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Author Topic: The Narrow Gauge of Volcan Baru

Posts: 142
Post The Narrow Gauge of Volcan Baru
on: January 3, 2019,

In an effort to bring the Narrow Gauge topic back to life on this forum, I am going to make a shameless plug for a small project I completed recently. The project has been on my to do list for some time. Aside from my favor railroad the Chicago Great Western, I have had a keen interest in narrow gauge railroads in Panama and Costa Rica. While following my keen sense of finding rails, I took a slew of 35mm color slides in the late 1970s and early 1980s on my travels to Central America. I always wanted to find a way to share these photos with other model railroaders so I scanned them on my Epson VT600 first of all. I then a wrote narrative to explain and make a good case for the narrow gauge model railroader to consider modeling these banana railroads. I therefore titled the work "The Narrow Gauge of Volcan Baru" an eBook on lulu.com. The photographs are of the waning days of the United Fruit Company's Chiriqui Land Company (CLC) illustrating the track profiles, assets, yards and equipment. Since I have family and friends in the county that is on the border with Costa Rica, I have some fond memories of people that worked on the railroad that told me stories as the CLC rail operations were for farming and export of bananas to US markets.

Unfortunately, Panama did not have the foresight to save or modernize their railroad and it is long gone. It is my understanding that 1 of 2 or 3 steam locomotives that still exist are in the US. A Porter 2-6-0 is in the New Jersey Museum of Transportation undergoing restoration. I plan a trip over there to have a look at the engine hopefully this spring.

Fortunately, the narrow gauge railroad in San Jose Costa Rica is very much alive, well and operational. The youtube videos are very prevalent and there are some very dedicated railroad men and modelers building HO layouts based on what is now known as Incofer. If you want to see the robustness of their modernization efforts with roadbed upgrades, concrete ties, welded rails and engine maintenance (97 pages), go to:

Informe: Mantenimiento y reparaciĆ³n fin 2017 e inicio 2018

The citizens really do have their act together with both freight and passenger services in San Jose. Their project documents are well worth the reading to see what they have done in the recent years. With modernization though in Costa Rica, I think they did away with all their electrified lines.

If you care to purchase a copy of my eBook, go to:

To see my spot light page.

You should also note that the Illinois Central Railroad at one time transported some 60% of the bananas coming from Central America to North American and Canadian markets in refrigerator cars. The Illinois Central drove the Great White Fleet steamship schedules from the Port in New Orleans so when a United Fruit Company steam ship showed up at the Port of Armuelles in Panama, they had to be ready to load bananas. Protocraft has some refrigerator car decals of the time period one would have seen in the US, see:


It was a not always an easy cold chain transport operation to get bananas to markets ready to eat from tropical climates to warm and often cold US seasons going north.

For today though, if there was ever a real live operational narrow gauge road I would love to work on, Incofer in Costa Rica is it for me.


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