Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Our Man in Havana 8: The Central Railway Station

The Central Station in 1939, from the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/realestate/cuba-streetscapes-the-new-york-accented-architecture-of-havana.html)
When I visit new cities, I like to check out the railroad station and train infrastructure. The main railway terminal in Havana is the Havana Central Station (Estación Central de Ferrocarriles) in the southern part of Habana Viejo. This handsome building was built in 1912 by the Frederick Snare Company of New York. Recall that in that era, big American companies dominated the Cuban economy and were improving the infrastructure to allow efficient movement of sugar cane and sugar products. After the 1958 revolution, the rail system was nationalized, and little or no funding was provided for upkeep or improvements to the system. In recent years, ridership had dropped rapidly, especially once new air-conditioned long distance busses started running on rural routes. The train is infamous for delays or breakdowns.
As of January 2017, the Central Station was undergoing massive rebuilding. I was not able to find out how this is being funded - by the Cuban government, the UN, or a grant from the Chinese government? Regardless, it was a closed construction site and I was disappointed to not see the interior.
The platforms are in the back (the west side of the building) and are still in use.
I tried to enter and take pictures, but a lady security guard tossed me out. But once I was outside the fence, she did not seem to care, or didn't pay any more attention (she was doing something with her phone).
The houses across the Avenida Bélgica face the station - it must have been a noisy spot.
We saw some rail infrastructure in rural area of Cuba. These tracks were in the village of Guasimal. The tops were not completely rusted, suggesting occasional use.

Photographs taken with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera. 

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