Cuba’s railroad The slowest, cheapest and least reliable way to cross the country

A woman talks with her neighbor near Aguacate, Cuba during the ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.

HAVANA,  May 23   The National Railway Company of Cuba, Ferrocarriles de Cuba, is the sixth oldest railroad in the world, having opened its first 17-mile long route in 1837. Now the railway covers more than 2,600 miles, stretching from Havana in the west to Santiago de Cuba on the eastern coast.

It has a reputation for being the cheapest — but also the slowest — way to travel from one side of the country to the other.

Passengers watch TV while they wait to board the train in the Central Station in Havana.

Passengers watch TV while they wait to board the train in the Central Station in Havana.

A man looks out of the railway car at a passing train that is heading west towards Havana near San Luis, Cuba. Cuba was the 6th nation in the world to have a train system.

A man looks out of the railway car at a passing train that is heading west towards Havana near San Luis, Cuba. Cuba was the 6th nation in the world to have a train system.

The inside of one of the mismatched train cars.

The inside of one of the mismatched train cars.

People arrive at the Havana Central railway station up to 4 hours early to secure their reservation and obtain a ticket east towards Santiago de Cuba.

People arrive at the Havana Central railway station up to 4 hours early to secure their reservation and obtain a ticket east towards Santiago de Cuba.

The trip from Havana to Santiago de Cuba can take 20 hours, while driving would take about half the time. Tourists and many Cubans choose not to take the train because of its unreliability: It often breaks down or is delayed, sometimes for multiple days.

The train itself is made up of a patched together array of rail-cars largely from Germany, Canada, France, China and the former USSR. After the USSR fell, the railroad was forced into using mostly secondhand and refurbished trains and parts.

A man smokes in between train cars.

A man smokes in between train cars.

The train rounds a bend a few miles outside of Santiago de Cuba during the ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.

The train rounds a bend a few miles outside of Santiago de Cuba during the ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.

Cuba was the first country in Latin America and the sixth in the world to have a railroad system.

Early morning fog is seen out of the train car near Hatuey, Cuba during the ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.

Early morning fog is seen out of the train car near Hatuey, Cuba during the ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.

The Cuban railway was originally built by the Spanish as a means to transport sugarcane to the ports. This is interesting, as Spain had yet build a railroad in its own country at that point.

By 1958, Cuba had upgraded to newer diesel trains and the country held the record for most trackage per square mile in the world.

A man walks along the tracks.

A man walks along the tracks.

A man looks out the car door during the train ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. Many of the doors do not work properly and remain open the entire ride or are permanently stuck in a closed position.

A man looks out the car door during the train ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. Many of the doors do not work properly and remain open the entire ride or are permanently stuck in a closed position.

A man takes a nap in between train cars following a night of drinking as the train approaches San Luis, Cuba during the ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.

A man takes a nap in between train cars following a night of drinking as the train approaches San Luis, Cuba during the ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.

But what was once state-of-the-art has fallen into disrepair; high maintenance costs and lack of materials make basic maintenance all but impossible. The line from Havana to Santiago de Cuba is one of the last remaining in use, a testament to its importance to mobility in the country.

As a photojournalist it provided an authentic way to meet many Cubans, and allowed me to see more of the island nation than any other mode of transportation.

A man sleeps on the train ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba as the sun rises near Camagüey, Cuba.

A man sleeps on the train ride from Havana to Santiago de Cuba as the sun rises near Camagüey, Cuba.

The train stops in Camaguey, Cuba.

The train stops in Camaguey, Cuba.

see also : http://www.havana-live.com/news/havana-train-information

http://mashable.com/2015/05/23/cuban-railroad/