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What Might Have Been

Ever since Bermuda decided to abandon “Old Rattle n’ Shake” in 1948, many people have questioned the wisdom of closing the Bermuda Railway. Through the 1950s, ’60s, even as late as the ’80s, the suggestion was made, more or less seriously, that the railway should be rebuilt. Among the less likely suggestions were a Bermuda version of the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch miniature railway and a “Bermuda monorail”. None of these projects ever happened.

For now the only “railway” operating in Bermuda has rubber tires, providing rides for tourists at the Dockyard and in Hamilton courtesy of the “Bermuda Train Company” (seen at right).

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Yet around the world, the last 30 years have seen a revival of “light rail” and urban tramway systems, especially in Europe but even in North America, as traffic congestion and energy costs have caused both governments and the public to rethink the automobile. (At left we see a new “Flexity” tram running in Toronto.)

Imagine if the Bermuda Railway had been kept in 1948, and transformed over the years into a light rail or modern tram system.

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Unfortunately, the idea of rebuilding the railway or some other rapid transit system essentially became impossible as soon as the bridges were removed and as sections of the right of way were integrated into the road system. In Hamilton the route has disappeared under almost 70 years of growth.

Even though much of the railway route still exists, the Bermuda Railway Trail is now a national park, popular with Bermudians and tourists alike. It would be greatly missed if the land was repurposed for transportation.

Given Bermuda’s many thousands of cars, and even more thousands of scooters, the question of internal transportation remains a difficult one. In an attempt to take some of the pressure off the roads, a few years ago the Bermuda government inaugurated a fleet of fast ferries to ply the waters of the Great Sound and, in the summer, to connect Hamilton and St. George’s.

This innovation has had some success, and commuters from the west end of the island seem to be parking at Rockaway in Southampton and taking the boat to work in the city. It doesn’t seem to have had a very noticeable effect on the roads, though.

It is unclear how Bermuda will solve its traffic problem. Nonetheless, the continued existence and enhancement of the Bermuda Railway Trail means that the Bermuda Railway and its history will never completely be forgotten.

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