Showing posts from August, 2013

The Hershey train III

The engineer is more interesting to watch than the scenery.    We clatter into motion, swaying from side to side like a tired guajiro . From below, steel wheels thump acknowledgement of the welds in the rails, the tempo picking up as we gain speed. Even as I begin to contemplate the challenges of Cuban railway maintenance, however, we've already begun to slow for the next station.    It will be like this all the way to Havana. Never do we reach a pace that could seem imprudent for these rough old cars and the wavy tracks.    The country stations are no more than concrete huts and narrow staircases. People get on, ride for a stop or two and disembark. It's very much a local service. Well-fitted cars offer window into an earlier era of train travel.    I'm not sure what they pay for their short trips, but it couldn't be much. I give the conductor a 2 CUC coin for my longer ride and he hands me 60 centavos in change, plus a Ferrocarriles de Cuba receipt with

The Hershey train II

Pantograph assembly: Hershey Cuban Railway started with steam but soon went electric.     MY TAXI driver collects me at 7 a.m. and soon we are at the Hershey Station, a long building with open sides and tiled roof.    I join dozens of people already on the platforms, some awaiting the train I want to take to Havana, others the one coming from the other direction and heading west. Hershey is the only place with two lines of track where trains can pass; elsewhere there's just one line.    The trains pull in within moments of each other, close to if not exactly at the scheduled 7:40 a.m. arrival time. Each is formed of two linked cars, their spindly pantograph frames reaching up like insect antennae to draw power from the overhead lines.    It's easy to imagine the cars, windows dulled with grime, sides and even roofs scarred by rust, as the line's 1922 originals. Spanish-built cars were a gift to Cuba .    Milton Hershey, the American chocolate magnate, first vis

The Hershey train

Cuba's Hershey electric train runs between Matanzas and Havana.     PEOPLE ADVISED me not to try it. It will be late or won't show up at all, one Cuban told me. Or it will break down midway through my journey and leave me stranded.    I wasn't worried. If the Hershey electric train didn't happen to be running on the day I planned to take it, well, I could always try the next day. And if it broke down somewhere in the countryside, I knew that the Via Blanca highway was never more than a few kilometres to the north. I could hitch or hire a ride to Havana or back to Santa Cruz del Norte.    In the next few entries, I'll tell you about my ride on the Hershey train. Mind the gap: Concrete platforms are none too close to train doors.

Fiat Spider with a new tin top

     ALSO FROM  Tony Robertson are these shots of a Fiat 1100 TV Spider with hardtop roof that clearly was adapted from some other car. The Fiat looks rather awkward in side view, though no more awkward, really, than an 1100 with standard convertible top raised. Perhaps the roof is removable. The car would look fine without it! To be a true Spider, this Fiat 1100 would need to lose the roof. Photos by Tony Robertson. Used by permission. See also: Look What I Found on the Cuban Craigslist Hey Lady, You're In My Way