visited in July 2001: (12th September 2001) "I was in Guatemala at the end of July, and the train was going to run on Saturday 28th, but public support was lacking and continued operation not ensured. It had already been reduced to once per week, rather than twice, and fares were being cut to try and stimulate ridership amongst the local population. The operation needs the support of foreign fans. It is not easy covering costs of a regular steam train operation which caters for the local market in a country such as Chile, as I know from first hand experience. In Guatemala, doing so is unlikely to be any easier than it is here." 

The railway suffered greatly in the 1998 hurricane but was reported reopened in late 1999. Steam was only used for enthusiast specials - but rebuilt Baldwin 2-8-2 #205 was operating tourist runs from Guatemala City to Porto Barrios (Caribbean side) in February 2000 (2nd March 2000). 

See the TUT report (3rd Dec 1998) for details of the then current activity. 

Rob Dickinson