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Belize Trains & Railways

Currently, Belize does not offer any rail transport. Historically, Belize had 3 mayor railway Lines, but there was never a railway connections to other countries. The planned FERISTSA Railway would connect Mexico with Panama with 1,435 mm (4 ft 81⁄2 in) gauge but would bypass Belize unless branches were built.

GtB Train Bridge, close to Marry Sharps in the Stann Creek Valley
Click any Pictures to enlarge
Railroads were once used for sugar cane, logging or to haul bananas, both within the farms and from the plantations to the ports, but today trucks handle most of the business to dockside, where palletized or containerized banana boxes are loaded on reefers for the water journey to overseas markets.
There were a few short railway lines, one in Orange Walk,  a other one along the Monkey River and one near Punta Gorda.

Stann Creek Railway

The construction of the Stann Creek Railway started in 1907. The British Honduras Syndicate build the railway with wooden trestle railway bridges and concrete steel bridges from Dangriga over Melinda to Middlesex Estate trough the wild jungle along the Stann Creek Valley.

GtB Stann Creek Railway, with Bananas on the Pier in Dangriga
In Dangriga, facilities including the Commerce Bight Pier with rail tracks on it where the banana boats tied up where build. The original estimate, twenty miles with a 36-inch (914 mm) gauge, was carried out by a resident engineer under the supervision of consulting engineers in England.
Some of the building was done by immigrants from the West Indian islands, who came to the Stann Creek area between 1880 and 1890 attracted by the prosperity of the banana plantations in the area. The Stann Creek Railway, subsequently increased their track to twenty-five miles till the 31st March, 1911. 
GtB Stann Creek Railway Trestle Bridge East of Middlesex
Trough considerable with in the construction the railway was roughly £123,000 and way over budget.
In 1911 the fruit industry looked so promising that the United Fruit Company from the United States of America bought the Middlesex Estate, one of the most productive grape-fruit valleys in the British Colony. The United fruit Company used the Stan Creek Railway from 1913 till 1937. 
GtB Loading Banana in the Stann Creek Valley
But plant disease, poor production methods and marketing problems were major obstacles to the success of this project. By the 1930's production of Bananas stopped in the Stann Creek Valley.
That railway, however, has never been a paying proposition, and 1937 decided the hon. 1452 members of the British Empire, after an expert inquiry, to scrap the railway and build in its place a motor road. Many remains are still visible along the Hummingbird Highway (between Dangriga and Belmopan).

GtB Train Bridge close to the Valley Community in Belize
This road uses some of the old railroad bridges, though they are gradually disappearing due to modernization effort in the years to come.

United Fruit Company

The United Fruit Company was founded in 1899 by the merger of the Boston Fruit Company and several other companies producing and marketing bananas from the Caribbean islands, Central America, and Columbia.

GtB 1$ Share from United Fruit Company
By the early 1930s, the company had absorbed more than twenty rival firms making it the largest employer in Central America. United Fruit cleared and planted undeveloped tracts of land, created extensive railroad and port facilities, and operated a large steamship unit known as “The Great White Fleet.”
The company had a deep and long-lasting impact in the economic and political development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused it of exploitative neocolonialism and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the so-called "banana republics".
GtB United Fruit ad of the white fleet, a century ago
After a period of financial decline, United Fruit was merged with AMK in 1970 to become the United Brands Company. In 1984, transformed United Brands into the present-day Chiquita Brands International.

Today the most of the Bananas from Belize are exported trough Fyffes witch build the Big Creek Port.

Vaca Falls Railway

The steepest railway was the Vaca Falls railway between Vaca Falls and the Chiquibui Forrest and was used to logging mahogany trees.

The 15-mile long Vaca Falls Railway line, in the Mountain Pine Ridge was also owned from the Belize Estate and Produce Company Ltd. and ran for the last time in 1952. 

In the area around Arenal, south of Benque Viejo del Carmen, on the way to the Mollejon Power Station are still remains and skeleton from the Locomotive.

GtB Belize steppest rail tracks from the Vaca Falls Railway in Mountain Pine Ridge.

The Gallon Jug Hillbank Railway

The logging operation depended on the transfer of logs first of all from the bush to the river, which was usually accomplished by oxen. These same oxen when old or wounded were used to feed the workers. Because the absence of a river in the west through Sierra de Agua are between Hill Bank and Gallon Jug a small rail line were built.

GtB Heating up the Locomotive in Gallon Jug
The Belize Estate and Produce Company Ltd. B.E.C. used the Glikston Group of England for the Railway construction. The construction started with the railway with tracks and the buildings in Hill Bank on the New River Lagoon, just 10 miles south of Lamanai.
The US Company C. C. Mengel & Brothers Co, from  Louisville, Kentucky,  build 1905 the first Shay Steam Locomotive together with trucks. A train station was constructed after 28 miles in Gallon Jug around 1910. In the following years, Mengel  & Brothers also delivered 3 more  the last 1910.

GtB Logging in the forest by Wamil Creek

Trains delivered to B.E.C. in Belize

Shop Number

This four locomotive where delivered for logging of mahogany to B.E.C. in Belize and used for the Gallon Jug Hillbank Logging Railway and the Vaca Falls Railway.
The Shay locomotives were built to the patents of Ephraim Shay, The Class B Shay geared steam locomotive was a low locomotive with ample starting tractive effort for loggings operations. All 4 Locomotives where built in licence from the C. C. Mengel & Brothers in Louisville.

GtB Hill Bank at the New River Lagoon in Belize
The last delivered locomotive #4 2372 was a Baler,  B 20-2, with a weight of 32 Tons,  2 Trucks, and 1000 gallons water boiler with 160 psi. The hauling capacity for this logging Locomotive was 1736 Tons.

Shay geared Locomotives

Shay locomotives had regular fire-tube boilers offset to the left to provide space for a two or three cylinder "motor," mounted vertically on the right with longitudinal drive shafts extending fore and aft from the crankshaft at wheel axle height. These shafts had universal joints and square sliding slip joints to accommodate motion of the swiveling trucks. Each axle was driven by a separate bevel gear, and used no side rods.

Driving all wheels, including those of the tender, together with small diameter wheels were the strength of these engines, their entire weight developing tractive effort. A high ratio of piston strokes to wheel revolutions allowed them to run at partial slip, where a conventional rod engine would spin its drive wheels and burn rails, losing all traction.
Around 1940, heavy trucks starting to replaced the small rail lines for transporting logs from Gallon Jug to Hill Bank. The last years, a diesel propelled passenger car was used to carry loggers and passengers till late summer 1956. 
GtB Train on the way to Hill Bank
Some parts of the Railway found the way back to the U.S., other parts just left abandoned in the Belizean Jungle. A few lighter pieces also found the way to Guatemala and Mexico to be smelted.

Belize Estate and Produce Company Ltd.

Forestry dominated the economy of British Honduras. Initially, the focus was upon logwood, which was used in dye manufacture. Falling prices for logwood in the 1770s led to a shift toward logging mahogany. The British Honduras Company began operations in 1858 and was a major force in the country.

GtB 5£ Share from Belize Estate and Produce Company
This company's name was changed to the Belize Estate and Produce Company in 1875. To finance there operation, the B.E.C. sold shares to Londons Investors.

Serpon Sugar Mill Train

Hidden in the jungle one mile in on the access road to the village of Sittee River are the remnants of the steam powered Serpon Sugar Mill which was established in 1865 and marked the start of Belize’s industrial era. The Serpon Sugar Mill used 0-4-0GTVB Steam Trains to carry the sugarcane along the Sitter River.

GtB Locomotion at the Serpon Sugar Mill in Belize
Estimates are that at its peak, the Serpon Sugar Mill was producing and shipping 1,700 pounds of sugar a month. In the late 19th century, Serpon was a technological marvel with a 3-wheel main crusher, still on its original foundation; the boilers that created the steam needed to power the equipment and the beam engine, which dates back to the 1940’s. There was an evaporating furnace measuring 75 feet in length, a hot air exchanger, which was used as an exhaust for heat travelling the length of the furnace, Steam Trains witch where used to run sugar around the mill and the tredegar engine, which pumped water from the river.
But at the turn of the 20th century, sugar production became more profitable in the northern districts and by 1910 the Serpon Sugar Mill was abandoned. While the majority of the machinery is still in place, not all of it was salvaged, but the railway tracks are missing.

GtB Train boilers for heating the sugar, at the Serpon Sugar Mill in Belize
The Serpon Sugar Mill is easy to visit, by using the Southern Higway, and take the road to Sittee River.
Please contact us if you have further train related infomation or pictures.



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