Robaina's plantation

Friday 5 February 2016

Estación Central del Ferrocarril (Havana's Main Railroad Station)

                 Looking at the state of the railroad system today you would never imagine that Cuba has had a rich history in this mode of transportation but it was one of the first countries in the world to get the train, even before Spain. The United States installed it in 1837 just a few years after they had it running in their own country, it served the interests of American Corporations. The original Central Railway Station used to be next to the Capitolio, right around where Parque de La Fraternidad is right now. The new one, or the one in discussion, was built in 1912 to replace it.
                 It has been a while since I entered this building but I remember it being dreary, bleak, few people walking around or waiting, very little activity. It's no Grand Central Station in New York, that's for sure. Having spoken to many Cubans through the years, after having visited the station, it makes sense for it to be the way it is. There are very few trains than are running today and very few people travel that way, over the last 10 years or so ridership has gone down about 50%. It's a shame that they couldn't get a few of the classics to run again and spruce up the ones that are running (sort of) now. Maybe some wise people from the US can do something about that. I have read somewhere that Cuba bought some old trains (from this last century in 2001) from France that are running well, they call them the 'Tren Francés' and run between Havana and Santiago. They're somewhat rundown and dirty but are pretty comfortable and air-conditioned costing 30cuc for a tourist for a one way trip. These cars were originally used for the Trans-Europe Express. However, it's been said that the air-conditioning was being removed and windows installed, that would be a bummer since I've been told the train breaks down often and you're left cooking in the sun if it happens during the day. In other words, train travel in Cuba is not what it used to be and not very comfortable even for Cubans. From what I've been led to believe, only Cubans that don't have the means travel in this manner, it would cost them 30 Cuban Pesos to take the trip to Santiago from Havana (that's $1.20 for 860km). Still, I would like to experience it for myself at least once in my life.
                 Be aware, I've read that Havana Central is under major renovations, it was closed this past summer and won't be re-opened until 2018. For now they're using the 'La Coubre' station. The Estación Central is considered a National Monument.

Below is a site with all the information one might need to travel by train in Cuba:

401 Avenida de Bélgica

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