"" Writer's Wanderings: St Kitts - The Scenic Railroad

Friday, January 22, 2010

St Kitts - The Scenic Railroad

We have been to so many of the Caribbean islands that they all begin to look alike. St. Kitts was a pleasant surprise. While the downtown area of Basseterre looks very much like most of the other island ports, we discovered a lush beautiful island once we were away from the bustling port full of tourists.

Opting for a shore excursion rather than a walk through town, we met on the pier and were ushered to an air conditioned van that took us to an industrial area where the St. Kitts Scenic Railroad train awaited us. For the next two and a half hours, we traveled on a narrow gauge track that covered 18 miles of shoreline and wonderful views of rain forested areas, tiny towns, frothy shorelines and beaches some of which were black from lava, and even a quick glimpse of the infamous green monkeys that inhabit this small island.

This narrow gauge railroad was begun by the owners of the touring railroad in Skagway, Alaska. St. Kitts was the only island in the Caribbean where they found a suitable narrow gauge track that was useable. Amazing since this track has been in existence for about a hundred years according to our guide and used mainly for the sugar cane industry which is no longer viable.

The train cars of the Scenic Railroad were air conditioned on the first level with chairs and tables available for those who didn’t want to climb the narrow curving stairs to the open-sided top deck. Up on top there were benches along the sides and back padded with comfortable cushions.

Pulling all of this was an engine that ran on diesel and right behind it was a large car that contained the electrical power to run the blenders, the air conditioning, and the speaker system the narrator used.

Along the way our guide pointed out interesting sights, flora and fauna, and gave a wonderfully illustrated history of the area. We passed many abandoned windmills and chimneys from the early days of sugar cane production and plantations. All of the commentary was interspersed by an a capella trio who went from car to car and sang harmoniously.

It didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect and the sun shone dramatically between passing clouds on the green volcanic hills in the center of the island. We saw several other areas of the island that deserve exploration. I hope we return to once again enjoy the hospitality of St. Kitts.

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