Bermuda Railway 1931-1948
Although the Railway was only 22 miles long, it would be more than seven years before trains were actually running. Difficulties in acquiring the necessary land and a seemingly endless succession of financial and technical problems led to a series of railway acts in the Bermuda assembly granting extension after extension to the Company.
Land was a particular problem, as Bermuda's landowners held out for more cash than the Railway Company was willing or able to pay. The decision was made to run the railway as close to the shoreline as possible in order to reduce disruption and land acquisition costs. As a result, the Bermuda Railway had to build 33 bridges and trestles in its 22-mile length.
By May 1930, although all the bridges and most of the roadbed had been completed, only three miles of track had been laid, and it was estimated that some 55% of the work remained. A new, more experienced, British contractor—Balfour Beatty—was brought in to complete the work, which it did by the end of 1931.
On October 31, 1931, the opening ceremonies took place, and the Bermuda Railway began regular service on the Hamilton to Somerset division. Operations would begin on the Hamilton-St. George's section on December 19, 1931.
The Railway was running, but already the general low quality of both material and construction was making itself felt. On many sections track ballasting occurred only after opening, as part of general maintenance, and major rail and sleeper replacement programs were undertaken during 1932. Similar problems would recur throughout the railway's life.
The End of the Rail-Road
In early 1947 the decision was made to close the Railway and replace it with a bus system. Harold Kitchen, who had worked on the railway system from the beginning, was made Director of Public Transportation to oversee the transition. The railway line to Somerset was finally closed on January 1, 1948, while the line to St. George carried on through May 1 because of delays in road strengthening projects and bus deliveries.