Results 1-2of 2 Reviews
February 27, 2012
From journal A week in St. Kitts
March 12, 2004
Driving out of the airport on St. Kitts, it’s hard to miss the diminutive but colorful train parked just beyond a small railroad viaduct. Such wild, jungly colors ... and double-decked cars, yet!
This, however, is no toy amusement-park train ride. Though the tracks it runs on are just 2-1/2 feet wide, the St. Kitts Scenic Railroad travels a full 30 miles around the not-quite-extinct volcano forming the center of this Caribbean island. To see St. Kitts as you’ll never see it from a tour van, you’ve "gotta" ride this train! Some people have compared the terrain it passes through to Maui; I’d personally say that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but there's plenty of lush vegetation and mountainside landscape to savor.
Successfully turning a working, but highly seasonal, sugar-cane railroad into a year-’round tourist operation, the St. Kitts Scenic Railway Ltd. completed its first year of revenue passenger service on Jan. 28, 2004. The tracks, dating from 1912, are those of the St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Company, which leases them from the federal government of St. Kitts & Nevis.
According to President Steven Hites, the new St. Kitts Scenic Railroad was on track to have hauled at least 15,000 passengers by the time it celebrated its first anniversary Jan. 28. (We had 97 aboard on Jan 21, 2004, eighty of them from visiting cruise ships.) During harvest season, the tourist train shares the tracks with a fleet of some 200 rack-equipped flatcars, each capable of hauling six tons of raw sugar cane. The passenger train is equipped with double-deck passenger cars custom-built in the U.S. The railroad is surprisingly well-engineered, with several impressive steel trestles and 23 bridges overall.
The full ride around the island takes about 4-1/4 hours. Be sure to eat a hearty breakfast; rum-based tropical drinks are free throughout the journey and serving begins right after departure, usually at 9:30 am. Each ticket entitles you to TWO seats: A wicker easy chair in the air-conditioned parlor downstairs or a cushioned bench on the open-air deck above.
Trains operate from the International airport at Basseterre, about 250 miles east-southeast of San Juan, P.R. Adult fare is U.S. $89, pricey but competitive with other tour options of similar length and amenities.
Because 80% of the train’s business comes from cruise lines, passenger schedules are often dictated by those of the ships; many packages cover just 18 miles by rail and complete the ‘round-the-island journey by van. The best opportunities for independents wishing to ride the entire line are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, but call or e-mail first.
After your train ride, repair to the popular Monkey Bar at Frigate Bay, three miies down the road from the airport, where the beach is undergoing major renovation after years of storm damage.
From journal A Case for St. Kitts