Next week’s Havana post covers transport, but neglects to mention trains, yet as you will know if you read my Mambi post I was aware of a rail infrastructure.
So why the oversight? Well firstly as my travels were confined to the city I had no need to investigate further, which is a pity really as major train stations often have something of interest photographically, even if they’re not all like Grand Central. Havana’s main station, Estación Central de Ferrocarriles is no different; it’s architecture has earned it the status of being seen as a national monument.
I blame my guide-book to some extent; it’s only mention of the station being purely functional when discussing how to get to Havana. And then there’s the location. None of my meandering routes around the city took me to that locale, and though I was unknowingly close when I visited the cigar factory, warnings from taxi drivers about the area prompted me to head in familiar directions rather than explore randomly.
The location though does have some history attached to it. This wasn’t always the site of the main station, the original outgrew it’s capacity and a bitter dispute arose in both government and the people as to where to locate the replacement. Ultimately a duel to the death resolved the matter and the new station was built on land formerly used as an arsenal.
The old station was actually in the grounds of the Capitol building, which is doubtless why I came upon this surprising collection there. In a fenced off piece of waste land, in the shadow of Capitolio’s dome, I found these old locomotives and a couple of men overseeing them. They encouraged me to take pictures of course, as it allowed them to demand a few pesos in return, but as they spoke no English I couldn’t find an explanation for them being there. It puzzled me for some time but now I know. Time for an update Rough Guide!