The Tramways of
Cárdenas
BY
Allen Morrison

This seaport in Matanzas province, 40 km east of Matanzas city and 140 km from Havana, was the center of Cuba's sugar industry for two centuries and the terminus of its second railroad (to Jovellanos) in 1840. Cárdenas is known to visitors today for its proximity to famous Varadero Beach, on the other side of Cárdenas Bay [see map].

Tranvía Eléctrico de Cárdenas was chartered in 1913 and began construction of a battery-powered tramway that year. Lloyd's 20th Century Impressions of Cuba [see BIBLIOGRAPHY below] noted 4.25 km of track in 1913 but TEC did not order its first three battery trams, from St. Louis Car Co., until early 1915 (the exact date was not recorded). Here is a stock certificate issued on 29 March 1915 [col. AM]:

[The illustration of the stock certificate above was reproduced on a stamp pane in 2004: see Cuban Tram Stamps.]

The photograph below shows St. Louis cars 1, 2 and 3 inaugurating the battery tramway in Cárdenas on Cuban Independence Day, 20 May 1915 [G. del Valle, col. AM]:

TEC ordered three more battery trams from St. Louis later in 1915 and another three in 1916. The McGraw Electric Railway List reported 11 km of 1435 mm gauge track and 12 battery trams in 1918. It is not known where the company acquired its other three cars. Here is a rare, undated view of tram 3 leaving the Cárdenas carbarn [col. José Altshuler]:

According to the (also undated) transfer ticket below, Cárdenas trams had at least five destinations [see map] [col. AM]: 

The Fundición route passed the railroad station on Av. Concha, called Av. 8 today [see map]. Note the freight train coming out the front door of the station! It's not clear, but this tram seems to be numbered 7 [col. AM]:

TEC planned a 21-km line around Cárdenas Bay to Varadero Beach [see map], but it was never built. Bus competition increased in the 1920s and the tramway closed in mid-1929. The tracks were removed in the 1930s. The fate of the trams in unknown.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

There is very little literature about the tramway in Cárdenas. A lot of the information on this page, and most of the data for the map, come from former Cárdenas resident Ernesto de la Fe and his webpage, The Cárdenas Electric Tramway, 1914-1929. Other information was supplied by author/engineer/historian José Altshuler, president of the Sociedad Cubana de Historia de la Ciencia y Tecnología in Havana. The photograph of car 3 comes from his webpage, Etapas de la electrificación en Cuba. Statistics about car orders were provided by U.S. tramway historian Harold E. Cox. Other details were located in the following publications:

Reginald Lloyd. Twentieth Century Impressions of Cuba. London, 1913. Note on the Cárdenas tramway, p. 343.

McGraw-Hill Company. McGraw Electric Railway List, August 1918. New York, 1918 (reprinted by Harold E. Cox in 1970). Brief description of the operations and staff of the Tranvía Eléctrico de Cárdenas, p. 207.

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Copyright © 2002-2102 Allen Morrison - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED