St. John’s Antigua- Betty’s Hope is soon to add another attraction to the twin windmills and displays, as several of the old locomotives that used to traverse the island carrying the canes from the country to the Antigua Sugar Factory will be restored and displayed there.
Lawrence Gameson of T Gameson & Sons Ltd from England will be partnering with the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda, The Betty’s Hope Trust, and the Ministry of Tourism in a project to restore these locomotives.
Public Works Department is also on board with help in collecting and transporting the locos to the Government Mechanics Yard where they will be worked on and once refurbished, to Betty’s Hope.
“This is absolutely the last chance to restore and preserve some of our historic past as we lose so much to the scrap iron collectors, the bush and time,” said Agnes Meeker of the museum board.
“Anyone born after the 1970s has absolutely no conception of the extensive rail lines that used to traverse this land and cannot even envision the locomotives with horn blowing as they crossed an intersection.”
A sample of each type, including steam, gas and diesel, will be restored to their original state as a static display that will become part of the Betty’s Hope experience. Signs will depict the history of each loco and they will be displayed under an open shed on rails set on a bed of rock.
Children will be able to view and interact with these old machines enabling them to learn a bit of history that has disappeared from the face of Antigua.
It is hoped that a fourth locomotive of extreme historical note can be refurbished to actually run on the rails once again. This one, known as ‘The Bessie,” came to Antigua from France after World War I and still has the armour plate with slits for windows.
If it can be made to run again, a short narrow gauge line will be set up along the Betty’s Hope entrance road to give rides to visitors. The length of the line will be determined by how much rail line can be found on the island and the restoration crew will be approaching the public in this regard.
In the near future, the museum will be presenting an evening event to advise the public further on the locomotive project. An audio/visual presentation will depict photographs past and present of the locomotive glory days.
To enhance this presentation, the museum is asking anyone who could talk about their experiences with the old sugar trains, or who may have photographs to add to the presentation, to get in touch with the museum staff as soon as possible.