The Hershey Train: one of Cuba's most fascinating travel experiences

Posted: 08-Jul-16 12:20

Cuba's long railroads are not usually mentioned in book guides for tourists, but adventurous travellers will surely love the experience of jumping into an old wagon and enjoying magnificent views of the island's gorgeous landscapes at a very slow and sometimes disrupted pace. As travel bloggers and experts have pointed out, the Hershey train, driving passengers along the western part of the country, offers an amazing, non-stereotypical experience.

The Hershey Train: one of Cuba's most fascinating travel experiences

The Hershey Train, named after Milton S. Hershey, founder of the famous American chocolate manufacturing company, has been running the Havana-Matanzas route since the early 20th century, offering a unique, vintage opportunity for getting to know the real Cuba.

The train has been recently described as “Cuba's slowest moving machine” by Canadian Blog, See Her Travel, in which readers will find an interesting story about a trip to Playa Jibacoa, a small village between Havana and Matanzas (101km from the capital) and one of the train's most requested stops.

Cuba's national rail system is famous for being one of the cheapest but slowest and most uncomfortable ways of travelling around the country. However, the Hershey Train remains among those which offer punctual services and also a magnificent window to the past, as it runs pretty much in the same way as it did in the early 20th century when it was founded.

Emily, the Canadian blogger posting for See Her Travel, explains:

“It still runs basically the same way it did in 1921, meaning it is slow and pretty uncomfortable, though very cool in the vinty way.”

The two wagons date from 1944, but they were incorporated into the services in 1997 when they came to Cuba as a donation from the Spanish city of Barcelona. Of the 17 original train cars, built in 1917 in Pennsylvania, only three remain preserved in the island.

Cubans who "have no rush" in arriving to their destinations use this cheap electric means of transportation, and the journey is also an attraction for teenagers and young adventurers wanting to discover the “mysteries” of the railroad and the beauties of the Cuban countryside.

Travellers can enhance the experience by getting off at any of the stops near small villages that seem to be in the middle of nowhere. One of the most interesting villages is the one called Hershey, located 45km east of the capital, where visitors can see the ruins of a sugar mill that was built in 1916.

Extending for over 4000km along the island’s length, Cuba´s railroad is the largest in the Caribbean and was the first of its kind to be built in Latin America. As part of a documentary series produced by British Channel 5 and titled Extreme Railway Journeys, commentator Chris Tarrant jumped on one of Cuba’s aging trains for an eye-opening journey into the country’s heartland. Narrating the introduction to the Cuban episode he said the country has trains from all over the world and from every historical era.


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