CARIBBEAN author and historian David Rollinson has published a book that highlights the cultural importance of railways in the Caribbean. He covers both railways that are still in use and those that are defunct, and includes a section on the Bermuda Railway.

The book, Railways of the Caribbean, covers all aspects of railroad travel and usage, from the gauge railways in the Bahamas to the locomotives of Guyana. Numerous maps and colourful pictures help make the books both an informative and enjoyable read, even for those who have no previous knowledge of the railroads.

The author, who currently resides in Nevis, has had a life-long interest in railways. Mr. Rollinson was actively involved in the industrial heritage movement while in Canada and is now a member of the Association of Caribbean Historians and the Nevis Historical and Conversation Society.

The section on the Bermuda Railway gives a comprehensive view on the origins of the Bermuda Railroad and follows the story through to its closure in 1947. The book states that the idea of a railway that would connect both ends of the island was originally proposed in the late 1800s but was rejected because of the pollution and noise that railway cars would bring. The growth of cruise ship tourism was a key motivator in the building of the Bermuda Railroad in the early 1900s and although the proposition of the shipping company, Furness Withy in 1922 was not without opposition, Parliament, ãwith the prospect of big tourist dollars as an incentive,ä passed the first Bermuda Railway Act in 1924.

The first passengers were transported along the railway from Hamilton to Somerset in 1931 on what became known as the Western Route. Later that year, in November, the line joining Hamilton to St. Georgeâs was completed, enabling the Bermuda Railway Company to offer a regular service the entire length of the island. The railway was a single track running the length of the island ãwith passing loops located at strategic points and stations along the way.ä All in all, the building of the railway and the purchase of locomotives up to that point had cost more than £1,000,000.

The route chosen for the railway, while scenically beautiful, included 33 bridges and trestles over salt water which meant that the cost of maintenance for these metal and timber structures was extremely high. By 1946, the company realized that their financial resources were no longer sufficient and sold the railway to the Bermuda Government.

Even though many Bermudians and tourists had begun to make regular use of the railway, the profits earned were not enough to cover the cost of maintaining the railway and in 1947 the Bermuda Railway was declared unfit for public use. The first motor bus fleet arrived the following year.

n The book carries a retail price tag of $15 and is expected to be available at both The Bermuda Book Store and The Bookmart, although details were not available by press time.