The history of the Caribbean Coast of Honduras is the history of railroads in Honduras:
Although railroads in Honduras are a thing of the past, the truth is that there were important factors in the development of the north coast of Honduras. The history of railroads in Honduras is tightly linked to the banana production, and actually boosted the creation of a true Banana Republic. Yes, Honduras was the first and original Banana Republic, and the capital of that Banana Republic was the city of La Ceiba, where the Vacaro Brothers Company had its main headquarters.
The Vacaro Brothers Company owned and operated the railroads in Honduras between the cities of Tela and La Ceiba, as well as the track that went into the Aguan Valley, to the banana plantations in the neighborhood of Saba, Olanchito and Sonaguera. History of this Caribbean coast of Honduras cannot be approached without taking into consideration the railroads in Honduras that boosted the development of this productive area of the country.
The first steam locomotive to enter the city of La Ceiba did so in the year of 1908, and the company continued to operate the railroads in Honduras that were under its jurisdiction as late as 1975, when the military regime under the leadership of general Juan Alberto Melgar unilaterally cancelled the railroad concessions in Honduras. Even after this decree, they continued to manage and operate the railroad under contract from the Government of Honduras until 1983. The demise of the railroads in Honduras began after Hurricane Fifi stuck Honduras in 1974, and destroyed many bridges between the cities of Tela and La Ceiba, thus interrupting the flow of railroads in Honduras on this section forever.
The Government of Honduras had recently finished paving the highway between Tela and La Ceiba, and decided that it did not make any sense to rebuild the damaged railroad.
Twenty four years later, another hurricane, Mitch, destroyed the railroad bridges leading east of La Ceiba towards the Aguan Valley, delivering a fatal blow to the railroads in Honduras.
During the golden ages of railroads in Honduras, the Standard Fruit Company Railroad (the successor of the Vacaro Brothers Company) successfully operated the railroads in Honduras. Interestingly, it was not until the beginning of the 1960’s that all the steam locomotives were taken out of commission and replaced by more modern diesel powered engines.
Today, you can find a small park, located between the offices of the Standard Fruit Company in La Ceiba and the Central Park of that city, where you can see some of the old locomotives and railroad cars that once were the main form of transportation in the region. The park, known as Swinford Park, is almost a small museum depicting the golden era of the railroads in Honduras.
Although today there are no more railroads operating in La Ceiba, the city does have an international airport, a good highway connecting it with the cities of El Progreso and San Pedro Sula to the West and the Tocoa and Trujillo to the east. It also has port facilities that keep daily flow of traffic to the Bay Islands of Honduras. La Ceiba is now positioning itself as a tourism destination with outstanding history, and best of all with some of the best national parks in Central America just outside its urban areas! Come and visit La Ceiba and discover all that it has to offer! La Villa de Soledad B&B is rated the number one bed and breakfast in La Ceiba. Come and experience for yourself the wonders of Pico Bonito National Park and the Cangrejal River Valley!