People: Harold Jennings Kitchen

If I had to choose one name synonymous with the Bermuda Railway, it would have to be that of the line's Chief Engineer, Harold Jennings Kitchen, whose job description seems to have been "keep the damn thing running."

Harold Kitchen's earlier railway experience had been on mining and other railways in South America. In the 1920s he worked as a design engineer for the Drewry Car Company, in England, which was responsible for the design and manufacture of the rolling stock for the Bermuda Railway. Kitchen himself designed the gearbox used on the Bermuda Railway power cars.

Harold Kitchen and party on the train
With the Railway under construction, in the late 1920s, Kitchen came to Bermuda, probably to represent the Drewry Car Co. He was soon appointed the Railway's Chief Engineer, a position he held throughout the life of the line.

The Railway was finally in operation by the end of 1931. Once the inevitable teething troubles of the early years were over, Kitchen had to maintain and run a railway that, in its best years, made only just enough money to cover its running costs. Depreciation and preventative maintenance were virtual luxuries (not to mention any dividends for the company shareholders).

Harold Kitchen (to the left of the aisle,
closest to the camera) and a party on
board the Bermuda Railway.

Kitchen and the Bermuda Railway became masters in making do with what they had. With very few exceptions, all the Railway's rolling stock had arrived by 1933. After that the Railway's Middle Road shops had to find ways of rebuilding damaged or worn stock with what they had on hand, often cannibalizing one piece of equipment to keep another one running.

The great rise of traffic that resulted from World War II and the arrival of the American bases just made a difficult situation worse. Wear and tear on stock and line increased greatly, and shortages of supplies and labour just added to the difficulties posed by lack of money. At the end of 1942 the Railway's Managing Director, who shared with Kitchen the responsibility for the daily running of the line, went to the United States on a business trip and simply didn't come back. From then on Kitchen did both jobs.

With the Railway staff he kept the line running through it all, but after the war it soon became clear that the situation could not go on. The Company pulled out in early 1946, selling the line to the Bermuda Government, who immediately put Kitchen in charge.

Despite an apparent desire to keep the Railway running, the estimated cost of putting it back into shape soon changed the Government's mind. Harold Kitchen was appointed Director of Public Transportation with the unhappy task of overseeing the closing of the Railway and the introduction of bus transportation to replace it.

Kitchen did this job with his usual efficiency. The last section of the Railway closed in 1948, by which time the efficient bus system which still serves Bermuda was operational. But as Colin Pomeroy puts it, "Harold Kitchen's heart was never in the task of running the Bermuda bus system" (p. 114).

Harold Kitchen died in December 1950.