Jamaica Fiwi Roots

The Story of Jamaica's Railway

echoes of the steam whistle

The global railway boom of the 19th century, originating in Britain and rapidly spreading to its colonies and beyond, reached Jamaica in 1845. It was the second British colony to embrace this transformative method of transport. Following Canada's lead in 1836, Jamaica embarked on an ambitious endeavor to establish critical infrastructure and bolster its economy.

Two brothers, William and David Smith, were instrumental in the development of Jamaica's railway system. Hailing from Manchester, England, home to the world's first intercity passenger railway, their experience with this innovation likely fueled their vision for a similar system in Jamaica. The opening of the Manchester-Liverpool line in 1830 sparked the sparked the Railway Mania, a period of rapid railway expansion throughout Britain.

They were Jamaica land owners, and were involved in the sugar industry. In the early 1840s, they proposed the construction of a railway to connect Kingston with the interior of the island. Their proposal was well-received by the Jamaican government. Construction began in 1844 under the name Railway Company, and the first line, from Kingston to Spanish Town, was opened in 1845. This marked the beginning of Jamaica's railway network, which played a vital role in the island's economic development.

The island's railway system was built utilizing similar technology and standards as those found in Europe and North America. The railway played a crucial role in connecting communities, fostering economic activity, particularly in the transportation of agricultural goods, and transforming the island's social landscape. This new chapter in island's transportation history would ultimately shape its development for nearly a century and a half, before the railway's eventual closure in 1992.

Comprehensive list of Jamaica's Public Railway System

Map of Jamaica's Railway System

List of Stations, Junctions and Sidings

Note: Distances are relative to Kingston
Halt: A small, often unmanned train station. Typically a simple platform to board/deboard. May not have facilities like ticket offices or waiting rooms.
Siding: a low-speedbranch line, for trains to pass, storing rolling stock, temporary removal of trains from main line eg. unloading freight.

Montego Bay Line

Miles km
Kingston Terminus 0 0
Marcus Garvey Drive Halt 2.75 4.4
Gregory Park Station 6.5 10.5
Grange Lane Station 9 14.5
Spanish Town Station 11.75 18.9
Horizon Park Halt 12.75 20.5
Hartlands Halt 15.00 24.1
Bushy Park Halt 20.00 32.2
Old Harbour Station 22.75 36.6
Bodles Junction* 24.75 39.8
May Pen Station 32.50 52.3
Logan's Junction** 34.50 55.5
Denbigh Siding 35.00 56.3
Jacob’s Hut 35.25 56.7
Four Paths Station 37.00 59.5
Rock Halt 39.25 63.2
Clarendon Park Station 42.50 68.4
Scott’s Pass Halt 44.00 70.8
Porus Station 46.75 75.2
Williamsfield Station 53.00 85.3
Kendal Station 54.75 88.1
Grove Place Halt 58.00 93.3
Greenvale Station 61.00 98.2
Comfort Hall Siding & Halt 65.75 105.8
Duck Pond Halt 67.75 109.0
Oxford Siding 69.00 111.0
Balaclava Station 70.50 113.4
Siloah Halt 75.75 121.9
Appleton Station 76.75 123.5
Appleton Tourist Halt 77.50 124.7
Maggotty Station 80.00 128.3
Ipswich Station 85.75 138.0
Breadnut Walk Halt 87.25 140.8
Stonehenge Station 90.75 146.0
Catadupa Station 94.00 151.3
Cambridge Station 97.75 157.3
Montpelier Station 103.00 165.7
Anchovy Station 105.75 170.2
Ailford’s Halt 106.75 171.8
Gordon’s Halt 110.00 177.0
Montego Bay Terminus 112.75 181.4

Port Antonio Line

Miles km
Spanish Town Junction 11.75 18.9
St. John’s Road Halt 12.75 20.1
Angels Halt 14.75 23.7
Angels Siding 15 24.1
Crescent Halt 17.5 28.4
Bog Walk Station 20.50 33.0
Knollis Halt 22.00 35.4
New Hall Halt 23.50 37.8
Crawle Halt 25.75 41.4
Riversdale Station 26.75 43.0
Harewood Halt 28.5 45.8
Darling Spring Halt 29.5 47.5
May Pen Junction 32.50 52.3
Troja Station 31.00 49.9
Tajah Halt 33.25 53.5
Richmond Station 36.00 57.9
Highgate Station 38.00 61.1
Highgate Siding 38.00 61.1
Albany Station 42.5 68.4
Water Valley Siding 44.75 72
Bellefield Siding 46.00 74.0
Gray’s Inn Siding 48.00 77.2
Annotto Bay Station 50.00 80.5
Dover Siding 53.50 86.1
Windsor Castle Halt 54.25 87.3
Buff Bay Station 58.5 94.1
Spring Garden Halt 60.25 96.9
Orange Bay Station 61.5 98.9
Rodney Hall Siding 63.25 101.8
Hope Bay Station 66.25 106.6
St. Margaret's Bay Station 69.5 111.8
Snow Hill Halt 71.00 114.2
Norwich Halt 73.25 117.9
Port Antonio Terminus 75.00 120.7

Ewarton Line

Miles km
Bog Walk Junction 20.75 33.4
Mickleton Halt 22.00 35.4
Linstead Station 23.75 38.2
Vanity Fair Siding 24.25 39.0
Sterling Castle Siding & Halt 25.50 41.0
Pleasant Farm (Ewarton Works) 26.50 42.6
Ewarton Terminus 29.00 46.7


Longsville Halt 37.00 59.5
Suttons Station 42.50 98.4
Ivy Store Halt 44.00 70.80
Chapleton Station 45.50 73.2
Morgan’s Pass Station 48.50 78.1
Crooked River Station 51.00 82.1
Trout Hall Station 52.75 84.9
Frankfield Terminus 55.25 88.9

*, ** : Junction, Level Crossing or Halt

Inception and Expansion (1845-1910)

The first railway steam engined locomotives in Jamaica were christened "Projector" and "Patriot," followed shortly by three others; "Emancipation," "Perseverance," and "Success." The Smith brothers formed the Jamaica Railway Company, which operated the railway until 1879 when it was sold to the Jamaican Government. This marked the end of the first phase of private ownership.

The railway emerged as a solution to heavy traffic, improving transportation and distribution of goods while enhancing passenger movements in Jamaica. Initially serving four key ocean ports—Montego Bay and Port Antonio for banana exports, Port Esquivel for alumina trade, and the Port of Kingston as the primary import hub—the railway spurred industrial development. Most notably, it spurred the growth of sugar industry factories and accelerated expansion in the banana and citrus sectors, cementing its crucial role in Jamaica's early economic progress. Furthermore, it aided coconut groves and banana cultivations while benefiting the bauxite industry through alumina haulage and material transportation.

From 1879 to 1900, the Jamaican railway system underwent significant expansion under the management of both the Jamaican Government and the American-based West India Improvement Company. During this period, 160 miles (255.8 kilometers) of track were laid, connecting the key ports of Kingston, Port Antonio, and Montego Bay. This expansion continued in 1900, when the Jamaican Government assumed full ownership and added another 34.5 miles (55.5 kilometers) of track, linking to the US Air Base in Vernamfield, Clarendon.

The railway system's arrival in Jamaica ushered in a new era of innovation and progress, significantly impacting the economy and society as a whole. While initially met with modest expectations, the railway's contribution to Jamaican society and economy surpassed these early predictions, proving to be a valuable asset throughout its history.

Key developments during this phase included:

    1869: Extension from Spanish Town to Old Harbour, introducing stations like Hartlands.
    1885: Further expansion from Old Harbour to Porus, adding stations like Bartons and Four Paths.
    1885: Spanish Town to Ewarton railway line opens.
    1894: A significant extension reached Montego Bay, incorporating stations like Clarendon Park, Williamsfield, Catadupa, Ipswich, Cambridge, and Montpelier.
    1896: The Bog Walk to Port Antonio line opened, featuring stations like Riversdale, Troja, Richmond, Albany, and Annotto Bay.

Key Stations:

    Kingston: Main terminus and largest station.
    Spanish Town: Important junction and historical town.
    Old Harbour : Major port town and railway hub.
    Linstead: Key town (became a junction to New Works in 1921).
    May Pen: Key town in Clarendon Parish and junction.
    Porus: Junction connecting to Montego Bay.
    Montego Bay: Major city and tourist destination.
    Bog Walk: Junction connecting to Port Antonio.
    Port Antonio: Important port on the northeast coast.

Peak and Prosperity (1910-1950)

Initially, the Jamaican railway's primary function was the mass transportation of goods and people. As the rail network expanded across the island, it opened up access to fertile inland regions, supporting the agricultural industry and fostering closer social and economic ties between different communities. This enhanced connectivity also led to the development of broader domestic markets.

The discovery of bauxite deposits in the 1940s further solidified the railway's importance. It became the preferred mode of transport for the extracted bauxite, facilitating its transportation to processing and shipping facilities.

The early 20th century marked the zenith of Jamaica's railways. The network became indispensable for transporting agricultural goods, bauxite (a key export), and passengers. It fostered community connections, cultural exchange, and became a symbol of national progress.

During this period, additional lines and stations were established:

1912: May Pen to Chapelton line, with a station at Suttons.
1921 (approximate): Linstead to New Works line.
1925 (approximate): Chapelton to Frankfield extension.
1941: Logan's Junction to Vernamfield line.
Note: The exact opening dates for some smaller stations, particularly those on the branch lines, are not well-documented.

Decline and Demise (1950-1992)

The latter half of the 20th century witnessed the gradual decline of Jamaica's railways. The rise of road transportation, coupled with inadequate investment in railway infrastructure, led to a steady decrease in freight and passenger traffic. Despite modernization efforts, the railway system faced mounting financial losses. In 1992, public passenger rail transport services ceased operation due to the financial challenges and declining ridership. However, the bauxite industry continued to utilize portions of the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) lines for freight transport.

Legacy and Future Prospects

The railway system, despite its dormant state for passenger service, holds the potential to play a significant role in the development of a comprehensive national transportation system. By providing a safe, reliable, and efficient alternative to road transport, it could alleviate congestion and reduce accidents on Jamaica's roadways.

Since 1992, the Jamaican government has actively sought to privatize rail services, seeking a private investor to rehabilitate and manage rail transportation without significant government financial support.

Over the years, negotiations with Indian, Canadian, Chinese, and American investors have not led to project implementation.

The Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) proposed an alternative solution, approved by the Cabinet, for a phased railway rehabilitation. In accordance with this decision, the JRC identified a Jamaican consortium led by Mr. Adam Stewart to partner in Phase 1 (Appleton to Montego Bay).

The JRC and the consortium signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in March 2018, outlining the finalization of technical and financial plans within six months.

The plan for the rehabilitation of the railway line from Appleton to Montego Bay, as outlined in the 2018 MOU appears to have stalled or been significantly delayed.

While there were reports in 2019 indicating that negotiations were underway and that the project was expected to commence within the fiscal year, there haven't been any substantial updates or announcements regarding its progress since then. The reasons for the delay or potential cancellation of the project are not entirely clear, but factors such as funding challenges, changes in government priorities, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy could have played a role.

It's important to note that this is based on the information available as of May 2024. There may have been more recent developments that have not been widely publicized.

History Rewound

a window to the past

Jamaica's Ministry of Science Energy, Telecommunications and Transport.
Jamaica National Heritage Trust -
Library of Congress
National Library of Jamaica
Jamaica Railway Corp