Railways in Guyana

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The Railways of Guyana comprised two public railways, the Demerara-Berbice Railway and the Demerara-Essequibo railway. There are also several industrial railways mainly for the bauxite industry. The Demerara-Berbice Railway is the oldest in South America. None of the railways are in operation in the 21st century.


Demerara-Berbice railway

Stamp of 1899 depicting Mount Roraima with a Travelling Post Office cancellation of the East Coast Railway British Guiana East Coast Railway TPO.jpg
Stamp of 1899 depicting Mount Roraima with a Travelling Post Office cancellation of the East Coast Railway

The Demerara-Berbice Railway, built in then British Guiana (now Guyana), was the first railway system on the South American continent. [1] It was 4 ft 8½ ins (1,435 mm) standard gauge and first operated by the Demerara Railway Company, a private concern, but sold to the Colonial Transport Department of the Government, which assumed control from 1 January 1922. [1]


The railway ran for 97.4 kilometres (60.5 mi) along the coast from the capital and main port Georgetown in Demerara to Rosignol in Berbice, [2] whence it was connected by ferry steamer across the Berbice River to New Amsterdam.


The bill proposing the construction of the railway was passed in July 1846. [1] The railway was designed, surveyed and built by the British-American architect and artist Frederick Catherwood. All the railway stations, bridges, stores and other facilities were constructed by John Bradshaw Sharples. [3] Financing was provided by the Demerera Sugar Company who wished to transport their product to the dock of Georgetown. Construction was in sections with the first, from Georgetown to Plaisance, opening on 3 November 1848. The opening day's festivities featured the death of one of the railway's directors by being run over by the locomotive.

An extension to Belfield was completed in 1854, to Mahaica in 1864 and finally to Rosignol during 1897–1900.

In 1948 the railway system in Bermuda was dismantled and sold 'lock, stock & barrel' to the government of British Guiana (as the country then was) to rejuvenate the former system. The locomotives (petrol or diesel [just 2]) and coaches were fully restored, the latter being painted dark green. In 1953 the public lines in the colony carried 1,772,954 passengers and 92,769 tonnes of freight. A bold plan to extend the railway south to Brazil was never proceeded with.

The public railway system was dismantled in stages in the early 1970s by then President Forbes Burnham.

The Lamaha Street terminus of the Demerara-Berbice Railway was converted into a bus terminal subsequent to the closing of the railway.


Following the opening in 1848, there were two return trains per day between Georgetown and Plaisance. [4]

In 1922 there was one train each week day, departing Georgetown at 08:00 and returning in the evening. [2]

The Georgetown-Rosignol railway service ended in 1972.


There were three major bridges on the line, all constructed of steel, across the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary Rivers. [4]

There were seventeen stations on the Demerara-Berbice Railway: [5]


1847Mosquito [4]
1847Sandfly [4]
1847Firefly [4]
1863Alexandra£1,593Relief engine [6]
18631921Victoria£1,593 [6]

Demerara-Essequibo railway


'Steam Slide Cecil Rhodes' at the Demerara Essequibo Railway near Wismar on the Demerara River Demerara-essequibo-railway-at-british-guiana-wismar-demerara-river.jpg
'Steam Slide Cecil Rhodes' at the Demerara Essequibo Railway near Wismar on the Demerara River
Rockstone River Terminus of the Demerara Essequibo Railway on the Essequibo River Essequibo-river-rockstone-terminus-of-sprostons-railway.jpg
Rockstone River Terminus of the Demerara Essequibo Railway on the Essequibo River

Guyana's second railway, the Demerara-Essequibo Railway, was 3ft 6ins (1067mm) gauge and ran for 29.8 km (18.5 mi) [2] along the West Coast of Demerara from Vreed en Hoop on the left bank of the Demerara River to Parika on the Essequibo River.


Its first section was laid from Vreed-en-Hoop to Greenwich Park c1899 and it was extended to Parika in 1914.

The Demerara-Essequibo railway service ended in 1974.


In 1922 there were three return trains each day, timed to interconnect with arriving and departing steam ferries. [2]


By 1974 there were eight railway stations along the Demerara-Essequibo line: [5]

A number of minor stops, called platforms, were located between the stations, e.g., at Crane, Den Amstel, Stewartville, De Willem.

There was one railway bridge of steel construction across the Boeraserie River.

Industrial railways

The industrial railway systems continued to operate following the closure of the public system and included several at bauxite mining sites and another linking Port Kaituma and Matthew's Ridge in the Northwest District.

In 1897, [7] a 29.8-kilometre (18.5 mi)1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) (metre gauge) industrial railway was built between Rockstone and Wismar (nowadays called Linden) across the watershed between the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers. [8] The Essequibo River was hard to navigate, but the Demerara River was suitable for ocean-going ships. The railway line gave access to the gold fields, balatá and hardwood plantations. The railway was closed in the 1940s. [7]


See also

Related Research Articles

The transport sector comprises the physical infrastructure, docks and vehicle, terminals, fleets, ancillary equipment and service delivery of all the various modes of transport operating in Guyana. The transport services, transport agencies providing these services, the organizations and people who plan, build, maintain, and operate the system, and the policies that mold its development.

Georgetown, Guyana Capital of Guyana

Georgetown is a city and the capital of Guyana, located in Region 4, which is also known as the Demerara-Mahaica region. It is the country's largest urban centre. It is situated on the Atlantic Ocean coast at the mouth of the Demerara River and it was nicknamed the "Garden City of the Caribbean."

British Guiana

British Guiana was a British colony, part of the British West Indies, which resided on the northern coast of South America, now known as the independent nation of Guyana since 1966.

Regions of Guyana

Guyana is divided into 10 Regions:


Demerara is a historical region in the Guianas on the north coast of South America which is now part of the country of Guyana. It was a Dutch colony until 1815 and a county of British Guiana from 1838 to 1966. It was located about the lower courses of the Demerara River, and its main town was Georgetown.

Berbice River

The Berbice River, located in eastern Guyana, is one of the country's major rivers. It rises in the highlands of the Rupununi region and flows northward for 595 kilometres (370 mi) through dense forests to the coastal plain. The river's tidal limit is between 160 and 320 km (99–199 mi) from the sea.

Demerara River

The Demerara River is a river in eastern Guyana that rises in the central rainforests of the country and flows to the north for 346 kilometres until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. Georgetown, Guyana's largest seaport and capital, is situated on the east bank of the river's mouth. The river divides Essequibo Islands-West Demerara on the west bank from Demerara-Mahaica to the east. The Demerara's estuary is narrow and the flowrate is rapid. This scouring action maintains a 5-to-6-metre-deep direct channel to the ocean. The river's deep brown color is primarily the result of the massive quantities of silt carried from upriver by the powerful currents. So powerful are these currents, that the ocean retains the Demerara's brown color for a considerable distance out to sea.

Demerara-Mahaica Region of Guyana

Demerara-Mahaica is a region of Guyana, bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the north, the region of Mahaica-Berbice to the east, the region of Upper Demerara-Berbice to the south and the region of Essequibo Islands-West Demerara to the west.

Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region of Guyana

Essequibo Islands-West Demerara is a region of Guyana. It is claimed with additional territories by Venezuela as Guayana Esequiba.

Rosignol Village in Guyana

Rosignol is a small village on the west bank of the Berbice River in Mahaica-Berbice, Guyana.

Upper Demerara-Berbice Region of Guyana

Upper Demerara-Berbice is a region of Guyana, bordering the regions of Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, Demerara-Mahaica and Mahaica-Berbice to the north, the region of East Berbice-Corentyne to the east, and the regions of Potaro-Siparuni and Cuyuni-Mazaruni to the west.

Abary River

The Abary River is a small river in northern Guyana that drains into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Mahaica River is a small river in northern Guyana that drains into the Atlantic Ocean. The village of Mahaica is found at its mouth.

Belfield, Guyana village in Demerara-Mahaica, Guyana

Belfield is a village in the Demerara-Mahaica Region of Guyana, standing on the Atlantic coast, three kilometres west of Enmore.

Adventure, Guyana Place in Pomeroon-Supenaam, Guyana

Adventure is a village located in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region of Guyana, on the Atlantic coast, at sea level, 1 mile south of Onderneeming.

Vreed en Hoop village and regional capital in Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, Guyana

Vreed en Hoop is a town at the mouth of the Demerara River on its left bank, in the Essequibo Islands-West Demerara region of Guyana, located at sea level. It is the location of the Regional Democratic Council office making it the administrative center for the region. There is also a police station, magistrate's court and post office.

Rockstone village in Upper Demerara-Berbice, Guyana

Rockstone is a town on the right bank of the Essequibo River in the Upper Demerara-Berbice Region of Guyana, altitude 6 metres. Rockstone is approximately 26 km west of Linden and is linked by road.

Den Amstel village in Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, Guyana

Den Amstel is a village in Guyana's Essequibo Islands-West Demerara region. It lies on the Atlantic coast, approximately 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) west-north-west of the capital, Georgetown. The village has a population of 938 people as of 2012, who are predominantly Afro-Guyanese.


  1. 1 2 3 "The Old Railway Station, Lamaha Street, Cummingsburg". Georgetown, Guyana: National Trust of Guyana. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2009.
  2. 1 2 3 4 The British Guiana Handbook 1922.
  3. Hernandez, Lennox J (29 September 2009). "Architecture... Sharples house, Duke Street, Kingston: an icon of our wooden building heritage". Stabroek News . Retrieved 7 November 2009.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 The early period of road and railway transport, Chapter 73, Guyana History, Guyana News and Information.
  5. 1 2 Young, J. Allan E. (January 1964). "The British Guiana Government Railways: The Development of British Guiana's Public Railways During 115 Years". Railway Magazine. Vol. 110 no. 753. pp. 174–181.
  6. 1 2 History of the British Guiana Railway System – Georgetown to Mahaica, Part 4, Stabroek News, 2009-07-09.
  7. 1 2 "THE 1897 WISMAR TO ROCKSTONE RAILWAY". Guyanese Online. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  8. "River transport". Georgetown, Guyana: Stabroek News. 30 July 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2009.