[as of 2010]

The Hershey Electric Railway is a railroad network that spans between Havana and the city of Matanzas, located 90 km. to the east of the Cuban Capital. The town of Hershey (officially called Camilo Cienfuegos, named after the Cuban revolutionary hero) is located mid-route between Havana and Matanzas. The Hershey Station (that still retains it’s old name) is the focal point and the main hub of the railroad.

The Hershey Electric Railway is one of the last few surviving passenger interurban operations in the world. The railroad’s main claim to fame is the fact that it remains practically unchanged since the day it opened in 1922, thanks to Cuban Communist regime’s natural preservationist policies due to the country’s permanent state of economic hardship. As it comes to ergonomics and operations the railroad is remarkably reminiscent of the Great American interurbans of the late XIXth / early XXth centuries.

Initially the railroad was a part of the American Hershey Corporation chocolate empire’s subsidiary property in Cuba. The Hershey Sugar Mill and the corporate town of Hershey (according to a Cuban tradition, collectively referred to as the Hershey Central) were conceived and newly built by Milton Hershey in 1916-18. The Hershey Central became a centerpiece of Hershey Corporation’s Cuban holdings, but company’s property also included vast sugar cane fields and a number of newly acquired sugar processing mills dispersed over towns in the vast valley to the east of Havana. A new railroad network was built in order to connect various properties of the company, as well as to provide access to the seaports in Havana and Matanzas. The railroad was constructed and equipped in par with the American railroad industry standards of the times, and boasted American-built rolling stock. To keep up with the latest technology of the day, the entire railroad was electrified. Passenger service was started to transport workers from the surrounding towns to the Hershey Central, however, the railroad quickly evolved into a vital passenger transportation entity of the entire region.

As of today, the Hershey Interurban network consists of the main line between Havana (Casa Blanca) and Matanzas via Hershey, and four branches: the Playas del Este branch; the Jaruco branch; the Bainoa branch (operated to Caraballo only); and the Santa Cruz del Norte branch. The branch to Cojimar closed in 1957. The sections of the line that reach the seaport docks in Guanabacoa (near Havana) and Matanzas remain intact and possible for trains, but are generally unused. The section of the Bainoa branch immediately south of Caraballo is dismantled, nevertheless, this branch is still referred to as the Bainoa branch. The southernmost section around Bainoa itself is intact, and is used during sugar cane harvesting. The sugar cane is no longer delivered to the Hershey Sugar Mill, but to the Boris Luis Santa Coloma Sugar Mill in the town of Madruga, to the south of Hershey, which is still operating.

The Casa Blanca Station is located across a narrow strait from the Havana city center, and could be accessed from the latter by a frequently ran ferry service. This arrangement is a leftover from the times when the United Railways, the English company that operated railroads in the Havana Province during the first half of the XXth century, did not allow Hershey trains into Havana proper. In 1999 Hershey trains finally reached Havana directly by way of being towed by a diesel locomotive around the bay via the National Railway tracks - to the La Coubre Station. Nowadays, however, this arrangement survives only in a shape of two daily beach-bound trips between La Coubre and Playas del Este, operated between mid-June and late August only. Thus, the Casa Blanca Station still remains the main terminal for the Hershey Line in Havana.



1918 – The Hershey sugar mill opens, however, the newly built feeder railroads are operated with steam trains;
1920 – First Brill cars are delivered;
01.1922 – The electric train passenger service starts between Hershey and Matanzas;
10.1922 – The electric train passenger service starts between Hershey and Havana (Casa Blanca);
1924 – Cincinnati cars are acquired second hand from Cienfuegos (originally built 1919, but never used in Cienfuegos);
1920s – Successive electrification of the remaining branches;
1946 – The sugar production and the railroad are sold to the Cuban-Atlantic Sugar Company;
1957 – The Cojimar branch closes;
1960 – The Cuban-Atlantic Sugar Company holdings are nationalized; the Hershey Electric Railway becomes The Camilo Cienfuegos Division of Ferrocarriles de Cuba (Cuban National Railway);
1998 – First Sarria cars are delivered, acquired second hand from Barcelona, Spain;
1999 – Diesel-powered operation to Havana’s La Coubre Station begins;
07.2002 – The Hershey sugar mill closes.



Click below for a detailed timetable for 2005:

Hershey Electric Railway Timetable 2005

The timetable doesn’t differentiate between weekdays and weekends.


Click below for the main line Havana (Casa Blanca) - Matanzas timetable for 2007:

Mainline Havana - Matanzas Timetable 2007


Click below for the main line Havana (Casa Blanca) - Matanzas timetable for 2010:

Mainline Havana - Matanzas Timetable 2010

The timetable for individual branches is to be confirmed.



Despite the fact that the Hershey Sugar Mill was closed in 07.2002, the railroad is still operated with the town of Hershey being the focal service hub, as if it was still the main passenger generator.

There are three daily through trains that cover the entire main line between Havana and Matanzas. All eastbound and westbound through trains traditionally meet at Hershey. There is a notably enhanced service provided within the mid section of the mainline, between Hershey and Canasi, by way of short trips between Hershey (both the main Hershey Station, and the Talleres Calle 7 Terminal) and Canasi, as well as trips destined for the Bainoa and the Santa Cruz del Norte branches. The Bainoa branch is operated as far as Caraballo only, with shuttle services originating at the San Mateo Station on the mainline, as well as a few selected trips out of Hershey (both the main Hershey Station, and the Talleres Calle 7 Terminal). The Santa Cruz del Norte branch is operated with shuttle services originating at the Jibacoa Station on the mainline, as well as a few selected trips out of Hershey (both the main Hershey Station, and the Talleres Calle 7 Terminal) and Canasi. According to the most recent known timetable, the Playas del Este branch is served with one regularly operated daily early morning trip between Playas del Este and Caraballo via Hershey, and two seasonal summer-only trips originating at Havana’s La Coubre Terminal. The Jaruco branch is served exclusively by shuttle trains operating out of the Talleres Calle 7 Terminal in Hershey.

The Talleres Calle 7 Station is located next to the Hershey Sugar Mill and the railroad's Depot, within 10 min. walk from the mainline Hershey Station. It is a terminal for the Jaruca Shuttle and a few selected trips to Caraballo, Santa Cruz del Norte and Canasi. The station was meant to serve the workers of the mill, while the latter was still functional. Nevertheless, after the mill’s closure trains are still operated in and out of this terminal. All transferring passengers must walk to the Hershey Station to catch the mainline trains.

The timetable does make an attempt to provide for some connections between branches, however, it is clearly not written with convenient transfers in mind.

The service is highly unpredictable due to the old and failing infrastructure. Overhead vs. pantograph snagging, loose track, and equipment break downs are daily occurrences. Equipment and personnel shortages are a norm. Scheduled trips are often cancelled. Service is often being patched up by way of altering departure times. Mainline trains are known to be rerouted to complete trips via branch lines.

Prolonged suspensions of service over sections of the line due to substation or bridge failures are common. These could last for weeks and even months, with the only official explanation given to the public being: “No train service until further notice”.

On rare occasions when trains do run as scheduled, the operation is executed with a general laid back approach to a protocol. A timetable is treated as a mere suggestion. Unofficial stops are readily honored. Train crews maintain an on-the-side semi-official goods’ delivery service along the route. Doors are rarely operated and most loadings are done not via high platforms, but rather through a cab door equipped with vertical exterior steps - directly onto a trackbed. The operator’s cab itself acts as social gathering club. There is excessive running time embedded into the timetable, with even more additional time being added every year due to the dilapidated trackage and slow speeds. This gives crews room for deliberate lingering around stations and endless socializing. The only time points operators seem to go by are terminals and the hub station at Hershey. However, late departures and early arrivals at those stations are a norm. Thus, at stations located within the proximity of time points, one could reliably expect a train to be up to 30 min. late for trips originating out of the time point, and up to 15 min. early for trips destined for the time point.

Moreover, the service is being scaled down consistently year after year. The official explanation is being personnel shortages. The most severe service cuts took place in about 2007. Prior to the cuts there were five daily through trips operated via the main line between Havana (Casa Blanca) and Matanzas, while after the cuts only three daily through trips remain. The limited-stop Casa Blanca – Matanzas trip is no longer operated. Short turn trips between Casa Blanca and Canasi were implemented after 2006, but these are no longer operated either.

All of the above provides for the service being highly unpredictable and user unfriendly. Passenger patronage is retained only since very few transportation alternatives are available to the riding public as per chronic shortages of transportation services in Cuba, as well as due to a seen-it-all attitude and overall restraint of the Cubans.



Gauge: 1435 mm.

Length of remaining lines: 143 km., out of which 124 km. are electrified.

Maximum track length ever built or owned by Hershey Corporation: 404 km., most electrified.

As of today, the only non-electrified sections are the section between the Matanzas Terminal and the sea docks; the isolated southern section of the Bainoa branch; and the connecting line between the Cuadra Station and the national railroad’s trackage.

The entire system is single track. Most tracks are on a reserved right-of-way.

The sections of a mixed right-of-way, i.e. technically the sections with train street running are: at the Casa Blanca terminal and immediately east of it (700 m.); through the town of Caraballo on the Bainoa branch (550 m.); the section of the electrified line to the sea docks in Guanabacoa (450 m., not used in service); and the section of the non-electrified line to the sea docks in Matanzas via Calle 73 (200 m., not used in service).

The entire trackage is in a dire state of disrepair. In some cases the appearance of the track is such, that it seems outright inconceivable any train service is possible over it at all.



Most stations on the system are on-request stops.

One-door-wide high platforms were installed at every station with the arrival of the high floor Sarria trains from 1998 on. Thus, officially, the front door is usually the sole door that is used for passenger boardings at most stations. The Casa Blanca and the Talleres Calle 7 Terminals have a few single-door high platforms, one per car. The Matanzas Terminal and the Hershey Station are the only stations with continuous high platforms.

Practically every station is equipped with a small shelter made of concrete. These come especially handy during the rain season, from April to June. Considering total unpredictability of the train service, the shelters could also literally become temporary homes for stranded passengers - for hours and days at a time.



Brill (1920), USA
Re-built: Ferrocarriles de Cuba, Camilo Cienfuegos Division
3 electric motor cars: 3006, 3008, 3009
Sarria (1944+) with electric equipment by Brill
Ex-Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Re-built: Barcelona, Spain (1970s)
At least 4 electric motor cars with single-ended controls: 402, 405, 407, 506
At least 2 trailers: 403, ?
Sarria (1944+) with electric equipment by Brill
Ex-Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Re-built: Barcelona, Spain (1970s)
At least 10 electric motor cars with single-ended controls: 401, 408, 501, 502, 505, 508, 513, 614, 801, 903
At least 3 trailers: 813, 814, ?
Sarria (1944+) with electric equipment by Brill
Ex-Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Re-built: Barcelona, Spain (1970s)
At least 1 electric motor car with double-ended controls: 707
General Electric (1925), USA
Approximately 5 electric locomotive units, only 1 operable
Workcar 072
Workcar 073
Passenger platform trailer 290158

In addition to the above, the following equipment was observed in 2002:

Brill (1920), USA
Re-built: Ferrocarriles de Cuba, Camilo Cienfuegos Division
1 electric motor car: 3007
Brill, USA
1 trailer car
Brissoneau, France
Electric locomotive 21202
Diesel locomotive 51035

In addition, the following equipment was observed in 2002: a heavily rebuilt Brill dormitory car, and a diesel locomotive 50925 of an unidentified type.

Brill cars from the 1920s were gradually pushed out of operation between 1998-2003, as “newer” Sarria cars were arriving from Spain. The last Brill car to operate in regular service was car 3006, observed working the secondary branches as late as in 2007. Even though the car 3006 is still operable, the use of this car is no longer warranted after the service cuts that took place around 2007. The cars 3008 and 3009 are maintained in a fair condition and are operated as a tourist train for foreign tourists. The tourist train is usually towed by an electric locomotive.

Most Sarria cars boast electric equipment by Brill, and were often referred to as “Brill” cars back in Spain. Thus, in terms of maintenance, these cars are very similar to their predecessors, the original US-built Brill cars, used on the Hershey system since 1922.

Sarria cars were acquired second-hand from Ferrocarriles de la Generalitat de Catalunya, the Spanish suburban rail carrier out of Barcelona. These cars were generally known is FGC’s 400 series, despite the fact that there were two subseries, and the fleet numbers varied between 400, 500 and 900, depending on sunseries’ technical specifications. The first subseries consisted of 14 motor and 7 trailer cars built between 1944-1952 out of the original 400/500 series cars, initially delivered in 1923/1924. These cars were extensively rebuilt in the 1970s. The second subseries consisted of 14 motor and 7 trailer cars built new between 1967-1977. Cuba received a mix of cars from both subseries.

In addition, FGC operated the 400 series look-a-likes, the cars numbered 601-628. These cars had four single leaf doors to cope with high passenger flow and a single head light, but were generally similar to the 400 series. They were built between 1952-1975, but were never refurbished and were taken out of service in 1992. Cars of this type never made to Cuba.

There are different patterns in Sarria’s 400 series car design. At least six cars currently operating in Cuba represent the older design trend from the 1940s. These cars are notable for single leaf doors and two windows between the doors. At least fourteen cars represent the newer design trend from the 1970s that allows for higher passenger capacity turnover. These cars have double leaf doors and one window between the doors.

The car 707 is of the unique design. It has controls at both ends, allowing for a double-ended solo operation. Furthermore, the headlights are positioned under the windshield, rather than on the top of the roof. It is speculated that this car was rebuilt from a trailer. Sarria trailers lack headlights as they are operated sandwiched between motor cars.

At least two trailers, including the 813 and one unidentified trailer, are quipped with a cargo compartment with separate external doors.

Sarria cars are operated either in three-car consists motor+trailer+motor, or two-car consists motor+motor. The car 707 is operated as a single unit. While three-car trains are usually assigned to the mainline Havana to Matanzas service, with two-car trains or the car 707 working the branches, there is no rule, and any type of a consist could be found on any of the branches at any time.

Rolling stock service requirements are: 5 trains daily; 7 trains from mid-June to late August.

Photographs and data on Sarria cars’ operation while in Spain could be found at:
Click on: “Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya – Fitxes material”.

The above is an external link. Please report if the link is broken.



As bus services continue to expend all over Cuba, buses can now easily adsorb most of the Hershey train’s ridership. Thus, neither reduced train service, nor prolonged train service suspensions create any notable problems. The Hershey train, when it is running, seems to become rather an added convenience for a lucky few who happened to live within the line’s proximity, rather then a necessity.