Old Kingston train station to become heritage tourism site By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
August 5, 2004

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The entrance to the railway station on Cowan Street where the train began the journey along the East Coast Demerara/West Coast Berbice route. (Photo by Ken Moore)

The National Trust has identified the disbanded train station on the Lamaha Embank-ment in the vicinity of Kingston as a multicultural facility for the purpose of heritage tourism and it is to be preserved as part of historic Georgetown.

But the station is in a rundown state and in dire need of repairs. The state-owned facility which comes under the purview of the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) has been rented to the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) for the paltry sum of $92,000 a month.

Stabroek News has made several attempts to contact the T&HD general manager and the deputy general manager to learn what plans are in store for the building but was unable to get a comment up to press time.

According to the contractual agreement between GPL and T&HD, the power company was allowed the use of the premises by way of a lease for an initial five-year period beginning from October 1, 1999. The contract says that "the tenant (GPL) shall give the landlord (T&HD) written notice of the tenant's exercise of its right to renew this lease for an additional five-year term," that is unless the tenant notifies the landlord in writing of the option of not renewing the lease.

According to the contract, GPL is to keep the interior of the premises including the sanitary and water apparatus, and all the landlord's fixtures in good condition, but without making any alterations to the building.

Among conditions of the lease, the T&HD is responsible for maintaining the fences and walls of the train station, as well as repairing and keeping the roof, ceilings, supports, main walls, timber, beams, floors, passageways and drains in good and tenantable repair and condition.

Contacted for a comment on the building, which has been identified for preservation, Lloyd Kandasammy of the National Trust said that a meeting was held last year between the relevant stakeholders on the issue and plans are in train to follow-up on the idea of developing the train station for preservation and tourism purposes.

Kandasammy said that the idea was further developed at a 'Charette' organised by Conservation International (Guyana) in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce February last year and put to the Guyana government as a proposal to boost the country's tourism industry.

The station itself is spacious and the proposal is to develop part of it as a mini-exhibition site and an industrial museum, which will recreate the railway atmosphere with a number of carriages.

He said that in recreating the atmosphere a number of persons would be employed to act as characters, decked out in the attire reminiscent of the period. The setting up of a railway café was also a part of the proposal.

He noted, too, that based on a poverty alleviation study conducted, it was proposed that all ethnic groups be given some space for showcasing their cultural heritage in the area. In this proposal it was suggested that a portion of the Lamaha Embankment in the vicinity could be used for the selling of Amerindian craft and food in keeping with the theme of heritage tourism. He said it was thought that the area where Amerindian handicraft and food are being sold at the Amerindian Hostel on Princes Street was not conducive for boosting tourism.

The railway in Guyana, which first ran from Georgetown to Plaisance, is said to be the first built in all of South America. Construc-tion began in 1847 and the railway to Rosignol was finally completed in 1900. It was dismantled in the mid-1970s.

British Governor Henry Light turned the sod for the local railway on the site of the present train station on August 19, 1847 and the initial stretch of track from Georgetown to Plaisance was tested on January 24, 1848. The railway reached Mahaica in 1864 and extended to Mahaicony by 1894. It finally reached Rosignol on August 1, 1900.

Meanwhile the three iron railway bridges across the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary rivers are being relocated to accommodate the Georgetown/Rosignol Public Road. The National Trust had also identified the three iron bridges as heritage sites. The bridges have been shifted a short distance down river from their original location but in full view of the roadway.

Each bridge was moved and restored for preservation purposes at a cost of US$196,000 under the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan programme, which is funding the improvement of the roadway from Timehri to Rosignol.