The International Steam Pages

Today's Railways and Preserved Steam in the Philippines

This is a Philippines Trip Report January-February 2007 by Thomas Kautzor. One picture of preserved steam from Eddie Barnes was added on 26th January 2017 and two pictures of preserved steam by James Waite were added on 25th January 2013. Six pictures of preserved steam by Thomas were added on 22nd March 2013, together with a sad update on 23rd May 2013. Follow the link for the five steam locomotives, this unidentified portable engine is on display at Fort Santiago in Intramuros, the old Spanish city within Manila.

Immediately below this is a 21st January 2023 update on three locomotives in Manila. Scattered through the report are a few comments and two pictures from Eddie Barnes after a mid-2023 visit (updated 18th October 2023).

'Brad' has sent me a brief update from a 5th January 2023 visit to Manila:

At Riverbanks Mall, I found that PASUDECO no.2 (1st picture) no longer had a fence surrounding it. The statues which were previously at the front of the locomotive had been moved in the cab, but the smaller one was in pieces. I did not encounter any security at the location, possibly because I visited early in the morning before the nearby restaurant opened. A lot of fittings in the cab are missing, but a lot of the handles (regulator, brake etc) are still there. The locomotive’s cosmetic condition has deteriorated, especially the wooden buffer beam.

At Tutuban, I encountered a few security guards at the front who let me in upon asking what I was doing. Saddle tank locomotive Dagupan (2nd picture) has been relocated to the front gates across from tank locomotive Cabanatuan. I managed to climb inside the cab of Dagupan, but one set of steps is missing and the existing one is damaged and flimsy. I went over to Cabanatuan (3rd picture), and was about to climb inside the cab when the guards noticed and told me that I was not allowed in the cab because it is unsafe. I noticed that both locomotives had their cab floors rusting out, and would likely need to be replaced if they were to be made safe for the public to climb inside. Both locomotives had been repainted in December 2022 and had Christmas lights installed. Both locomotive cabs were missing most parts.

John Gabriel Ibay adds (25th February 2013) "There are used rolling stock from Japan that are arrived. Also 6 DMU train sets arrived from South Korea. One of the DMR units there, DMR-11 hit a Coca-Cola truck."

From January 30 to February 11 2007, I participated in a tour to the railways of the Philippines organized by German tour operator FarRail. I also spent two days before and after the tour exploring some locations on Luzon and Panay on my own.


Philippine National Railways (PNR):


PNR operates passenger services on the 479 km-long main line south between the Tayuman Road in Manila and Legaspi, as well as a 4.7 km-long branch between San Pedro (Laguna) and Carmona, on the outskirts of Manila. The whole system is in a very bad state of neglect and lacks significant government funding. The main line north between Manila via San Fernando (Pampanga), Tarlac and San Carlos to San Fernando (La Union)(165 miles), together with the branch from Tarlac to San Jose (34 miles), have been closed since the early 1990s, following the outbreak of Mt. Pinatubo. Much of the alignment, tracks, bridges and most stations are still in place, although there is a lot of encroachment. The alignment is to be used by the Chinese Northrail project.

Currently, PNR operations are limited to its commuter service to Alabang (km. 28.09), as well as two evening trains running up to Binan (Km. 39.76) and San Pedro (Km. 35.56), returning the next morning. The only daily long distance service to Legaspi, the Bicol Limited night train (nos. 587/588), has been suspended since November 2006 following washouts near Legaspi which blocked the tracks and the closure of a number of bridges which have been unsafe following the recent typhoon, including one between Binan and Sta. Rosa. As a result, commuter train 302/305 now ends at Binan instead of running to Calamba (Km. 56.16), and the train using the Carmona branch (201 in the morning, 302 back) is also suspended. Given the financial situation of PNR, and the lack of help from the government, no significant effort has been made at present to reinstate services south of Binan. The only revenue PNR is getting at the moment comes from ticket sales for the commuter trains.

One view is that the PNR is just kept running until it will be taken over by the SOUTHRAIL project. This project involves two phases, the first of which would see the line modernized, electrified and double tracked all the way between Tayuman Road, Alabang and Calamba. A branch to the port of Batangas is also planned. Financier for this part of the project is expected to be South Korea and Daewoo would get a share of the construction work. The second phase would involve modernizing the track between Calamba and Legaspi and extending it into the southern port of Matnog in Sorsogon Province. This would involve financing and construction work from China.

NORTHRAIL is most advanced project at the moment. For example, the PNR track at Caloocan station, north of the PNR workshops, has already been cleared in preparation for the project. Ownership of the line will go to the North Luzon Railways Corp., with financing and construction work from China. The line would run from Caloocan to Malolos, and would in a second step be extended all the way to San Fernando (La Union) in Ilocos Sur Province.

An uncommon and interesting feature of the line through Manila is that for almost its entire length the tracks (double-track up to Sucat ?) are surrounded on both sides by squatter homes, except on some sections were these have been cleared by the authorities. This does not mean that the line goes through shantytowns all the way, but rather that the squatter homes are in fact mostly present only along the tracks because PNR property rights have not been enforced in the past. Often the houses are only a few inches away from the trains and accidents are a common occurrence. All coaches and locomotives have metal screens over the windows in order to prevent passengers from putting their heads outside (which would prove fatal), and also to protect from projectiles being thrown inside the trains. Apart from being used as the front yard for the squatter homes, the tracks are also used, not only in Manila but along the whole southern line, by self-built hand-pushed or motorized ‘sledges’ which the locals use for passenger and freight transport.

Trains operate to the following timetable, in effect since March 26, 2006 (except for the alterations due to the line closure)

Southbound:  Northbound:
  302 San Pedro 0526 - Tayuman 0717
  402 Binan 0601 - Tayuman 0802
401 Tayuman 0645 - Alabang 0813 404 Alabang 0830 - Tayuman 0958
301 Tayuman 0810 - Alabang 0938 304 Alabang 0955 - Tayuman 1123
403 Tayuman 0930 - Alabang 1058 406 Alabang 1115 - Tayuman 1243
303 Tayuman 1230 - Alabang 1358 306 Alabang 1415 - Tayuman 1543
405 Tayuman 1330 - Alabang 1458 408 Alabang 1515 - Tayuman 1643
407 Tayuman 1530 - Alabang 1658 410 Alabang 1715 - Tayuman 1843
409 Tayuman 1720 - Binan 1923  305 Tayuman 1820 - San Pedro 2010 
(587 Tayuman 1630 - Legaspi 0810+  588 Legaspi 1500 - Tayuman 0645+)

All trains run daily, except for trains 403/406 and 405/408, which are do not run on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Three 4-car rakes are in use on the commuter trains, of which one spends the night at Tayuman Rd. and one each at Binan and San Pedro. All trains change engines after returning to Tayuman Road, so on a typical day there are seven engines in use. The long-distance service used two rakes, only one of which had air-conditioning.

At Tayuman Road, where there is only a small passenger shed beside the ticketing office, the tracks end across the road from the former Tutuban station, which has been replaced by a shopping mall. One track continues across the road south to the port of Manila, but is now disused. Behind the end of the tracks there is a new three-story building which was inaugurated as the PNR Headquarters by Philippine President Fidel Ramos on May 30th 1996, but has not been put into use up to now. In front of it can be found the following steam locomotives on display:

  • Manila RR 0-6-0T CABANATUAN (Kerr Stuart 777/1905)

  • Manila RR 0-6-0ST DAGUPAN (this locomotive has previously been reported as Kerr Stuart 1021/1907, originally named SANTO TOMAS, but some parts are stamped 1007 which would actually make it CAVITE). This loco was formerly on display at Fort Santiago in Intramuros, the old Spanish city.

These pictures are from James Waite (added 25th January 2013)

Previously, MRR 0-6-2T B class no. 17 URDANETA (Dübs 2577/1890) was also on display here, but was moved to Dagupan City at some time after March 2005, and is now on display in the Town Hall/ Museum park there. This is Eddie Barnes' picture from March 2012.

Eddie now reports that by mid-2023 it had been relocated in front of City Hall on AB Fernandez Avenue..

The headquarters remain at Caloocan, which is also the location of the main workshops. It is located 5.8 km north of Tayuman Road. There is a four-track running shed at Tayuman Road, where day-to-day maintenance and smaller repairs are being carried out. There are also running sheds at Lucena (Km. 133.04) and Naga (Km. 377.57), both two-track sheds that are presently used to store a diesel locomotive with a derailment/wreck train. At all locations on PNR we were made readily welcome, could access all areas without prior arrangement and there was no problem with taking photographs.

At Paco (Km. 9.4), the monumental station is being redeveloped as part of a shopping mall and the facade will therefore not be demolished. Small waiting sheds and platforms have been erected a short distance away, where commuter trains now stop.

Concerning freight traffic, there was a proposal some time ago to introduce garbage trains whereas the squatters could toss their garbage into open wagons, but this did not take place following the opposition of the people living around Tayuman Road station, the location at which the garbage would have had to be transferred into trucks or disposed of.

Diesel locomotives have a dark blue livery while passenger stock is painted dark blue with two red stripes.

Motive Power situation:

Three classes of locomotives have survived on PNR, 900, 2500 and 5000, all three from General Electric. These include:

901-905 GE U15C 39238-42 11/1973
906-915 GE U14C 41848-57 1-2/1979
916 GE U14C/U15C
917-922 GE U15C 4753.1-6 11-12/1991
2501-2513 GE U10B 35673-85 11/1965-1/1966
2514-2523 GE U10B 40742-51 5-8/1976
2524-2533 GE U10B 40901-10 7-8/1976
2534-2543 GE U10B 41838-47 1/1979
5001-5010 GE U10B 4754.1-10 4-5/1992

Units 917-922 and 5001-5010 were built at GE Montreal, Canada (former MLW plant).

Some mystery surrounds the origins of unit 916. One explanation is that it is a rebuild of 901 that was wrecked in a fatal derailment in 1979. But according to PNR records the rebuild of 901 was not completed and it was scrapped following complaints by superstitious PNR employees. At about the same time, unit 908 was said to have hit the son of a military officer, who started taking revenge on it whenever he saw it. Stones turned into bullets and at some point a grenade was thrown against 908, injuring the crew. As a result, 908 was renumbered 916. The presence of today’s 908 is explained by it being the former 904, which was renumbered at a latter date for some obscure reason, and after the military officer had stopped being a threat.

Following units remain on PNR (all units were seen at Manila on January 29/30th, except 916 seen at Lucena on February 12th, and 918/922 at Naga, which was not visited):

902 on service Tayuman Road
903 awaiting repair Caloocan
906 awaiting repair Caloocan
908 beyond repair Caloocan
909 on service Tayuman Road 
911 awaiting repair Caloocan
913 awaiting repair Caloocan
914 under repair Caloocan
915 under repair Caloocan
916 on service Lucena (stranded) 
917 on service Tayuman Road 
918 on service Naga (stranded)
919 awaiting repair Caloocan
920 awaiting repair Caloocan
921 on service Tayuman Road 
922 on service Naga (stranded)

2504 beyond repair Caloocan
2510 awaiting repair Caloocan
2515 awaiting repair Caloocan
2518 awaiting repair Caloocan
2522 beyond repair Caloocan
2528 beyond repair Caloocan
2536 beyond repair Caloocan
2537 beyond repair Caloocan
2535 awaiting repair Caloocan
2538 on service Tayuman Road 
2539 awaiting repair Caloocan
2540 awaiting repair Caloocan

5001 on service Tayuman Road 
5002 on service Tayuman Road
5003 on service Tayuman Road
5004 awaiting repair Caloocan
5005 on service Tayuman Road 
5006 awaiting repair Caloocan
5007 on service Tayuman Road 
5008 awaiting repair Caloocan
5009 awaiting repair Caloocan
5010 awaiting repair Caloocan

Many of the units listed as “beyond repair” or “awaiting repair” have been stripped of spare parts in order to keep the active fleet serviceable, as there are no funds available for spares.

In 1988 International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) won a 25-year concession to operate the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), in the Port of Manila. In March 1997 it bought a diesel locomotive from PT Lokindo (Indonesia) in order to operate container trains over PNR trackage from MICT to its inland container facility at Santa Rosa/Calamba, south of Manila, from where the containers could be forwarded to customers by road. The locomotive, ICTSI No. 1, was built under GE license as a type UM20C Co’Co’-de with an output of 2000 h.p.. After a few years this operation was stopped. Although I did not see the locomotive, according to the Chief Engineer at Caloocan Works, it is still stored at the ICTSI Calamba facility. Also according to the Chief Engineer, when the Northrail project enquired whether PNR had any diesels available for lease to run construction trains, PNR management stated that they could not spare any of their serviceable diesels, but suggested that ICTSI might be willing to lease out its unused loco. (Fergus Moffatt tells me, (2nd April 2009) that this loco has since surfaced in Western Australia.)

PNR also had a number of railcars and DMUs over the years, but none remain as such. The inspection train, composed of inspection car IC-888, middle trailer TA-5 and motor car baggage and power MCBP-4, was until recently hauled by a diesel locomotive after the traction motors failed. It has recently been transferred to Caloocan and is presently awaiting repair. There are also two more intermediate trailers numbered TA-2 (marked DE LUXE) and TA-6. All of this stock has come second-hand from Japan. The former Japanese Bullet-nose railcars have all disappeared, either scrapped or returned to Japan according to staff. All of the 3-car DMUs have been demotorized and are now used as loco-hauled stock.

CMC-201, a former DMU power car now used as re-railment car, is based at Tayuman Road together with a former box car used as tool car. It was previously powered (as late as January 2004), but is now loco-hauled.

Also at Caloocan, in derelict condition, is inspection car “Buda Car-22” (one axle missing, motor removed), the wrecked remains of another inspection car as well as a tamper numbered 07-16 G and a Plasser & Theurer ballast regulator numbered PBR202.

Rolling Stock:

The following information is based mainly on the “Status of Rolling Stock” sheet by PNR, dated January 9, 2007). PNR had a total of 26 former railcars and trailers, as well as 54 coaches and baggage cars on stock. This included the following:

26 METROTREN former Commuter Motor Cars (CMC) and Commuter Trailer Cars (CTC). These are the Japanese-built DMU cars which were previously used in 3-car formations (CMC/CTC/CMC) on the commuter trains. Presently these cars are used on the commuter trains in 4-car formations. Some have received pointed roofs in order to prevent the squatters from throwing garbage on the roofs.

  • In service: CMC-380, CTC-170/1/2 (4 units);

  • Under repair (Tayuman): CMC-382, CTC-174/5/6 (4 units);

  • Awaiting repair (Caloocan): CMC-365/74/7/9/84, CTC-154/7/61/2/7 (10 units);

  • Awaiting repair (Tayuman): CMC-369/72/86/87, CTC-153/66/9 (8 units).

29 COMMEX (Commuter Express) cars, which were donated to PNR by the JR East Workers’ Union (Japan) in the mid-1990s. They run in 4-car formations on the commuter trains and formerly on the trains to Legaspi. Some units have driving cabs at one end. The cars are equipped with air-con, but most of the a/c units do not work anymore. Four units were stranded at Naga after the southern line closed down.

  • In service: 7A-2004/6/7/8/9/14/5/6/9/23/9/30 (12 units);

  • Under repair (Tayuman): 7A-2013/7/22/5 (4 units);

  • Awaiting repair (Caloocan): 7A-2012/8/24/8 (4 units);

  • Awaiting repair (Tayuman): 7A-2001/2/5/10/20/6 (6 units);

  • Beyond repair: 7A-2003/11/21 (3 units).

12 NORTHRAIL cars. These are of same type as the COMMEX coaches of both types and have been effectively taken over from the Northrail project, as it will now get newly-built stock from China. The coaches are not numbered, have a blue and white livery and air-con. They have been used on the long distance trains to Legaspi. Eleven units are listed as “on service”, one as “under repair” at Tayuman Road.

18 passenger cars, all listed as “awaiting repair” at Caloocan (they will probably scrapped).

  • 7C-96/100/3/6/8/12/3/26 (1949? older type ECONOMY coaches with doors at one end only);

  • 7A-120/9/30 (1949? older type DE LUXE coaches with doors at both ends);

  • 7SE-302/5, 7E-316/20/37/42/4 (1979 Indian-built SLEEPER ECONOMY and ECONOMY coaches).

9 Baggage and Baggage-Power cars with a generator for lighting and air-con on the Legaspi long distance service.

  • In service : 7C-105 (baggage), 7C-114/5 (baggage-power) (3 units) ;

  • Under repair (Tayuman): 7B-41;

  • Awaiting repair (Caloocan): 7C-104, 7BP-2/7 (baggage-power), 7B-42 (4 units);

  • Awaiting repair (Tayuman): 7B-40 (used as locker room).

There is also the Presidential Car numbered PC-2.86 (Kalayaan 2-86 in the list) which was used by President Ferdinand Marcos as PC-777 and is stored awaiting repairs at Caloocan. It is officially named Kalayaan 2-86, ‘Kalayaan’ meaning ‘Freedom’ in Filipino and 2-86 standing for February 1986, the month in which the Marcos regime was brought down by the masses.

Many of the cars listed as awaiting repairs are in fact used as storage or housing by PNR employees at Tayuman and Caloocan.

Although freight traffic has stopped, there are still a fleet of freight cars around, either for departmental use or just dumped around the system. I have seen the following types:

  • BC = Box Cars, some marked CARGO EXPRESS;

  • FCD = cabooses;

  • FH = Flat cars with High ends;

  • FL = Flat Cars, some have been converted to ballast cars;

  • GC = Gondola Cars;

  • TF = Tank cars for Fuel.

Most of the wagons are Japanese-built, except for the tank cars which are U.S.-built and ex-U.S. Army Transportation Corps (USATC). Under repair at Caloocan there is a modern-looking covered wagon with sliding side-doors, still with all of its Japanese markings.

There are three diesel breakdown cranes on the system:

  • A Nippon-Sharyo 6+6W crane with inscriptions ENG’G DEPT. based at Lucena. It was seen on February 12th being prepared for work on a bridge near Candelaria.

  • A Hitachi 6+6W crane numbered 7503D, which is stored at Tayuman Road awaiting repairs.

  • A Gottwald 6+6W crane, probably No. 142025/1979, serviceable and based at Tayuman Road.

John Holland plant (visited on February 12th):
In the mid-1990s John Holland Contruction & Engineering Pty secured a contract to relay the PNR main line with their own brand concrete sleepers and “part-worn” rail, but a dispute with the Philippine Government led to the abandonment of the project.

A large amount of material for sale, including five ex-Queensland Railways 1620 class locomotives, four ex-DR type 100 diesels rebuilt and regauged by Newag-Recon in 1996, ex-NZR loco-tractor WW792, two tamping machines and a Cowans-Sheldon crane, was stored at a site along the main highway between Tiaong and Candelaria, and was last reported in February-March 2005.

On February 12th, 2007 I visited the site and found that everything had been cut-up on site and taken away as scrap, and the site cleared. This happened sometime in 2005 according to the locals. According to PNR employees at Lucena station, the ballast hoppers reported dumped at Sariaya station had also been scrapped some years ago and there was nothing left there as well.

Manila Rail Transit:

MERALCO Streetcar system:

The first horse-drawn streetcar in Manila was opened in 1890 by the Compana de los Tranvias de Filipinas (11 km). This company was later bought-out by the Manila Electric Co. (MERALCO) and the first electric streetcar was inaugurated on April 10, 1905, which evolved into a large network over the years reaching 84 km. During WWII and the battle of Manila the streetcar system had suffered so badly that it was abandoned and replaced by road transportation (mostly jeepneys).

At the Museum of MERALCO History, located on the ground floor of the Technical Services Building (TSB), MERALCO Center on Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City, there is a full-sized replica of 1920s bogie streetcar no. 1220, some memorabilia as well as numerous photographs of Manila street scenes with streetcars. The museum is open Tu-Sa 09:00-18:00 and entry is free. Available for sale from the curator is a book on the history of MERALCO and its streetcars, as well as special issue stamps and a philatelic bulletin with pictures and a description of the streetcars, which were published to celebrate MERALCO’s 100th anniversary in 2003. Adjoining the museum are the MERALCO archives, which are open for research by appointment.

There is supposedly another replica streetcar numbered 520 at the MERALCO Training Center within the same complex. Another streetcar is on display at the Children’s Museum (Museo Pambata), next to the U.S. Embassy on Roxas Boulevard in Ermita. This museum is open Tu-Sa 08:00-12:30/ 13:30-17:00, Su 13-17:00, and entry costs P. 60. Neither of these locations were visited.

METRORAIL (LRT-1, Yellow line):

This south-north light rail line runs between Baclaran, in Pasay City, and Monumento, in Caloocan City, passing near the old heart of Manila. It is 14.5 km long with 18 stations, all elevated. It is standard gauge, electrified at 750 V. overhead and the depot and maintenance complex is at Baclaran. There are extra storage tracks at Central and Monumento. The line was built under the presidency of President Ferdinand Marcos with financial help from the Belgian government. It was built by a Belgian consortium and operated by MERALCO’s sister company METRO, Inc., from its opening in 1984/85 until 2000, when it was taken over by the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), a government corporation, following a strike by MERALCO employees.

LRT-1 connects with MRT-3’s southern end at EDSA (Taft station on MRT-3), with LRT-2 at D. Jose (Recto station on MRT-2) and with PNR at Blumentritt, although there are no direct connections anywhere and each line has its own ticketing.

LRT-1 is open 05:00 to 21:00, with a train frequency of 2.1/2 minutes at peak hours and 3-5 minutes at off-peak hours. Fares are P.12 or P.15 according to distance. Photography is not allowed, as on the other two rail transit lines, and is prevented by the security guards present on station platforms. There are reasonable photo spots from an overhead footbridge at EDSA station and near Central station, and PNR commuter trains can be photographed from the station platform at Blumentritt station. A photography permit could possibly be requested from the Public Relations Office at +(62)2 854-0984, 854-0452 or 302-6721.

There are three types of trains:

  • 64 1G class 1000 series three-part articulated cars (1001-1064) built by Ateliers de Contruction Electriques de Charleroi (ACEC)/ Brugeoise et Nivelles (BN) in Belgium in 1984. They used to run in two-car formations (32 sets, 59.59 m. long, with a capacity of 748 passengers), but have been modified on the late 1990s to be able to run in 3-car formations (21 sets, 89.37 m., 1122 passengers). As part of a refurbishment program they are currently being equipped with air-conditioning in order to match the rest of the fleet. As of January 31st, 2007, the rehabilitation of 37 units had been completed. Train 1037 was destroyed in a bomb blast in 2000 and is sitting burnt-out at the depot.

  • 28 2G class 1100 series two-part articulated cars (1101A/B-1128A/B) built by ADtranz in South Korea around 1996. These run in four-car formations (7 sets) which are 105.7 m. long and have a capacity of 1350 passengers.

  • 12 3G class 1200 series four-part articulated cars built by Kinki Sharyo in Japan in 2006/07. They are currently being delivered and were acquired to expand the capacity of the line.

There are projects to extend the LRT-1 11.7 km south to Niyog station (10 stations), serving Manila International Airport (MIA) on the way.

MEGATREN (MRT-2, Purple line):

This fully automated mass transit east-west line runs from Santolan, in Pasig City, to Recto station, in Central Manila. It is 13.8 km long with 11 stations, all elevated except for Katipunan station, which is underground. It is standard gauge, electrified overhead at 1500 V. and the depot and maintenance complex is at Santolan. The line was built with financial help from Japan, opened in 2003/4 and is operated by the LRTA.

The line indirectly connects with LRT-1 at Recto station (D. Jose on LRT-1) and with MRT-3 at Araneta Center-Cubao (Cubao on MRT-3).

Trains run weekdays 05:00-22:00 and weekends 06:00-20:00, with fares ranging P.12-15 according to the distance traveled. Travel between the two ends takes 30 minutes. Photography is the most difficult on this line, although the P.R. Office can be contacted at +(63) 2 647-3452 or 647-3491 ext. 29846. Depot visits can be arranged through the P.R. Office.

There are 18 four-car trains built by the Marubeni Corporation (Japan) numbered in the 2000 series (2001/2/3/4-2068/9/71/2). All four cars are powered, the trains are 92.6 meters long and have a capacity of 232 seated and 1396 standing passengers. There are no separations between the cars and the whole train can be walked through from end to end.

There are plans to extend the line 4 km east of Santolan station to Masinag Junction in Antipolo.


This light rail line runs in north-south semi-circular way along the EDSA Avenue between North Avenue, in Quezon City, and Taft Avenue, in Pasay City. The line is 16.9 km long and there are 13 stations, mostly elevated or at ground level except for Buendia station which is underground. It is standard gauge, electrified overhead and the depot and maintenance complex is in the underground of an office building and shopping mall (still under construction) at North Avenue. There are extra storage tracks at Shaw Boulevard and Taft Avenue. The line was opened in 1999/2000 and is operated by the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) under a build, operate & transfer (BOT) contract with the Philippines Government’s Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). Construction was awarded to the Sumitomo Corp./ Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Inc. It was built as part of DOTC’s strategy to alleviate the chronic traffic congestion along EDSA Avenue and was funded by Japan and the Czech Republic.

MRT-3 connects with LRT-1 at Taft Avenue (EDSA on LRT-1) and with LRT-2 at Cubao (Araneta Center/Cubao on LRT-2).

Trains run 05:30 to 22:30 with a frequency of 3-5 minutes Mo-Fr, 6-7 minutes on weekends, the journey from one end to the other taking 29 minutes. Fares are P. 10-15 according to the distance traveled. Photography is prevented by the security guards in the stations and an attempt to obtain a photo permit from MTRC was unsuccessful. There are some overhead footbridges along the line, but the best photo spot is from the footbridges at the place where MRT-3 crosses LRT-2, just north of Cubao/Araneta Center station.

There are 73 three-part articulated cars built by CKD Dopravni Systemy, Tatra (Czech Republic) numbered 01-A/B/C to 073-A/B/C which run in three-car formations (24 sets). The cars have Mitsubishi Industries plates, but this is because the maintenance contract is with the Japanese company. Some of the trains are fully covered by advertisement.

There is a project to extend the line from North Avenue west to Monumento (3 station), where it would connect with LRT-1.

General notes:

All three lines, especially LRT-1 and MRT-3, are very crowded not only at peak hours, but all day long. On LRT-2 the situation seems to be a bit better. On lines LRT-1 and MRT-3 there are designated waiting areas for single women on the platforms as well as designated cars on the trains. As said before, photography is not permitted from the platforms. This policy is effectively enforced by the security guards who are present on all platforms, and who will tell you to stop. Taking photos from outside the premises does not seem to present any problems. There are security guards who search the content of bags at the entrance of all stations in order to prevent bomb attacks, and this can create long lines at peak hours. In 2000, a bomb blast on LRT-1 destroyed a train, and recently these searches resulted in man loaded with explosives being caught before he could enter a train. 

Tickets can be bought for one trip or with a stored value, but are only valid on the line on which they were bought. There are generally long lines at the ticket booths at major stations and at peak hours, so if more than one trip is expected to be made it is better to buy stored value tickets when these are available. On LRT-2 this is less of a problem as there are automatic ticket vending machines available.

There are no direct connections between the different lines. Passengers changing from one line to the other either have to walk long distances over footbridges or through shopping malls, or need to get down to street level to cross the street. Moreover, most stations on LRT-1 do not have elevators. A project by the Office of the President of the Philippines to integrate the different transit systems in Manila, the Strong Republic Transit System (SRTS), has been put on hold. Its aim was to provide interconnection facilities between the three LRT/MRT lines and with the NORTHRAIL and PNR/SOUTHRAIL commuter lines, as well as integrated ticketing.

Sugar Mills:

Canlubang Sugar Estate (formerly Calamba Sugar), Laguna Province 

This mill just west of Calamba is now the Canlubang Pulp Manufacturing Corp. According to the guard at the gate, nothing related to the former 3’6” gauge railway remains inside the mill. The area surrounding the mill has been turned into a golf course, and the railway platform can still be identified at several locations, but the rails have been lifted even at the former level crossings. The mill railway used to be connected to the PNR main line south.

Central Azucarera Don Pedro Inc. (CADP), Nasugbu, Batangas Province :

This mill has a daily capacity of 12,000 tons of cane with a season running from November to May. According to the Assistant to the Transportation Manager, Mr Martin Alviar, rail transportation of sugar cane from the fields ceased in 1983, while some cane was still transferred by rail within the mill until 1988. The 2’0” gauge tracks were lifted in prior to the 1999 season (as a result the closure years seem suspicious), but there are still remains to be found at the former level crossings. In 2000 the two remaining steam locomotives, 0-8-0T+T no. 1 (Henschel 22082/1931) and 0-6-0WT no. 8 (Henschel 21455/1929) were donated to unknown owners or locations (no. 8 probably to the city of Nasugbu). The six remaining diesel locomotives were sold three years ago to a dealer for reuse of their engines.

Pampanga Sugar Development Corp. (PASUDECO), San Fernando, Pampanga Province:

This mill, now operated by Basic Commodities, Inc. (BASECOM), could well be the last sugar mill to operate a rail system on Luzon, alas only for waste trains. In December 2006 PASUDECO diesel locomotive 35-C (GE 35-ton Bo-Bo DE No. 37568/1972) was seen hauling mud/lime waste trains by a visitor. As my visit was on a Sunday, there was no way of getting hold of somebody of authority to allow me access to the mill. According to the guards, the person to contact would have been Sir Arnel Ottanquin tel. +(63) 2 963-6947 at the Makati City headquarters of BASECOM. From outside the mill I was able to see a train of 4-wheel cars being loaded with waste, pulled by a cable, and two steam locomotive bogie tenders painted yellow (probably used as tank cars) standing next to a shed in the background. The mill railway used to be connected with the PNR main line north.

Paniqui Sugar Mill, Paniqui, Tarlac Province:

This small mill, last operated by the Western Agri-Ventures Corp. (WESCOR), closed in 2005. According to the guard on duty there is no rail-related equipment left on site.

Rail Preservation:

Apart from the three ex-PNR/Manila RR steam locomotives mentioned earlier and preserved at Manila and Dagupan, there are a number of other steam locomotives that have been preserved on Luzon.

Pampanga Sugar Development Co. (PASUDECO) 2-6-0 no. 2 (3’6” gauge Baldwin No. 60506 / June 1928) is on display with its tender as “Riverland Express” in front of a restaurant outside the Riverbanks Shopping Center, a former industrial compound, in Marikina City (eastern Manila). The loco is in good outside condition and still has its builder’s and number plates. This location is not far from the Katipunan station on LRT-2. Visitors in the past have reported being prevented from taking pictures from the restaurant grounds by security guards, but on the day we visited the restaurant was closed and no security guards were present.

Central Azucarera La Carlota (CAC) 0-4-0T&T no. 6 (3’0” gauge Davenport no. 1859/1921) was found stored with its tender at the Star City amusement park in the C.C.P. area, Manila. This locomotive had been sold by CAC to the Sunshine View Hotel at Paaralang, and was later reported on display at Tagaytay, but was gone from that location by 2004.

Beside MacArthur Highway (north of Manila), in front of Luisita Mall, Tarlac Province, next to the Starbucks, is 2-6-0 no. 1 (Henschel no. 20920/1927) from nearby Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT). The loco is displayed without its tender, but together with two make-shift four-wheel passenger cars converted from wagons. The locomotive still has a builder’s plate, as well as an agent’s plate from “Koppel Industrial Car & Equipment Co., Manila”. The whole train can be illuminated at night.

A little further north on the opposite side of the highway and next to Kampo Aquino military base is the Armed Forces Museum of the Province of Tarlac. Among the military vehicles are two four-wheel covered wagons with double buffers. These were allegedly used by the Japanese Army during the infamous “Bataan Death March” to transport captured allied troops to the camps in Tarlac Province. The museum was closed as it was a Sunday.

On display at the Plaza de Roxas park in the center of Nasugbu, Batangas Province, is a C.A. Don Pedro (CADP) 2’0” gauge 0-6-0WT thought to be CADP no. 8 (Henschel no. 21455/1929).

Another steam locomotive has last been reported in March 2005 in a park or private garden at Taal City (south of Tagaytay and northwest of Batangas) in Batangas Province, but I was unable to visit this location. This might be the second locomotive donated by C.A. Don Pedro, Nasugbu.


Panay Railways Inc. (PRI):

The 3’6” gauge railway between Iloilo and Roxas on Panay Island (117 km) opened in 1905. It was at first operated by the Philippine Railway Co. (PRC). The same company also operated a railway of the same gauge on the island of Cebu from 1907 to 1955 or 56, with lines from Cebu City to Danao in the north (Cebu Cement Co.), and to Argao in the south (National Coal Co. mine), for a total of 96 km.

After 1945 the railway was operated by the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) from 1945-74, the Philippine Veterans’ Investment Development Corp. (PHIVIDEC) from 1974-79 and Philsucom from 1979-85, before it was closed in 1985. At the time of closure the railway used diesel locomotives, some of which had been taken over from PNR, and diesel railcars with trailers.

There is a project to rebuild the railway between Iloilo and Roxas to standard gauge, together with branches from Iloilo to San Jose de Buenavista and from Cuartero to Caticlan, in order to boost the economy of the island. Partners for the project are the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Panay Railways, Inc. and PHIVIDEC, together with Siemens (Germany), Systra (France) and Voest Alpine (Austria). The only thing lacking at the moment is funding for the project.

At the site of the former PRI station and roundhouse in the Iloilo suburb of La Paz (on Huervana Street), there is still a ‘Main Office of PRI’ (tel. 320 9187), with a poster showing the outline of the planned standard gauge project and a picture of a Siemens diesel locomotive.

On display next to the office is PRI diesel locomotive no. 114, a Japanese 1000hp class DD13 Bo+Bo DH built by Nippon Sharyo in 1963. Manila RR received four of these locomotives in 1963 numbered 3501-3504 (N.S. 2328-31), of which 3502 was turned over to PRI by 1976. By 1979 it had been renumbered 107, while the other three units were dumped at Caloocan works in Manila. As no direct delivery to PRI is recorded, unit 114 might be either no. 107 once again renumbered or one of the three others refurbished and brought to Panay at a later date.

Preserved Steam Locomotive:

On display at the Chevrolet dealership on Jaro St. (which is the main highway to Roxas), about 6 km outside of Iloilo, is Bacolod-Murcia Milling Co. 2-6-0 no. BM-1 (Alco 65334/1923) without its tender, painted black and red, and renumbered 888. Chevrolet’s predecessor at the dealership, KIA Motors, had brought it from Negros.

I have since heard from Chas Hannaford that this loco is now in a scrap yard... See (added 23rd May 2013). Since when Eddie Barnes reports in mid 2023 that it was on display in Plaza Libertad in front of City Hall in Ililo.

Rob Dickinson