Is It Time to Bring Back the Past in Barbados?

Is It Time to Bring Back the Past in Barbados?

Horse-drawn trams transported Bajans from 1885 to 1925

Horse-drawn trams transported Bajans from 1885 to 1925

Now here’s a Barbados blast-from-the-past that some version of ought to be revisited: horse-drawn trams.  For 40 years – from 1885 until 1925 – people in Barbados climbed aboard a tram car pulled by a horse and run on tracks.  They sported names like “Alert” or “Active” or “Jubilee.”

Guess how this transport system came to be: the people demanded this of their government, beginning in 1851.  After the government groused about the exorbitant price (£5000 a mile) for 30 years, the people finally got what they asked for.

Bridgetown its locus, Barbados’ horse-drawn tram system became the largest, longest-running, most colorful horse-car tram system in the Caribbean with 25 tram cars on 5 lines running on 10 miles of track.  The system operated for 40 years, until 1925.  (Barbados also had a steam-powered rail system that ran from 1881 until 1937 that transported cane across the country. You can still see residual train tracks in Bathsheba.)

Yes, I know the idea is not practical for a jillion reasons.  But switch on the romantic part of your brain a moment and imagine it!  Visitors to the island would love getting around in this charming, old-fashioned way.  Rebuild a track system or – heavens – auto traffic is so congested anyway, what would a few horses on the road matter?  I’ve been stuck enough times behind a man pushing a cart of coconuts … being delayed by a horse pulling a tram full of happy people wouldn’t be so bad.  Actually, I’d be on the tram myself; I hate driving!  Also, it’s an idea that’s “green.”

Enjoy the shade, socialize, get around in style!

Enjoy the shade, socialize, get around in style!

I’m sure the first gasoline-powered buses that started running in 1907 were seen as great modernization.

You gotta wonder …

A map showing the tram routes and the train tracks. All the images shown on this post are from the collection of Allen Morrison.  Click the image to learn more.

A map showing the tram routes and the train tracks. All the images shown on this post are from the post card collection of Allen Morrison. Click the image to enlarge it and learn more.

P.S.  See the point on the map that says “Needham Point”?  That’s where the Hilton sits now.  Notice how this clever horse-drawn tram system came all the way down to our neck of the woods in St Lawrence Gap on the south coast.  Gosh that must have been a pretty ride from Bridgetown.



5 Responses to “Is It Time to Bring Back the Past in Barbados?”

  1. Z says:

    I would take that any day over these blasted ZR’s… I have seen an old time bus that is available for rental, I don’t know the details but the horse drawn looks to have been the predecessor!

    Great post Jane!

  2. Stephen says:

    A visit to the Parliament museum and the national heroes gallery (same location) bring a great insight into both the way things were in Bimshire, and also how the government became what it is today – I said how, not what!

  3. greg says:

    I’ll bet customer service was far better in “the old days”, too…

  4. Don’t think I didn’t notice how you sneaked a bit of political commentary into your comment, Stephen! I will visit the museum now that you’ve piqued my curiosity. Thanks!

  5. Ian Bourne says:

    For more details? http colon // bajanreporter dot blogspot dot com/ 2009/06/puffing-billy-history-of-barbados dot html

Leave a Reply