There are those that are quite surprised by the discovery that in 1845, with the installation of a steam railroad line between Kingston and Spanish Town, the Island of Jamaica was among the first in the Americas to establish a tramcar system as a means of “modern” mass transportation.
It was the somewhat glamorous quality of the picture that initially caught my attention. The tramcar cushioned between a row of stately palms trees and a smattering of elegant vintage cars that instantly shouted, “California!”. Only to be amazed that this idyllic looking, active intersection is not some obviously thriving area in the Sunshine State, but actually a snapshot of popular King Street in Kingston, Jamaica, circa 1930.
In 1876, The Jamaica Street Car Company recognizing the need for an efficient way to transport the approximately 50,000 occupants of the bustling capital, instituted a system using horse car from May Pen, to Constant Spring, to Rae Town.
By the early 1930’s, the approximate time this snapshot (top of the page) was taken, there were a documented forty-four motor cars, five passenger trailers, and two freight trams transporting both passengers and products on the by now twenty six point seven miles of track traversing Kingston.
To much public upset and citing extreme financial constraints at the prospect of of well needed expansion, the Jamaica Street Car Company stopped tramway service in May of 1948. The remaining cars became like many pieces of our tangible connection to our history, were destroyed. The owners deeming more value in their being reduced to melted steal than as museum quality collectibles.
Also see the the article “The Tramways of Kingston, Jamaica“
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