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Guatemala has a network of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroads, passenger and freight trains currently run.
Construction of the first railway in Guatemala commenced in 1877 [ citation needed ] Only nostalgic tourist trains (by Trains Unlimited) ran on parts of the network in 1997 and 1998.[ citation needed ]and the first section began operation in 1880, connecting Puerto San José and Escuintla, being extended to Guatemala City in 1884. The line to Puerto Barrios, known originally as Northern Railroad of Guatemala and still exists, was completed in 1908. The network was soon acquired by United Fruit, and in 1912 renamed the International Railways of Central America which was also known as IRCA. The railroad prospered until 1957. In 1954, United Fruit had to divest following an antitrust suit and in 1959, a parallel highway caused a serious competitive pressure. In 1968, the company defaulted, was taken over by the government and renamed Ferrocarriles de Guatemala which was also known as FEGUA. The condition of tracks continued to deteriorate and all traffic was shut down in 1996.
In October 1997, a 50-year concession was given to Railroad Development Corporation (RDC) which started to rehabilitate the network. 497 miles (800 km).They were delayed by the need to evict squatters who built their cottages on the right-of-way during the previous years and to repair damage caused by thieves and nature. A serious blow was Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which destroyed parts of the line. The first train under RDC management went from Guatemala City to El Chile cement plant on April 15, 1999, and the rest of the line to Puerto Barrios was put into operation in December of that year. Other lines previously existing in Guatemala (such as to Ciudad Tecún Umán on the border with Mexico, to Anguiatú in El Salvador and to Puerto San José) have not been repaired since 1996. Including those, the railroad network would have counted
From 1999 until September 2007, Ferrovías Guatemala (FVG), as a subsidiary of RDC, operated 15 engines and 200 railcars on freight trains between Guatemala City and Puerto Barrios. It transported containers, steel, cement, paper and bananas between the Caribbean coast and the capital over a network of 200 miles (320 km)as of 2006 [update] , but quit in September 2007. It connected Guatemala City to Puerto Barrios with short branches in Guatemala City container terminal and Puerto Santo Tomás.
In August 2006, the government of Guatemala declared a 2003 contract for the usufruct of rolling stock and other equipment as contrary to public interest ( es:Declaración de lesividad ), invalidating it. FVG believed that this was a response to its earlier request for arbitration regarding the usage of 2 million USD from National Railroad Trust, designated for the development of railroads in Guatemala but used to support an overstaffed governmental oversight agency.
The result of the governmental action was a decline of shipments and operational difficulties, such as inability to obtain credit or take additional revenues from the leasing of station buildings or right of way. In March 2007, RDC declared its intent to seek protection of investment through arbitration against the government of Guatemala according to Chapter 10 of CAFTA. As of 2011 [update] , most of the bridges have been dismantled and sold for scrap by thieves, making a potential revival of railways in Guatemala difficult, as it would cost millions of dollars to rebuild.The case was registered with ICSID on August 20, 2007 with number ARB/07/23. Due to the continuing uncertainty leading to losses, FVG decided to suspend all operations as of October 1, 2007 while continuing with legal actions against the Guatemalan government. The arbitration case was finally decided in favor of RDC and US$14.6m paid as compensation.
In August 2012, there were proposals to start some new passenger services, including a link from La Aurora airport to Guatemala City.
Outside of the IRCA network, an electric railroad Ferrocarril de Los Altos used to connect Quetzaltenango and Retalhuleu between 1930 and 1933. It was destroyed by a hurricane in 1933 and never rebuilt. The remains are on display in a dedicated museum in Quetzaltenango (Ferrocarril de Los Altos).
Another isolated railroad, Ferrocarril Verapaz (also known as Ferropazco), used to connect Panzós and Tucurú in Alta Verapaz Department. Its construction was authorized in 1884 and completed in 1895.Its main purpose was to transport coffee from farms (fincas) controlled mainly by Germans to the port of Panzós on Polochic River, which merged to Lago de Izabal and the Caribbean Sea. The company was nationalized in 1943. In 1956, the government created a national company Ferrocarril Verapaz y Servicios Anexos. Operations along Ferrocarril Verapaz y Servicios Anexos stopped in 1963.
Charter passenger trains with steam engines, mainly for European and U.S. tourists, were organized usually once a year by UK based Ffestiniog Travel or other operators.Traffic control used a modified Track warrant Control method. The main station in Guatemala city also serves as railroad museum.
The Museo del Ferrocarril FEGUA is located in the railway station at Guatemala City and displays steam engines, a diesel engine, passenger and freight cars, and other memorabilia of the Ferrocarriles de Guatemala.
A light rail system called Metro Riel is planned for Guatemala City.
Adventure traveler Richard Halliburton described Guatemala's former main railroad line in New Worlds to Conquer (1929). Travel writer Paul Theroux described his journey by train through Guatemala in his book The Old Patagonian Express , as he traveled from Boston to Patagonia.
Transportation in Guatemala includes roads, waterways, and airports. It formerly included railways.
Puerto Barrios is a city in Guatemala, located within the Gulf of Honduras. The bay in which the harbour is located is called Bahia de Amatique. Puerto Barrios is the departmental seat of Izabal department and is the administrative seat of Puerto Barrios municipality.
Panzós is a town, with a population of 22,068, and a municipality in the Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz.
Tucurú is a small town and municipality in the Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz.
Purulhá is a town and municipality in the Baja Verapaz department of Guatemala. It is situated at 1570 m above sea level. The municipality has a population of 56,822 and covers an area of 536 km². The annual festival is June 10-June 13.
Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE) is the national railway of Chile.
Mexico has a freight railway system owned by the national government and operated by various entities under concessions (charters) granted by the national government. The railway system provides freight and passenger service throughout the country, connecting major industrial centers with ports and with rail connections at the United States border. Passenger rail services were limited to a number of tourist trains between 1997, when Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México suspended service, and 2008, when Ferrocarril Suburbano de la Zona Metropolitana de México inaugurated Mexico's first commuter rail service between Mexico City and the State of Mexico. This is not including the Mexico City Metro, which started service in 1969.
Ferrocentral was an Argentine private railway company, with a name formed by a combination of the Spanish words for "Central Rail". It operated long-distance passenger trains from its base at Retiro station in Buenos Aires to several locations in northern Argentina, running on Ferrocarril Mitre's 5ft 6" in gauge railway|Indian gauge]] tracks.
At present (2020), no trains are operated in El Salvador. The national railroad corporation is FENADESAL, a division of CEPA. It oversees 554.8 km of all disused 3 ft narrow gauge lines connecting major cities and formerly linked with Guatemala railroads at Anguiatú.
The Railroad Development Corporation is an American railroad holding company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It operates several short line railroads outside the United States and acts as an investor, with management and institutional investors as partners. It was founded in 1987 by former Conrail employee Henry Posner III.
Since 2008, the only functioning railroad in Panama has been the Panama Canal Railway, operated by the Panama Canal Railway Company, successor of Panama Railway, which provides passenger and freight service between Panama City and Colón. Historically, there were also narrow gauge railroads in Chiriquí Province, which were abandoned in the late 20th century.
Rail transport in Puerto Rico currently consists of a 10.7-mile (17.2 km) passenger metro system in the island's metropolitan area of San Juan. Its history can be traced back to the mid-19th century with the construction of a limited passenger line in Mayagüez. Between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Puerto Rico's rail transport system expanded significantly, becoming one of the largest rail systems in the Caribbean at the time thanks to an economic boom in agriculture industries, especially the sugar cane industry. The rail system was expanded to include passenger travel with a direct line from the island's northern capital of San Juan to the western and southern cities and towns, greatly improving travel and communication within the island. However, the entire system was soon overshadowed by the arrival of the automobile, and by the 1950s was completely abandoned. Small remnants of this system still exist in some parts of Puerto Rico, some conserved for tourism purposes.
Santa Catalina la Tinta is a town and municipality in the Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz. It is located in the hot Polochic River valley. It was originally part of the municipality of Panzós, but was given separate municipal status in 1999. La Tinta is the commercial center of the lower Polochic valley, and merchants and shoppers clog the town's streets especially on the official market days of Tuesdays and Thursdays. The town of Santa Catalina la Tinta is located at 110 km from Cobán and 278 km from Guatemala City and has a population of 20,552.
Rail transport in Central America consists of several isolated railroad lines with freight or passenger service. The most famous one is the Panama Canal Railway, the oldest transcontinental railroad in the world, connecting Panama City with Colón since 1855. Other railroads in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama were built by private and public investors mainly to facilitate the transport of local agricultural produce to export markets and harbors. Their market share and profitability went into decline in the second half of the twentieth century and most lines have been decommissioned by the end of the 1990s. As of 2018, railroads operate locally in Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama only; all rail transport has been suspended in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The railways still operating do not cross national borders.
The General Manuel Belgrano Railway (FCGMB), named after the Argentine politician and military leader Manuel Belgrano, is a 1,000 mmmetre gauge railway and the longest of the Argentine system. It was one of the six State-owned Argentine railway companies formed after President Juan Perón's nationalisation of the railway network in 1948.
The Belgrano Norte line is a commuter rail service in Buenos Aires, Argentina run by the private company Ferrovías since 1 April 1994, with some services operated by the state-owned company Trenes Argentinos from 2015. This service had previously been run by the state-owned General Belgrano Railway since nationalisation of the railways in 1948. Ferrovías also formed part of the consortium UGOFE which operated other commuter rail services in Buenos Aires.
The Guatemala City Railway Museum, officially Museo del Ferrocarril FEGUA, is located in the main railway station in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
The Northern Railroad of Guatemala was a railway system that ran from Guatemala City to Puerto Barrios, the main port of Guatemala between 1896 and 1968, when the American United Fruit Company had the monopoly of the railway system thru its affiliate, International Railways of Central America, along with the docks at Puerto Barrios, the banana plantations in Izabal and the cargo and passenger transport with its Great White Fleet. The system was highly efficient, but once a parallel highway was built, it could not compete and eventually was handed back to the State of Guatemala in 1968. After that, the system start to slowly lose its relevance, as the trucks were more profitable than railway transportation. It ceased regular operations in 1996, and has remained partially abandoned since.