The Railway in Operation


Train on Front Street
In North America, the Bermuda Railway would have been called an "interurban" line: more than a streetcar system, but not quite a full-fledged railway. With less than 22 miles of single track, the Bermuda Railway could not boast the streamlined express passenger trains of Britain, nor the interminable drag freights of North America. Old "Rattle and Shake", as it was known, catered almost exclusively to passenger traffic, and the typical train was a gasoline-powered motor coach pulling one or two 40-foot coaches.

The original reason for the railway was to serve the growing tourist trade, providing an efficient way for passengers from the cruise ships, which at that time docked at the old capital of St. George's in the east end, to travel to Hamilton and on to Somerset in the west. At the same time it gave Bermudians another means of getting to work, or into Hamilton to shop, alongside the ferry system, the bicycle and the traditional horse-drawn carriage. The map in the sidebar shows the complete Bermuda Railway route.

When William Foxlee tabled his "Report on a Light Railway" in December 1922, he expected that freight traffic would provide about a third of the new railway's revenue. Once the Bermuda Railway was completed, however, much of this freight traffic never materialized, in part because Bermuda's exports to the United States had fallen drastically since 1922. The Railway would have to survive on its passengers, and its limited collection of rolling stock would reflect this.