Hot on the heels of Costa Rica's commuter train between San José  and Heredia  (see my blogpost Costa Rica adds a commuter train to link San José and Heredia ), the government has announced plans to inaugurate an electrified commuter service between the capital city and Cartago , the country's original capital. Yeah!
The plan was announced by Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla  and Miguel Carabaguiaz president of the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles (INCOFER) during a ceremony to receive the independence torch last week. Costing an estimated $13 million, the project will be completed in two phases: First, linking San José's Atlantic station with the outlying town of Tres Ríos; followed by the tracks between Tres Ríos and Cartago.
Repair work on the 23 kilometers of track between San José and Cartago will include building new crossings, sidewalks, etc. Carabaguiaz said the train to Cartago should be running by next year. It will traverse the Ochomogo Pass, where traffic is currently heavy and sometimes congested on the autopista (tollway) that climbs the Cordillera de la Carpintera mountains, east of San José.
A century ago, the rail service between the central highlands and the port cities of Puntarenas  (on the Pacific coast) and Puerto Limón  (on the Caribbean  coast) was active, ferrying coffee and passengers. The Atlantic track to Limón, which was initiated in 1871 and began in Alajuela, was completed in 1890; the Pacific track was begun in 1897 and completed in 1910. Branch lines were added throughout the Atlantic lowlands to serve the banana plantations owned by the United Fruit Company . In the 1920s, the lines were electrified; the first electric train operated between San José and Puntarenas on April 8, 1930.
During the past 50 years, service went into decline. The Pacific train ceased operating, as did the 'Jungle Train' to Limón following a devastating earthquake in 1991 that destroyed much of the track (the train ceased operating in 1995). Here's a fabulous New York Times article on the 'Jungle Train' .
In the past five years, however, INCOFER has been vigorously restoring railway tracks and incorporating new services in an effort, not least, to combat heavy road congestion. First to launch was a diesel commuter train, inaugurated in 2006, that runs east-west across San José, linking the districts of Pavas and San Pedro, covering a distance of 10 kilometers.
In June 2009, a second line was opened connecting San José's Terminal Pacífico and the nearby town of Heredia.
Service to San Antonio de Belén , to the northwest of San José, has also been announced.
For further information about travel in Costa Rica, buy Moon Costa Rica 
If you're traveling only to San José and the Caribbean, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to the beaches of Nicoya, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to Arenal and/or Monteverde, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Arenal & Monteverde  pocket guide.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker