Development of Railroads in Guatemala and El Salvador, 1849-1929

Author: Ross, Delmer G.
This study deals with the planning, construction, and early operation of the railroad network of these two Central American nations. The network was unique in Central America because the majority of it was eventually taken over, completed, and operated by International Railways of Central America, a subsidiary of an American concern, the United Fruit Company. This pioneer study explains in considerable detail how all of this occurred, from the first few miles of track laid to the completion of the final international network link. Based on a mix of primary and secondary sources, published and unpublished, the narrative notes how progressive thinkers saw railroads as a way to improve the economies of the nations involved. This volume brings together in a single coherent study much material that is often mentioned only in passing in other volumes, if it is mentioned at all. Illustrations.


“. . . Dr. Ross brings to this project a vast cosmos of railroad history and lore, all thoroughly founded on his extensive, in-depth knowledge and understanding of the history, culture, economics, and language of those five pivotal states of Central America. . . . The writing is clear and succinct. . . . the pictures that accompany the text can only be described as superb. . . These pictures amplify, elaborate and explain the text visually so that any railroad buff will almost hear and smell the ambiance of a Central American railway in action. . . . The bibliography is impressive and will be of inestimable value to students of Latin American history.” – Frederick G. Hoyt

“A review of the bibliography reveals extensive research of innumerable sources, including many unpublished documents and personal interviews with knowledgeable individuals over a period of twenty-five years. The author’s obvious intent to create awareness and interest in the difficult processes necessary to accomplish significant undertakings in highly volatile political conditions is fulfilled. Details of costs and conditions of contract are thoroughly covered, as are reasons for and results of compliance or noncompliance. The work is extremely comprehensive, its detail will be thoroughly appreciated by historians and railroad fans alike.” – Jim Carroll

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Foreword; Preface
1. Transportation Problems and an Early Railway Proposal
2. William Nanne and the Guatemala Central Railroad
3. Beginning the Northern Railway
4. Progress on the Northern Railway
5. Completing the Interoceanic Railroad of Guatemala
6. The Occidental Railway
7. The Ocós Railway
8. The Iztapa Branch
9. The Salvador Railway
10. Two Port Railway Projects
11. Origin and Proposed Route of the Pan American Railway
12. From Retalhuleu to Santa Maria Junction
13. The Coatepeque-Caballo Blanco and Pan American Links
14. To the Frontier of El Salvador
15. The Pan American Railway in El Salvador
16. The End of the Line
17. Secondary Railways, Industrial Lines, and Tramways
18. A Perspective
Appendix – Tables; Bibliography; Index