The Colin Hudson Great (Barbados) Train Hike

The Great Train Hike was conceived by Dr. Colin Hudson and the first official walk was on 1st June 2003.  This was the only official Train Hike that Colin did as he died in February the following year.   The Great Train Hike was renamed The Colin Hudson Great Train Hike in 2004 to mark the valuable contribution Dr. Hudson made to thousands of people in Barbados and the world.  In 2005 the date was moved to February and is held annually on the third Sunday in February.

The Barbados railway ran from 1883 to 1937.  Unfortunately the railway was plagued with financial issues throughout its existence which led to its eventual demise in 1937.

Barbados Railway
Barbados Railway taken from Algernon Aspinall CMG: The Pocket Guide to the West Indies – 1923 edition, Sifton, Praed & Co. Ltd., 67 St. James’s St. London SW1.

The route of The Colin Hudson Great Train Hike follows the Barbados Railway abandoned rail track that went from Bridgetown to Bell Plain.  Along the way you pass through the St. George Valley, passing Constant, Bulkely, Windsor. Then you get to Carrington, Busy Park, Three Houses and Fortescue in St. Philip.

After you reach the coast the trail goes north along the very scenic East Coast through Bath, Martins Bay, Glenburnie, Bathsheba, Cattlewash and ends at Bell Plain. These were all train-stations where people and cargo could be taken on.

At the end is the Sand Dunes Restaurant where a welcome beer and meal can be had. There is a bus route back to Bridgetown.

Postcard view of a passenger train at Bathsheba station on the Barbados Railway
Postcard view of a passenger train at Bathsheba station on the Barbados Railway

The distance is approximately 40Km and takes between 3 and 6 hours. The last part along the East Coast road is probably the hardest. This is 5Km of hot tarred section and by the time most get there it past midday.

It is essential that every one carry +1 litre of water and snacks. Water provided at some of the stations but this should not be relied on especially in the last 20Km. Good comfortable walking shoes are needed. A cell phone can be useful as most of the route is away from houses and pay phones. There are shops in Bath, Martins Bay and Bathsheba that sell cold drinks and food, which is welcome to the hungry walkers.

The walk officially starts at 6am but many experienced walkers start at 5am and some even earlier. This is to beat the hot sun later in the day.

A selection of Barbados Railway Photos posted by Anthony Hinds and others in the Facebook Group: Old Time Photos Barbados.  You can click on the the thumbnail images to see a full-size photo.

For further information on the Colin Hudson Memorial Hike that takes place annually on the third Sunday in February please contact the Barbados Hiking Association:

Links to the Barbados Railway:

The history of the Barbados Railway courtesy of the St. Nicholas Abbey Historic Railway (SNAHR)

The St. Nicholas Abbey Historic Railway (SNAHR) uses a 2 foot 6 inch narrow gauge track. The Barbados Railway also used a narrow gauge track that was initially a 3 feet 6 inch gauge that was later changed to a 2 feet 6 inch gauge. For comparison a standard gauge railway is 4 foot 8 1⁄2 inches.

Narrow gauge 3 ft 6 track was developed by Norwegian Railway Engineer Carl Abraham Pihl as a way of reducing the cost of building a railway. Pihl through his international travels convinced other rural countries to build cheaper narrow-gauge systems, and the 3 ft 6 in system soon became one of the major systems in the world; many British colonies and dominions such as South Africa, Queensland, Canada, Newfoundland and New Zealand opted for the gauge and also Asian countries such as Indonesia, Japan, Philippines and Taiwan.

Narrow gauge 2 ft 6 track was developed by British Railway Engineer Everard Calthrop for the Barsi Light Railway in India. The Barbados General Railway opened in 1883 as a 3 ft 6 in gauge railway from Bridgetown to St Andrew. By 1889, the railway and its rolling stock was in very poor condition. Further, much of the railway had been constructed with rail too light for the locomotives. A new company The Bridgetown & St Andrew Railway was established in 1889 to rebuild and operate the railway, and Calthrop was engaged as consulting engineer. Calthrop arranged for the railway to be rebuilt in 2 ft 6 in gauge, and had Baldwin Locomotive Works build four new locomotives, two 2-8-2T’s, a 2-6-0T and an 0-6-0T.

In 1905 the railway again failed and was taken over by a third company The Barbados Light Railway Co. That too failed in 1915 and in 1916 the Barbados Government took over the railway which operated until it was finally closed down in 1937.

Response to “The Colin Hudson Great (Barbados) Train Hike”

  1. Andrew Simpson

    Great compilation of our train history. Thanks.

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