In the past, railroads where the reliable form of transportation along the north coast of Honduras. They were the backbone of the economy and developed the Caribbean Coast in Honduras. Cities like San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba grew and become economically active thanks to the railroads. Sadly, today there is not much left of them other than photographs. There are no more railroad tracks, locomotives or wagons to transport passengers or bananas. However, there is still one short railroad track that is still in operation. I am referring to the track between La Union in El Porvenir, Atlantida and the village of Salado Barra. This route provides for a unique train ride in Atlantida!
Yes, it is true that in this XXI century you still get to ride in a funky train when you visit the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge. The boarding station is in the Community of La Union. The trip to Salado Barra takes a short 40 minutes. This route takes you past agricultural and livestock farms. You will also see an old coconut plantation that reminds us of the days when the Vacaro Brothers Company grew and exported coconuts from these same plantations!
As you board the train for your trip, you will find yourself in the company of locals that live in the nearby villages. Of course, you will also find tourists that are headed towards the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge. It is common that foreign tourists carry their binoculars with them. Many are avid birdwatchers in search of some local species they have not yet checked in their birding lists. Remember, Cuero y Salado is a great hot spot for birding, especially for marine and coastal species!
Believe it or not, in this day and age, this unique train ride in Atlantida is the only entrance to Cuero y Salado. There is a walking trail that can be used by motorcycles, but no cars can make it there because there are no bridges. Therefore, it is still the preferred means of transportation for the community members. They use it to go to the market, to go to the doctor or even to go to school. There is an elementary school in the village, but no junior or high school, so they must take the train to continue their education.
There are several reasons why this is a unique train ride in Atlantida. First, it is the last passenger train operating regularly in Honduras. In addition, it is not a regular train with a locomotive and coaches, but rather a self-propelled unit that can pull two or three additional wagons if demand is there. The seats are wooden benches framed with iron and are far from comfortable. Evidently, they are not meant for a long ride. There are no sides on the wagons, which means that they are wide open! However, this makes them ideal for picture taking as well as bird watching.
The tracks come right next to a small cooperative that produces cassava. If you are interested in learning more about how the Garifuna produce this unique “cracker” like food, I recommend the Cassava Tour! Reservations are a must, to insure they are producing when you stop by. Here you can learn about the process and even have a chance at making your own cassava! Truly an interactive activity! For reservations, contact Reservaciones La Ceiba.
Upon arrival to the end of the rail line you will be in Salado Barra. This village is the gateway to explore and enjoy the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge. There are diverse alternatives that you can choose from within the reserve, including spending the night in their basic lodge. By doing so you will increase the chances of seeing the elusive Caribbean Manatee that lives in the refuge. Whatever the case, the memories and experience of this unique train ride in Atlantida will accompany forever! It’s hard to believe that this is all that is left of the magnificent railroad that once connected Sico in Colon with Cuyamel in Cortes.