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Costa Rica takes first steps to rebuild railroad to the Pacific

November 26, 2019

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, railroads served a major role in Costa Rica’s development as a country.

Costa Rica hopes to “return to the rail legacy of our grandparents,” said Elizabeth Briceño Jiménez, executive president of the Costa Rican Railroad Institute (INCOFER).

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Planning and Economic Policy (MIDEPLAN) provided INCOFER ¢314,458,200 (about $553,000) to conduct feasibility studies on the 131 km of railroad between Alajuela and Puntarenas. 

Along with an electric train in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) and an electric freight train in Limón, the reactivation of the railroad to the Pacific is among the projects planned by INCOFER between this year and 2023. 

“For the railroads to achieve again the railroad to the Pacific, rehabilitated and in operation, is something that fills us with great enthusiasm,” Briceño said.

“We are sure that this will contributes to the economic recovery of the area and will generate employment, and that it is also another step to return return to the rail legacy of our grandparents in Costa Rica.” 

Casa Presidencial said the feasibility studies will take about seven months.

Costa Rica’s Pacific Railroad (Ferrocarril al Pacifico) provided an important link between the capital of San José and Puntarenas, one of the country’s most important port cities.

Work on the line began in 1897 but went only as far as Orotina before financial troubles paralyzed the country as well as the railway. As a result, the line wasn’t completed until 1910.

The first steam locomotive, the María Cecilia, built in Pennsylvania and named after the granddaughter of former President Rafael Iglesias, began runs to Orotina in 1898.

In 1928, Costa Rica inaugurated an electric railroad to the Pacific which operated until the 1990s.

In an effort to remember Costa Rica’s railroad history, tourism company AmericaTravel operated the “Tico Train Tour” in the early 2000s from San José to the Pacific Coast.

More recently, however, the railroad has been in a state of disrepair after budget cuts and damage caused by the construction of Route 27.

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