The train was such a wonderful way of transport for a country like Costa Rica. Costa Rica does not have any heavy industries at all, but for a few agro-industries, so everything is important, which makes the two ports in Costa Rica very important.
Driving in Costa Rica is easy to learn without getting scared and by reading my blogs about what can happen at the traffic light, no passing zones, the road obstacles, the different sidewalks, what to do when you have an accident and how we drive over the dead, you will be aware of the dangers.
Coffee and bananas were the main export products and almost everything that is shipped in and out of Costa Rica went through to the ports of Limon (Atlantic) and the port of Caldera (Pacific). Before containers became fashionable, everything was transported by train, a situation that has now changed tremendously.
Before that happened, there was still space in the streets on San Jose, Cartago, Alajuela and Heredia. Now you can get hit by a train, if you are not aware there is one.
You can get hit by a train in Costa Rica in two ways:
1. Do NOT stop on tracks, watch before you make a turn and don’t drive with earplugs so you can hear the train honk.
2. Before you purchase Costa Rica real estate, make sure the property is not invading the railroad tracks and setbacks. Check the survey and measure the property. If you’re unsure, hire a surveyor.
Don't hit the railroad track
The train is coming
Ding ding ding ding ding….. the train is coming. Didn't we all grow up with that sound? Where I come from, trains come through fast so you don’t even want to try to get across to gain a couple of minutes. Besides, the railroad crossings are all well protected by all kinds or railroad crossing signals like flashing lights, the ding ding ding sound and the boom barrier that closes so you can’t get across.
I have spoken in other blogs about culture bumps. Well, one of them is that quite a few more Ticos than you would expect think the boom barrier at the railroad crossing is only a bump and why not try to drive around it. Most railroad crossings look abandoned on first sight and although the train makes a lot of noise honking his way through, you better be careful if you have to make a sharp turn over a railroad crossing and check first if the train is coming or not.
Be careful when you make that turn across the railroad track
Thankfully the trains in Costa Rica do not speed; they’re more like a tram. Especially in some parts of San Jose, the tracks go crisscross through the streets. In Heredia, there are some streets where the tracks take up most of the road. AND, the tracks are sticking out quite a bit as shows in the photo of the bus who tried to get across.
Trains don’t run outside the Central Valley, except for the Jungle Train that goes from San Jose to Limon, check it out if you’re in for an adventure. You will find unused tracks everywhere in the ports of Puntarenas and Limon and between those cities and San Jose.
In Costa Rica, the railroad has always been run by a governmental institution, Incofer. Costa Rica’s President Jose María Figueres shut down the heavily indebted railway in June 1995, when at the time the railway transported 729,000 tons of steel, corn, wheat and bananas annually. Many governments did not invest a penny in the railroad system for years, which was totally abandoned. The immediate consequences of this shutdown were the increase of trailers on the roads to over 4,000 and most have to go through San Jose to get to another city.
In 2009, during the 2nd Oscar Arias administration, the trains started running again, but now only for passenger transport, starting from San José to Pavas and Curridabat, and then to Heredia and Cartago, and soon to go to Alajuela, as soon as they’re able to re-build.
There is no ding ding ding ding
Costa Rica real estate and the railroad
The hardest part to get the commuter train running and to keep it running was the abandoned railroad tracks. The railroad track is on public domain, but many home owners who had taken advantage of the disappearance of the institution running the railroad, added that land to their back gardens. I have seen property for sale where the railroad tracks had totally disappeared and a wall built on the other side of the track to add the land to their patio. Of course their formal plot map did not show this land to be included in their property.
When Incofer reinstated the railroad, they had to start building from scratch everything that is needed to build a track. In Curridabat for example, you will find condominiums that were built (and sold to unsuspecting owners) who now have a noisy train run right behind their house. In some smaller locations, the building that was the train station were taken over by squatters and turned into pulperías and homes.
Today’s lesson: Driving in San Jose is something that most of us need to get used to, unless you’ve driven in Paris or Rome. Watch out for the railroad tracks when driving. If you are in the market to purchase Costa Rica real estate, use a GoDutch realty agent, so you won’t be paying for a piece of railroad track.
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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. I know you all meet people on the plane, in the supermarket, at yoga, at the gym, at the Blooms ladies club, at the potluck organized by your community. Please remember the GoDutch Realty agents when you talk about your home in Costa Rica, when you meet someone who wants to purchase one, we appreciate it.