It was with an air of anticipation that the excited group of persons gathered at the Barry Street Head Office of the Jamaica Railway Corporation’s Office in downtown Kingston on April 16 as they waited to board the three JUTC luxury buses which were to transport them to May Pen where history would be made. This is where they would board the four coaches of the JRC’s trains which would take them through Old Harbour, Spanish Town through Bog Walk, terminating in Linstead before beginning the return journey.
As the buses rolled into May Pen, the brightly coloured trains painted in the colours of the Jamaican flag could be seen making their way to the appointed boarding location. A large crowd was on hand to greet the locomotives and most could scarcely conceal their excitement; after all, this was the first time, many of them were seeing a local passenger train actually transporting people. This is because the trains last operated in Jamaica in February 1992.
At approximately 9:30 am, amidst shouts of ‘good to si d train demagen’, ‘good move Mike’ and ‘d train dem pretty eeh?’ from the animated crowd on hand, the trains rolled out of May Pen for destination Linstead. There were four coaches – ‘The Chairman’s Coach’; ‘The General Manager’s Coach’; ‘The JRC Coach’ and ‘The Clarendon Express’. Refreshments were provided on the trains by Tru-Juice.
As the trains rolled along through the various districts and communities, persons, many of whom were not even born when the trains ceased operations, lined the route to see the trains as it trundled along. Many of them were armed with their cameras and cell phones as they took pictures to mark the historic occasion. Back on the train, the various dignitaries, including Transport and Works Minister Mike Henry, Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Education Minister Andrew Holness along with officials from both the private and public sectors mingled with each other and the other ‘commuters’ on the trains. Persons were either having refreshments from the well stockedTru-Juice bar or just chatting and enjoying the ride. Also going along on the ride were the media who were out in full force, including KOOL FM and POWER 106 who broadcast live from the trains.
Along the way, the trains made stops in Old Harbour and Bog Walk before Linstead where a ceremony was held at the Bread of Life Ministries Church. At each stop, throngs of people greeted the trains, some going as far as to hug and shake hands with the various dignitaries on board the trains. At the ceremony in Linstead, cadets and other uniformed groups ushered the officials to their places as Principal of Dinthill Technical High, Mr. Dennis Clarke School took charge of the proceedings. In his opening remarks, he welcomed everyone to Linstead and noted how pleased he was to be playing hosts to the historic return of the train service.Custos of St. Catherine, Mrs. Sophia Azan extended welcome to all gathered while Rev. Jack Shaw offered prayers. MP for the area, and former Minister of Transport and Works, Robert Pickersgill also spoke and used the opportunity to express his pleasure at seeing the trains roll again but cautioned that the process must be handled properly so that the taxi operators are not made ‘redundant’ by the return of the trains; he also paid tribute to Mr. Owen Crooks, the Managing Director of the JRC for his part in the re-start of the trains. For his part, Minister of Transport and Works, Mike Henry hailed the return of the rail transport and highlighted that work will be done over time to repair the infrastructure associated with the service so that the roll-out can be complete islandwide. Several groups of students representing school from all over the Linstead area performed an array of pieces, inclusive of songs, poems and cheerleading.
Following this, the trains embarked on its return journey, stopping in Spanish Town to have passengers disembark to board JUTC buses to Kingston while the others stayed on board returning to May Pen where the train ultimately terminated its journey.