There have been railways in Cuba longer than in many European countries and Cuba has even had electric railways for over a century.
The first passenger railroad in Latin America was in Cuba, a 37 km line that opened in 1837 between Havana and Bejucal.
In 1843 mules began pulling trams along wood rails between Regla and Guanabacoa, across the bay from Havana. This line added steam locomotives in 1884 and by 1900 had become Cuba's first electric railway. Havana opened its local trolley system in 1901 and its first electric interurban line in 1906.
The Hershey Chocolate Corporation inaugurated its famous electric railway from Matanzas to Casa Blanca, on Havana Bay north of Regla, in 1922. This line still operates from the same station in Havana today and is one of the most reliable lines in Cuba so makes a good excursion.
It may appear that Cuba is ideally served by an efficient train service that could be pre booked, but with an acute lack of investment the reality is somewhat different. Although there are trains linking Havana with Pinar del Rio in the west and Santiago de Cuba in the east, many services, especially the local services, are unreliable and are only really suited to visitors with a lot of time (and patience) on their hands.
For those who still want to catch the train we would recommend that you do so at the start of your holiday; long distance routes are often booked solid days or even weeks ahead. Visitors to the country have to pay fares in Convertible Pesos and must buy tickets at special ticket booths or the ‘LADIS Agency’ found in or near most stations. The Tourism desk at some of the larger hotels will also book tickets. It is best to book long distance services as soon as you arrive.
Please note that if you are depending on the railways as a main method of travel you will need to plan your trip allowing generous amounts of time for delays etc.