The International Steam Pages

Plantation Railways in 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:

The first part of this includes and introduction and map (see link above).

Blairmont Central Factory, Rosignol:

66 miles east of Georgetown and two miles south of Rosignol, Blaimont used to be connected to the BGGR’s standard gauge East Coast Railway. A still active half-mile long standard gauge railway links the factory with the company’s stelling on the west bank of the Berbice River and is used to transport sugar from to the stelling for onwards transport to Georgetown by cargo vessel. In the past cut sugarcane which arrived in barges from estates down the river was transported by railway to the factory.

Today the railway operates during two eight-hour shifts daily. Sugar is either transported in bulk in two six-ton containers loaded on two four-wheel flat cars or in bags, however at the time of our visit no bagged sugar was transported as the storage area at the stelling needed refurbishing (until then the bagged sugar is put into containers and transported by road to Georgetown). For bulk sugar, there are four 35-ton storage bins at the factory and two 950-ton storage bins at the stelling. The containers are filled by gravity at the factory and lifted off the flat cars by a crane at the stelling for unloading into the storage bins. From the stelling, the bulk sugar is then transported by 1000-ton coastal cargo ship to the GuySuCo Sugar Terminal in Georgetown, from where it is exported.

From the factory, the loco pushes the train to the stelling. First a drawbridge over a punt canal is crossed. Just beyond it, the Bagged Sugar Storage Bond is served by a loop. A level crossing across the factory’s access road is guarded and equipped with barriers. The line runs across two smaller bridges and halfway, a drainage canal is crossed on a larger bridge, after which the line runs on elevated track to the stelling, with a storage siding just outside. On the stelling, the crane formerly used to transfer cane from barges to the railway is still present.

A train with the drawbridge and punt elevator behind:

The following standard gauge locos are thought to have worked here:

Plymouth 4wPM 8-ton DLC type 2 No. 2484 of 1926, CL TU engine, to Henry K Davson Ltd for Turl Iron Works, Berbice, Demarara 14/2/1950 (annotated “Spec. couplers for sugar trucks”);

Ruston H. 4wDM 7.5-ton 48DS No. 294261 of 01/1950, 48 HP Ruston 4VRH engine, to H.K. Davson;

Simplex Mechanical Handling (Motor Rail) 4wDM No. 9933 of 1974, 69 HP Dorman 3LD engine, to Booker Export Services Ltd, Booker Sugar, Guyana.

Today, MR 9933 (fitted with a Perkins 51T engine in 1994 and with a new Simplex gearbox in 1997) is in daily use, while the frame of RH 294261 (fitted with Gardner 22DL replacement engine No. 136142) is stored on the siding at the stelling. There is also an open-sided four-wheel workers car for use on works and official trains, as well as a spare frame for the two flat wagons which are in use.

Blairmont Estate also had some 36-in. (914mm) gauge field lines to take workers to their places of work. In the early 1920s it was reported that there were 4 miles of track. The last of these lines we were told closed 5-6 years ago and the track material was used for repairs to the standard gauge line. A hand-pump trolley is survives, on display inside the management’s residential compound.

The following 36-in. (914mm) gauge locos are thought to have worked here:

Plymouth 4wPM 6-ton BL type 2 No. 1012 of 1920, BU BTU engine, to S. Davson & Co, Blairmont, Berbice;

Plymouth 4wPM 8-ton DLC type 2 No. 3734 of 1933, CL TU engine, to Henry K Davson & Co., Berbice, Demarara;

Plymouth 4wDH 8-ton DDT type 6 No. 5828 of 1955, GM 3-71 engine, to S. Davson & Co., Berbice, Demerara.

36-in. (914mm) gauge Wickham Type 8S BB motor trolley No. 5463 of 1950 (dispatched 28/2/50, JAP 350 engine) procured by William Bayliss & Co. Ltd. (Wickham Agents) and shipped to British Guiana might also have come here.

The punt elevator where cane arrives for processing in tractor hauled 'trains' :

Loading the bulk sugar:

Leaving past the bond store and arrival at the stelling:

The remains of the Ruston

Inside the stelling with the bagged sugar area to the left. Outside the stelling showing the bulk sugar conveyor.

Unloading the bulk sugar and the old crane formerly used to transfer cane from barges to the railway:

The return journey starts, the tank is for molasses which are pumped through a pipeline:

The level crossing before the bond store

Final approach past the punt elevator with a 'traffic jam':

The factory end of the line with workers' car and Denison weighbridge:

The Simplex worksplate and spare car frame:

Finally the abandoned track to the workshops and the last trace of the 36in (914mm) gauge railway, a preserved pump trolley:

Sources :

  • W. Rodney Long, “Railways of Central America and the West Indies”, Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, 1925;
  • David Rollinson, “Railways of the Caribbean”, Oxford: MacMillan Caribbean, 2001.

At GuySuCo, we would like to thank Ms. Greenidge and Mr. Petam at Headquarters, who facilitated our visits, as well as Mr. Sugrim at Blairmont and Mr. Kumar at Skeldon, who organized tours of their factories. I would also like to thank John Middleton, Daniel Osborne, Scott Jesser and Jonathan Fleet in helping me to identify the locos.

Rob Dickinson