Cuba’s only Electric Train, the Hershey

November 11, 2012 | Print Print |

Photo Feature by Elio Delgado Valdés

The Hershey electric railway.

HAVANA TIMES – Between the town of Casablanca, on the other side of the Bay of Havana and Matanzas, extends the only electric railway in Cuba, known as the Hershey Train.

The electrified track was built in 1916 by the Hershey Corporation, the chocolate manufacturer in Pennsylvania, United States, in order to transport sugar from the mill of the same name, in Santa Cruz del Norte, 45 kilometers from Havana, and also the workers who came from the capital.

The story goes that Milton S. Hershey, Pennsylvania chocolate magnate, bought more than 24,000 hectares of sugar cane fields and built a plant for the large-scale production of chocolate.

The train was built in 1917 in Pennsylvania and had 17 cars, of which there are still three.

Currently, the Hershey train makes two daily trips from Havana to Matanzas, with two cars, passing through the center of the old sugar mill.

Both the railroad tracks and the train cars have recently received repairs, to make it a faster and more pleasant trip.

This photo essay shows some details of the trip of the segment from Havana to the former Hershey sugar mill.

Click on the thumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery


What's your opinion?

  • Griffin

    Wonderful photographs! Thank you for this interesting look at a unique Cuban train line.

  • Michael N. Landis

    “Thanks for the Memories!” In 2006, I rode the Tren Hershey from Casa Blanca to Matanzas and back, and took some fotos–but not as good as yours! Still, I was able to share them with my wife’s beloved uncle, who passed on a few years later. He had worked for Hershey in central Pennsylvania, and enjoyed seeing them.
    Also, for those with access to YouTube, there are several videos of this trip.

  • Michael N. Landis

    An interesting sidelight on this story, Elio, is that the companies which manufactured these “street railway” cars were bought up by the major Northamerican auto manufacturers in the 1950’s, who then closed them. I can remember travelling on similar cars from the center of the city where I grew up–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–to the far distant suburbs, in the 1950’s. By the 1960’s these type of cars had all disappeared, replaced either by buses, which took much longer, and mostly by automobiles. Also, the ridership changed. Up until the mid- to late-1950’s the ridership included middle-class and working-class people. By the 1960’s most of the riders on the buses which replaced them were either working-class, or those outside the work force.

  • Hubert Gieschen

    I still remember fondly a journey I made between Matanzas and Guanabacoa in February 2005. For those interested in Cuban railways there is a Yahoo group dedicated to the subject
    cubanrailways · Cuban Railways/Ferrocarriles de Cuba or http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/cubanrailways

  • Patrick Lavallee

    I wish I had come across your website before my trip to Cuba the week of November 24.
    The latest info for the train I had was for a 5:16am departure from Matanzas. When I got there the train had departed at 4:30 am.
    Can you provide a contact at the Hershey Electric Railway or a website with up to date train info.
    Thank you.
    Patrick Lavallee
    P S Loved my week in Varadero, will be back in February or July.

  • l allen

    What will be the return to the people who are holding stock in the electric plant in cuba.

    • Bjr Adrian

      Sorry, zero, nationalized by Fidel.

  • Bjr Adrian

    It’s time to return to Cuba. i come from Harrisburg, a few miles from Hershey Pennsylvania, many kids in Harrisburg spent some time in Hershey. Mr Hershey was special. (Always referred to as Mr Hershey ). He built a business paradise in Pennsylvania, the town that bears his name is wealthy, and still very pretty. The street lights on the main street still have huge silver Hersheys Kisses as the finial on each light standard. The factory on main st is painted chocolate brown, and has quite a flower garden. Mr Hershey had a social conscience for his day but it had to make business sense to him. He built a company town, the concept is vilified today. My mother came from a company town in the Pennsylvania anthracite coal regions, not that far from Hershey maybe 50 miles north. Coal company towns did not and do not resemble Hershey Pennsylvania.

    He tried to do similar work in Cuba. It did not last 100 years. He employed, he housed, he cared for an enterprise. At some point, he didn’t make money or anticipated loss.

    Remember that everything he did in Cuba came with a profit and loss statement. But he has left a positive legacy. That is a good thing. The little railroad needs some work. Hire people to do that. Si o no?