Sweet Hershey, Cool Cuba

Casablanca May 14th 2012

If its railway or tram nostalgia you are looking for then Cuba’s Hershey Electric Railroad has it all. “Practically all of its rolling stock, running gear and overhead power distribution is pretty much the same equipment repaired or rebuilt as it was installed in 1922. “Hershey is the last most original and complete interurban rail transport system in the World” says SOLIDEA’s Steve Walker.

“One of our investors asked us to look for something special in the Caribbean and to show them how Renewable Energy Investment might meet Ecotourism, at least half way, SOLIDEA were asked to look for projects with steady future investment streams”.

SOLIDEA needed to find an electrical distribution network to invest in, preferably one which would be ideal for small renewable energy networks of CHP+PV together. “We think Hershey fits the bill for Ecotourism, with our biomass technology we can make energy CO2 free, we add benefit to the local communities who grow lots of biomatter using the existing agriculture infrastructure whilst preserving local culture, and lets face it, Hershey’s interurban is the definitive sustainable product” Says Walker “Cuba and Hershey is pretty cool with tram train tourism and its growing army of enthusiasts from all over the world”.

Hershey is an electric railroad network of some 137km it forms one part of Cuba’s East West main line and now four branch lines Playas Del Est, Jaruco, Bainoa [to Caraballo] and Santa Cruz del Norte these lines are either in use or could be serviceable in future. Unfortunately the Cojimar branch was closed in 1957 it was dismantled and is lost forever.

Since the construction of the interurban the Hershey railroad has become a critical part of the Cuban National Railroad it providing the only connection from Havana Casablanca in the East to the Port of Mantanzas in the West.

“Cuba has a very exceptional railroad history” Says Walker “Ferrocarilles de Cuba is steeped in history and is actually one of the worlds oldest railway lines being established in 1837. Cuban railway services predate any other in South America, Asia or the Orient. Despite being under Spanish rule Cuba actually had a railway service before many European countries including Spain”.

For most of its existence Hershey never entered the Capital Havana it actually stopped at the Port of Casablanca and passengers took the ferry. This occurred because of the rivalry between the British United Railroad who were adamant the interurban should never be allowed into the City. Hershey finally delivered its first passengers into Havana in 1992 after a makeshift extension with diesel engine.

“The Hershey is very much a living project as its is in constant use” Says SOLIDEA’s Dr. Janusz Przeorek “We have a lot of railway overhead power line competence, and the  enthusiasm for this type of nostalgia is very strong within our group for such a project. There are many other successful renewable energy projects that use sugar cane for biomass gassification and to produce CHP, it gives us every confidence to invest in such a project”.

After Paris Cuba was the first Country to embrace the electric tram railway introducing overhead electrification line in six cities and the worlds first battery powered tram lines in five of its cities between 1915 and 1918. It was the clean electrification of trams that inspired Milton Hershey to develop a full scale electric interurban railway from Steam in 1918 and Hershey was fully electrified integrated completed infrastructure as it is today for both passengers and transporting sugar cane by 1922.

Years 2020 and 2022 are the 100 years birthday of the Hershey they also coincide with significant global deadlines of the Kyoto Protocol. “Ten years from now energy awareness and environmental conservation will have come of age so will Hershey; it should be our aim to have the Hershey  interurban both fully restored and beyond renewable Zero Net Energy“. Says SOLIDEA’s Steve Walker ” The Hershey can be made to move local passengers and goods but it can also put Cuba and its sugar industry back to work. We would develop significant renewable energy along side Hershey and use the Hershey infrastructure to distribute all the way to the Capital”.

Milton S Hershey 1857 – 1945

A young Milton Hershey graduated from confectionery school in the Mid West United States in 1873 his first candy store fell into receivership in 1879, after another unsuccessfully start in New York and in 1881 Milton returned to Pennsylvania to found Lancaster Caramel. 8 years later and at the start of the 1900’s Hershey sold this firm for 1m USD [26m USD today] and with determination he set out to build the worlds largest chocolate empire.

Milton wrote home how he fell in love with Cuba on his first trip in 1916. Immediately acquiring his own sugar plantations to start an empire which would eventually support 5 of the world largest sugar mills. Hershey’s Cuban empire was centered around what is now called Camilo Cienfuegos after the rebel leader and Cuban Hero or Hershey Central, Milton’s railway in Cuba like the one back in Pennsylvania was built with the purpose of efficiency getting Hershey’s workers to Hershey Central and Hershey sugar to the ports.

Hershey employees were provided comfortable homes, parks, a stadium and he built an orphanage, hospitals and schools. President Machado awarded Milton Hershey The Grand Cross of the National Order of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Cuba’s highest order for his contribution to Cuba and its people. The Hershey empire in Cuba was sold to the Cuban Atlantic Sugar Company in 1946 shortly after Milton’s death

The Hershey ideology lives on in Cuba today and SOLIDEA believe that this legacy can again be responsible for bettering the lives of so many Cuban’s as well as building the sugar cane and solar powered renewable energy Cuba of the future.

“We feel we are at the dawn of a big renewable adventure not just an investment in anther project we are enthusiastic because so many other people are so very enthusiastic” Says SOLIDEA’s Dr. Janusz “We are looking forward to doing what we do best and so joining new partnerships and investors in Cuba to make the Hershey Interurban a truly great renewable energy railway for generations to come”.

About Steve

Over 20 years in Real Estate and Energy Project Development
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