Trinidad Express / The railway relics at Stanleyville, Ste Madeleine, constructed more than a hundred years ago, will be lost within months if there is no attempt to preserve and protect the site, says former National Trust board member Jalaludin Khan.
Khan visited the site earlier this month after an Express report on the poor condition of the signal box—the last such Trinidad Government Railway structure still standing.
The site has no legal protection and survived through the efforts of area residents and a small group of history enthusiasts and researchers, among them Glen Beadon, Wayne Abraham and the late Angelo Bissessarsingh.
Khan, a sustainable development consultant, said the railway signal box building was at high risk to permanent decay in under 12 months, because of what was happening to the roof, walls and foundation.
Khan suggested the site be clean up with basic non-intrusive restoration in the short term, signage placed at the location to explain the significance of the structure, and that members of the community be trained so that the location could be developed into a tourist attraction with the assistance of the relevant government agencies and departments.
Khan said the National Trust should move to “list” the site, which would give it legal protection, and a plan devised on how to restore the structure.
The San Fernando Heritage Trust has responded.
Last Saturday, members of the trust and volunteers went to the location and cleared and cleaned the site as phase one of the plan to restore the structure.
Trust chairman Terrence Honore said, “Our approach is to take immediate action to ensure that this structure does not meet the same fate as other nearby railway relics. We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the No 11 train on Harris Promenade, San Fernando, and see this effort as a continuation of our mission to preserve our railway heritage.”
He said area businesses and organisations were being lobbied to lend assistance to the preservation plan, and the trust was in communication with Beadon, who knows the importance of the structure.
Why it’s worth saving
A signal box is the railway equivalent of today’s air traffic control tower found at airports, says Beadon, and The Trinidad Government Railways once had 17 signal boxes at various locations across the rail network, operated by a staff of 66 signalmen. The only one left is at Stanleyville.
According to Beadon, it was built soon after the Cipero Tramway, established in 1849, was taken over by Trinidad Government Railway in 1912. Located on the ground next to the box is an old iron leaver once used to switch lines and signals. The old leaver still bears the title of its UK manufacturing company and date of installation.
Officially named “Jordan Hill Junction”, the signal box was opened in 1913 to control rail traffic at a junction where the San Fernando and Princes Town line branched off southwards to Jordan Hill and Bronte Estate.
Bronte is located just over a mile north of Barrackpore and was the end of the line. This branch dates to the late 1840s and was used for moving cane to factory and manufactured sugar from factory to market and export. Trinidad Government Railway improved safety on the railways by building seven new signal boxes south of San Fernando when they took over the Cipero Tramway. “Jordan Hill Junction” was one of these boxes.
The location is historic, as Stanley Village is situated along the trajectory of the original Cipero Tramway, which was Trinidad’s first railway. As such, the location—with its extant signal box, signal man’s quarters and historic switching apparatus—provides an ideal area from which to present several historic milestones in the history of railways in Trinidad:
• Last examples of historic TGR signal box and living quarters.
• Historic location where railways in Trinidad began (30 years before the TGR) and ended (30 years after the TGR).
• Location where the inaugural train to the Mission (Now Princes Town) would have travelled through on 15 March 1859.
• Location where Trinidad’s first steam locomotive, Forerunner, travelled through on her inaugural run on Saturday, February 6, 1864.
• Location through which the Royal Train, carrying His Royal Highnesses Prince Albert and Prince George, passed through on their journey over the Cipero Tramway to The Mission of Savana Grande, which thereafter changed its name to the place we know today as Princes Town, on January 21, 1880.
• The section of line closed to all traffic between Malgretoute and Usine St Madeleine in 1988.