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Passenger Traffic on the Bermuda Railway

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Passenger trains were the backbone of Bermuda Railway operations. The railway essentially operated in two divisions: Hamilton to St. George’s, at the eastern end of Bermuda; and Hamilton to Somerset, at the western end.

According to the 1939 timetable published in Colin Pomeroy’s book, 15 trains a day made the 10-mile trip from Hamilton to St. George’s, and 13 made the return trip back to Hamilton. There were 19 stations on the route, and the trains seemed to have stopped at every one. The journey took about 55 minutes, for an average speed of just over 10 miles an hour.

On the western division, 10 trains a day covered the 11 1/2 miles from Hamilton to Somerset station in 58 minutes, with the same number returning. (Here the average speed edged up to almost 12 miles an hour.) One more train, the 10 o’clock from Hamilton, terminated 8 miles down the line at Evan’s Bay at 10:41, returning almost immediately as the 10:50.
Trains began running at about six in the morning, undoubtedly to take people to work (presumably the cruise ship passengers were still asleep at that hour). In fact, all trains leaving before about 9 in the morning had special “statutory” or workmen’s cheap fares, as did another train in each direction about midday, and two more at the end of the day. The last trains on the Somerset side left at about 23:30, while the last train from St. George’s departed at 10 minutes after midnight. The very last run was the 0:20 from Hamilton to St. George’s, which arrived at 1:15 in the morning; clearly the tourists didn’t have to be up early!
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1934 Bermuda Railway timetable, as published in the Bermuda Hotel Association’s brochure, “Now That You're in Bermuda”. (Click for a larger version.)
Alongside the regularly scheduled trains, the Bermuda Railway Company ran extra boat trains and tourist specials as required. During the 1930s, Hamilton’s Royal Gazette newspaper regularly carried railway company advertisements for special trains for race meetings, weddings, pageants, and the annual Cup Match, when cricket teams from each end of the island meet to compete for the national championship.
My favourite special train was announced in a small advertisement in the Dec. 1, 1932 issue of the Gazette:
“For the convenience of those attending the At Home of Mrs. Hastings Outerbridge on Thursday, 1st December, the 7.47 p.m. train from Hamilton will run forward to Bailey’s Bay Halt”—T. H. Hastings Outerbridge was a member of the Bermuda House of Assembly for St. Georges’s!
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Spectators for the horse racing at Shelly Bay disembarking from the train.
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Special train service for Cup Match, 1933

A Tourist Railway, or Modern Transport for Bermuda?

Despite such evidence of the railway’s attempts to integrate itself into Bermudians’ lives, the original impetus behind the railway was the need to transport increasing number of tourists across Bermuda. Some have said that the railway did this job too well. David Raine maintains that the emphasis on the tourist traffic meant that the railway never played a central role for most Bermudians. “A failure to have the railway accessible and convenient for everyone resulted in a large percentage of the population not using it on a regular basis.” (Raine, p. 48) For too many people, it was apparently more convenient to continue using the bicycles, boats and carriages they had used before.
Learn about Freight Traffic on the Bermuda Railway