In the early 1930s, Bermuda welcomed its very own railway. But at just 21 square miles and a population of 20,000, why would the island need a railway to begin with?
In the early 20th century, while other parts of the world were preoccupied with cars, Bermuda made a big decision. With the intention of preserving its peaceful, otherworldly ambiance – an attractive factor for visitors and locals alike – Bermuda banned automobiles between 1908 and 1946.
That left the island with a bit of a problem. If there were no cars, how would visitors be able to experience all that Bermuda had to offer in a convenient fashion? The Bermuda Railway was the answer.
“Old Rattle and Shake”
After almost a decade of planning and setbacks the railway was finally ready to roll on October 31, 1931. Nicknamed “Old Rattle and Shake,” the train ran from St. George's Station in the east to Somerset Station in the west.
It was a bit bumpy, but it was also a lot of fun. The railway spanned the island end-to-end, winding from rugged rocky coastlines to breathtaking backcountry greenery, and provided easy access to such attractions as the Crystal Caves, Elbow Beach and Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.
The Bermuda Railway was popular with locals and visitors – maybe too popular. In 1945, the railway carried 1.5 million passengers, but the costs associated with upkeep meant that it continually lost money. So in the spring of 1948, the Bermuda Railway took its last ride.
Rebirth: The Bermuda Railway Trail National Park
You can’t ride the rails anymore in Bermuda, but you can ride the Railway Trail. It was designated as a National Park in 1986 and is maintained by the Bermuda Parks Department.
Today, 18 of the railway's original 22 miles are accessible to the public, providing an unparalleled way to experience the island's natural beauty and serenity by pedal bike or on foot. The trail is divided into nine sections, ranging between 1 mile and 3 ¾ miles, traversing the parishes of Bermuda. Start from either end or enter at various points along the way. The terrain varies, ranging from flat, paved stretches to sections with steeper slopes and bridges that make cycling more challenging.
You can cover more ground on pedal bike, but be aware that the trail is not continuous. Some sections are interrupted by busy roadway intersections, and along the path itself you may encounter old bridges, steps and other features you'll have to navigate by foot.
As you plan your journey, be sure to leave plenty of time for meandering – and don't forget your camera or smartphone! There are hidden gems to be discovered along the way: intimate beaches, gorgeous flora, panoramic ocean views and fascinating remnants of the railway’s past.
Discover hidden gems along the way: intimate beaches, panoramic ocean views and fascinating remnants of the railway’s past.