Ferrocarriles de Guatemala.
Nationalization. The government foreclosed on December 27, 1968. The IRCA was in default on its loans from the government, employees had not been paid, and the railroad again idled by a strike. The Guatemala division of the IRCA became the Ferrocarriles de Guatemala (Fegua).
Unlike the Guatemala Division, the Salvador Division had been consistently profitable. The IRCA had taken most of the diesels to El Salvador, and following expropriation in Guatemala IRCA continued to run the lines there for several years, until they too were nationalized in 1975.
Ferrocarriles de Guatemala. Nationalization did not really solve the basic problem, costs exceeded revenues. The Guatemalan government had limited resources, and even after nationalization there was little money for the railroad.
In 1968 it is fair to say that the railroad was "steamizing". The 37 diesels (19 in Guatemala, 18 in El Salvador) had allowed the IRCA to run many of their principal trains with diesels. But diesels required imported spare parts that cost hard currency, whereas the large and well equipped Guatemala City shop and its skilled labor force could manufacture or rebuild almost everything required for a steam engine. As diesels failed, first IRCA and then Fegua returned steam engines to service. By early 1971 the Fegua motive power roster included about 50 active steam engines, only three mainline diesels, and several diesel switchers. The steamers (like the diesels) were by and large worn out, trains ran hours late, and road failures were common.
While the Guatemalan government remained reluctant to spend money on the railroad, with the hated IRCA gone and the railroad falling apart, by 1971 action became not only necessary, but politically expedient. The unions were abolished, money appropriated to provide severance pay to 2,500 excess employees, and 18 new 950 horsepower diesels (900-917) ordered from GE and built under license in Spain. The new diesels did not fully dieselize Fegua, but they relegated steam again to secondary roles. Eight additional big six axle 2000 horsepower diesels came from Montreal Locomotive Words in 1982 to complete dieselization (1001-1008).
But dieselization was too little too late. By the early 1990's the track was sadly deteriorated, and service severely curtailed. Highway competition was intense. Despite an abortive attempt at a privatization process in 1995, Fegua ceased regular operation in 1996.
John B. West
December 1993/updated to March 2009
Copyright 1993-2013 by John B. West, all rights reserved