Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: The Railways of Jamaica by Jim Horsford

This year marks 60 years since the Caribbean island of Jamaica achieved full independence form Great Britain. Therefore it seems appropriate to take a look at this excellent hardback book by Jim Horsford.

First of all, I was surprised that Jamaica actually had any railways. I'll admit that I've never considered a holiday there, and know pretty much nothing about the place other than all the terrible stereotypes inflicted on us by adverts. With a logical mind, if the Isle of Man can manage a railway system, an island many times it's length should surely support one.

This, it certainly did. Running from Montego Bay to Port Antonio via the capital, Kingston, the first lines were built in 1843. Public operation ceased in the 1990s but there are still bauxite trains to be found. Sadly, as the author acknowledges, much of the text has been written in the past tense. Despite many attempts, no one has managed to revive the system and much of it is lost forever.

The book itself is a sumptuous publication, profusely illustrated with colour and monochrome photographs. Any show the line in decay but there are those that give us a glimpse of happier days.

Starting with a quick look at the island, the text soon moves on to a detailed history of the line from the early days of the Jamaica Railway Company (JRC), through Government ownership and two world wars. Post war developments including dieselisation follow and take the story to 1992 and closure.

Next up are the individual lines making up the system with track plans and photos of the stations.

Finally we get the steam and diesel engines plus railcars - there were certainly plenty of the later!

UK enthusiasts will be interested to see a lot of USA tanks so if you fancy a model then the soon to be released ModelRail production. Hornby Dublo did a suitable steam crane too - like many railways of the Empire, some of the stock originated on these shores.

Modelling in HO might be better bet for the later period as GE 44-ton switchers would be available off the shelf and much of the rest would probably be scratchbuilt anyway. I don't think there are kits for those Wickham railcars and even the English Electric diesels look very American to my eyes.

If you have any interest in Jamaica, or are fancy a holiday there, this is 168 pages of book well worth owning. Maybe it is time to agree to go on a nice holiday somewhere sunny after all?

The Railways of Jamaica from Mainline and Maritime

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