Ferrocarriles de Guatemala - A Life Chasing Trains



My first visit to Guatemala was in January 1968.  The then IRCA was in its death throws and on strike, so trains were not running and Bryan Whipple and I had to take a bus from the Mexican border to Guatemala City.  We quickly flew to El Salvador where there was plenty of steam on the FES.  But after the IRCA in Guatemala was nationalized in 1969 and became the Ferrocarriles de Guatemala, I returned many times between then and 1980.

In the late 60's it is fair to say that first the IRCA and then Fegua was "steamizing".  The IRCA  for years had been a profitable and very busy railroad, and had succeeded in dieseling its principal trains in the 1950's, with steam relegated to secondary runs.  But as the IRCA fell on hard times (more on that in the "Short history of the IRCA") they did not have the cash to buy imported spare parts for the diesels.   But the well equipped Guatemala City shops and its skilled work force could repair or fabricate about anything needed for a steam engine.  So stored steam engines were repaired and returned to service.

But highway competition was intense and traffic continued to dwindle, so even when the Guatemalan government paid for new diesels, it was too little too late.  By 1980 the railroad was again dieselized, but track was sadly deteriorated and service unreliable.

Fegua ceased regular operation in 1996.