The International Steam Pages

The Railways of Surinam, 2014 - Plantation 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,

He reports on his visit with Torsten Schneider to Surinam (Suriname), 9th - 22nd September 2014.

See also:

Suikerfabriek Mariënburg:

Suriname’s oldest known railway was the 1280mm (4-ft) gauge plantation railway at Mariënburg Sugar Factory in the District of Commenwijne, 1.5 km from the Commenwijne River. Construction of the sugar factory and railway began in 1880 by Cail (France) for the Nederlandse Handelmaatschappij Amsterdam (NHM) and it opened in October 1882. It had an initial milling capacity of 300 t./day. Early on, contract workers were brought to Suriname from China and British-ruled India, with the first 94 Javanese arriving in 1890. In all, 20% of the Indian and 25% of the Javanese contract workers brought to Suriname were sent to Mariënburg, with most of them employed in the fields. Upper management was of course Dutch, while some Afro-Creoles worked as overseers or as technicians in the factory. Contract work officially ended in Suriname in 1932.

In 1922, a new higher-capacity mill was acquired from Werkspoor which included three large stationary steam engines. The factory operated eight month in a year. In 1954 a distillery was added to the factory, which produced sugar, molasses, rum and spirits mainly for export to the Netherlands. In 1964, as NHM was concentrating its activities mainly in the banking sector (and eventually becoming ABN AMRO Bank), S.F. Mariënburg was sold to NV Rubber Cultuur Maatschappij Amsterdam (RCAM) BV. In 1974, RCAM sold the factory for a symbolic Surinamese Florint to the Surinamese state. The sale included the its massive debts to NHM. Shortly after independence in 1975, it became known as Surinaamse Cultuur Maatschappij (SCM). At that time, the Dutch management and technicians left Suriname and were replaced by inexperienced Surinamese nationals. For a while, Indian advisors were brought in, but they again left after their contract ended. In 1981, the factory was still producing 8,000 t. of sugar and 945,000 l. of alcohol, but it was heavily indebted and urgently needed investment to replace the worn out equipment. Production stopped sometime between 1988 and 1990 and the factory was officially closed in 1996, when the workforce was given severance payments and dismissed. Since then, and even though the factory is on the tourist trail, the government has periodically been selling off pieces of it for scrap. The milling equipment of 1922, including the three large Werkspoor engines, is still in place, but the roof over it was scrapped in 2006.

(One of the Werkspoor drop valve engines appears to be dual drive, hence the raised gear wheel, the others single drive. The outermost single engine appears larger and would have driven the first mil or crusher if one was installed. RD)


The railway was lightly laid and temporary track was used in the fields. It was used mainly to transport sugarcane from the fields to the mill, but also on other duties. Sugar was transported to Belwaarde pier on the Suriname River (5 km away) in two-axle and bogie covered vans. The bogie vans could load 90-100 100 kg bags, with ten wagons to a train. Rum and alcohol was loaded into 5000 l. aluminum containers, which were transported to Belwaarde on flatcars. Supplies were brought by rail from the pier to the company store, where a siding ended under an attached shed. During the dry season, water was transported in tank cars.

Passenger trains also operated over the network. Long workers' trains of flatcars operated in the morning at 06.00 to take the cane cutters into the fields and bring them back in the evenings. A school train composed of a motor trolley and two small trailers operated from Backdam, a kampong 8 km south of Mariënburg. There were also two open-sided passenger cars for use by high-ranking visitors and on special occasions.

The following wood-fired steam locomotives are known to have worked on the railway, all were 1280mm gauge


2091  1880  0-4-0T 2130  1881  0-4-0T

Backer & Rueb, Breda:

98  1893  0-4-0T New Nederlandsche Handels-Maatschappij No. 1 „BED JO“
(repl. boiler 2443/1929), wdn. 1st July 1963


4279 1900 IV zo 0-4-0T neu Zuckerfabrik Suriname 5348 1905 IV bi 0-4-0T neu Figée & Kruyff für Zuckerfabrik Marienburg
4285 1900 IV zo 0-4-0T neu Zuckerfabrik Suriname 6667 1912 IV by 0-4-0T neu Figée & de Kruyff, Amsterdam für Suriname
4583 1901 IV zs 0-4-0T neu Figée & De Kruyff für Zuckerfabrik in Suriname 6668 1912 IV by 0-4-0T neu Figée & de Kruyff, Amsterdam für Suriname

Du Croo & Brauns

1 1922  0-4-0T 58 1925 0-4-0T 147 1928 0-8-0T
54 1924  0-4-0T 59 1925 0-4-0T
55 1924  0-4-0T 146 1928 0-8-0T

All of the steam locomotives were named after employees of the company. The two-axled locomotives were capable of hauling up to 30 loaded cane cars (4-6 t. each), while the two four-axled locomotives (named “Tito” and “Wogran”) were capable of hauling 50. These last two were assigned to the longest line to Alkmaar (10 km).

One of the Du Croo & Braun 0-4-0Ts survives at Fort Nieuw Amsterdam, now an open-air museum at the junction of the Suriname and Commenwijne rivers. At the gate, nobody knew about it and after we found it outside the moat, we first had to remove some of the vegetation in order to photograph it. Parts of other steam locos were seen at a scrap dealer in 2010.

In 1954, twelve Kromhout four-wheel diesel locos had arrived. These were soon supplemented by the following 16 Schöma four-wheel diesel locos:

1985 1956 CFL 120D B 762 12.1956 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Zufa Surinam
1986 1957 CFL 120D B 762 01.1957 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Zufa Surinam
[lt. Referenzliste: F.Nr. 1986 + 87]
2021 1957 CFL 50D Bdm 1280 05.1957 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Zufa Marienburg 
2246 1959 CFL 50D Bdm 1280 09.1959 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Sudan


1960 CFL 50D Bdm 1280 05.1960 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für NHM (Surinam)


1960 CFL 50D Bdm 1280 12.1960 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Surinam
2437 1962 CFL 50D Bdm 1280 01.1962 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Surinam


1962 CFL 50D Bdm 1280 12.1962 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Surinam
2703 1963 CFL 50D Bdm 1280 12.1963 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Surinam
2938 1966 CFL 50D Bdm 1280 07.1966 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Surinam
3004 1968 CFL 50D Bdm 1280 01.1968 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Surinam
3145 1969 CFL 45DZ Bdm 1280 02.1969 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Zufa Marienburg 
3715 1973 CFL 45DZ Bdm 1280 12.1973 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Zufa Marienburg
3716 1974 CFL 45DZ Bdm 1280 01.1974 Lindeteves, Amsterdam [NL] für Zufa Marienburg
4663 1983 CFL 45B Bdm  1280 05.1983 Erich Meyer, Export, Bremen für S.O.M., Marienburg
4664 1983 CFL 45B Bdm 1280 05.1983 Erich Meyer, Export, Bremen für S.O.M., Marienburg 

Two of the Schoema diesels survive, one is plinthed in front of the factory together with a workers' car, a flat car transporting rum tanks, a tipper wagon for mud/ashes and a motor trolley. A 5000 l. aluminum rum container sits nearby. Behind the distillery, there is a diesel tank car. And behind the mill, derelict and overgrown Schoema No. 3 “Hanief” still sits on railway tracks in the former mill yard.

(For those who are interested, click here or on the map above for a larger version.)

To travel over the network, management and overseers used both pump-trolleys and a (Dutch) Simplex petrol motor trolley built in the 1920s. In 1954, a motor trolley with a Goshie engine was acquired and photos also show what look like Fairmont motor trolleys. In 1973, Wickham type 27 Mk 4 No. 10692 diesel motor trolley with a Ford engine was acquired.

The pier and the warehouse complex at Belwaarde has been leased to a Chinese company who import bunker oil.

The factory can be toured daily, there are guides on hand including Mr. Toekijan Soekardi, who was born at Mariënburg in 1934 of parents from Surabaya and who worked all of his life at the factory. He has co-authored the Anne Blondé book (see sources below).


Director’s Residence

Monument to the 1st Javanese in Suriname

Vice-director’s residence

Former staff club, which now houses the local branch
of the Javanese-dominated Pertjajah political party.

Plantage Peperpot:

Peperpot, in the Commenwijne District, was a coffee and cocoa plantation on the Suriname River, a few kilometres south of the new bridge which links Paramaribo with the Commenwijne District. A 600mm gauge field railway, probably hand-powered, was in use here. Track remains as well as a small flat wagon can be found outside the warehouse. The plantation has been turned into a nature park, with a three kilometre-long foot and bike path along a canal.


Dr. R. Luijken, “Spoorwegen in Suriname”, in Op de Rails vol. 29, No. 9 (Sep. 1961), pp. 107-112;

A. D. De Pater, “The Locomotives Built By Machinefabriek Breda”, Leiden, 1970;

D. Trevor Rowe, “The Locomotives of South America” (pp. 100-104, The Guianas), Locomotives International, St. Teath, Cornwall, 2000;

Augusta Curiel, “Fotografe in Suriname 1904-1937”, Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2007;

Anne Blondé & Toekijan Soekardi, “Plantage Mariënburg – Van koffiebes tot rum”, Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2013.

Rob Dickinson