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Railways of old in Manila and Rizal

November 2011


One of the great “what if’s” for public transportation in Metro Manila and its surrounding areas pertains to rail transport that were operated in the Cavite and Rizal provinces prior to the Second World War. The present-day developments along what were railway corridors attest to the viability of these areas for development and it can be argued that rail transport services here could have been a game-changer in as far as public transport is concerned and may have significantly influenced travel preferences and behavior in these areas. These would not be light-rail but heavy-rail services and would certainly have had higher passenger capacities.

Close-up for railway lines from the figure in a previous blog

An even better close-up is provided in the following figure that shows three lines that could have shaped developments to the east and southwest of Metro Manila. These are the Cavite Line, the Marikina Line and the Antipolo Line.

Close-up for Cavite, Marikina and Antipolo Lines of the Manila Railroad Company

Following are the breakdown of stations for the three lines:

  • The Cavite Line stretched from Manila through Paco, Paranaque, Bacoord, Noveleta until Naic in Cavite Province for a total of 44 km. Completed in 1908, it was abandoned in 1936.
  • The Marikina Line started from Rosario (presently in Pasig and along an area still called Tramo) to Montalban via Marikina (where there is still a Daang Bakal) and San Mateo for a total of 31 km. Completed in 1907 (until Marikina in 1906), the entire line was abandoned in 1936.
  • The Antipolo Line started from Manila and passed through Sta. Mesa, Pasig (likely somewhere in what is presently Bagong Ilog), Rosario, Taytay (through present day Cainta) and until Antipolo (near Hinulugang Taktak where there is still a Daang Bakal). Completed in 1908, the line was abandoned in 1917. The alignment from Cainta and Taytay crossed what is now Ortigas Ave. Extension at the Valley Golf gate and stretched along an alignment that appears to have the gentlest slope for a climb to Antipolo.

Clearly, if these lines were not abandoned but instead retained and developed even after World War 2, commuting preferences and behavior in Metro Manila could have been quite different. In fact, people could have chosen to travel by train instead of being dependent on cars. For those residing or working in the south (i.e., Paranaque, Las Pinas, Muntinlupa, towns of Cavite, Laguna and Batangas) maybe people would have a viable alternative to the tollways in those areas. Note that the only operating rail transport in the area is the PNR Commuter Line that is currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Hopefully, its rehabilitation is completed and more passengers patronize the service.

Rizal is presently not served by any railway until perhaps LRT Line 2 is finally extended towards Antipolo via the Marcos Highway corridor. The Marikina-San Mateo- Rodriguez (formerly Montalban) areas are accessible via national roads that are often congested primarily due to paratransit traffic. The more progressive towns of Rizal (Cainta, Taytay, Binangonan and Angono) as well as its capital city of Antipolo is accessible mainly via either Ortigas Avenue or Marcos Highway. Both highways are already quite congested and road widening options are quite limited especially for the heavily traveled Ortigas Ave. One can only imagine now how a rail system could have addressed the travel demand along these corridors and perhaps enhanced the quality of living in these areas.


  1. It’s fun to trace the old Marikina/Montalban line. Using Google Maps, start at the present-day PNR Sta. Mesa station. You can still make out the line occupied by the railways now replaced by houses. Going southeast, it crosses the San Juan River and becomes Sen. Neptali Gonzales St. (I think this was recently renamed and used to be called Daangbakal). It turns southwest towards the Pasig River to turn southeast again and become Private Road, still in Mandaluyong. It traces the banks of the Pasig River becoming Simeon Cruz, crosses EDSA and then becomes Manila Rail Road until it turns north when it reaches C5.

    You can make out the alignment in Bagong Ilog very near C-5 but going northeast until it becomes Valdez St., where it crosses the river and becomes Maldo del Rosario and then C. Raymundo. C. Raymundo used to be called MRR – Manila Rail Road, I used to live on this road. From there it becomes a lot easier to follow. You can also see the Taytay spur line (now GSIS Road and becomes Tramo when it crosses the floodway). The C. Raymundo becomes Tramo after it crosses Ortigas Extension, then F. Mariano Ave., and then Shoe Ave. extension in Marikina, and then Daangbakal, Bagong Silang, GSIS Road, and then Daangbakal again until it reaches the Montalban municipal hall. 🙂

    • d0ctrine says:

      It’s one of the big “what-ifs” for Metro Manila and an example of lack of foresight for our city planners.

      • It is. And it’s a what-if that slightly depresses me. 😦 oh well!

      • mel says:

        well as tragic as what climate change induced disasters are doing to our country, its the silver lining i see…..that people will now begin to choose leaders who have such foresight or vision….well they have to, else what can trapos do in the face of such calamities

    • Wilfrido Montes says:

      Thanks for this Benedict. I was looking for a map that showed the route that the railway traversed from Manila to Antipolo. I reside near Hinulugang Taktak and I understand that the stone posts in the Taktak resort used to be the posts of the train terminal. May I request for a route for this rail way (similar to the route you had made for the Montalban line).

      • Meow says:

        The line did not end at Hinulugang Taktak yet, but at the corner of San Jose St. and Sumulong Circle where the Antipolo Station with it ticket booth still stands today

  2. bryski says:

    I also traced it from Sta. Mesa up to Montalban as well as the old line of Antipolo up to Hinulugang Taktak, and also the line from naic up to manila… it’s kind a long journey just using of today’s Google map, and really amaze and imagining the past… how the old days of Metro are beautiful and more accessible compare of today’s so many roads and highways but congested…

    • d0ctrine says:

      Yup. Imagine the relative distances at the time when there were no highways and vehicles like what we have now. Hopefully, we can build a decent system in the foreseeable future.

  3. Nomer Son says:

    Although described as abandoned in 1936, the Marikina Line was still in operation up to the early Japanese occupation not carrying passengers but hauling freshly cut sugar canes. We lived then in Barrio San Roque and could hear the train whistle and roar passing by the Public School, Marikina Ice Plant and the Tanseco Bungalows from our upstairs Banguera window.

  4. Ian Absalom Letada y Cabuena says:

    There is still hope for these extinct railway lines to be resurrected once again 🙂 Since many of these extinct tracks were converted into neighborhood streets or highways, The Government can actually revive them; lay new rails on these old abandoned routes and bring them back into operation once again (if only the Government willingly prioritizes the reconstruction of these historical railway lines; and also the relocation for squatter families who’d took residence beside those routes).

    • d0ctrine says:

      Much of the lands of the old rail lines to Rizal (to Antipolo and San Mateo) have been titled to other entities. I’m not sure about whether these lands were sold by the MRC/PNR or were unscrupulously titled and sold by local governments. You can still trace them on the map and but what seems to be lots of informal settlers are actually formal dwellers as they have titles to the lands. It will be a big challenge to recover these lands even if the government had the will and resources. Priority-wise, urban transit development options are not limited to reviving these old lines so don’t expect to see discussions on recovering these routes to prosper. They are best considered “extinct.”

      • Ian Absalom Letada y Cabuena says:

        Through this Method, we can revive the Old Manila-Antipolo-San Mateo-Pasig-Marikina Routes that were converted into Town Roads 😀

  5. Allan Hernandez says:

    Hi, I’m Allan Hernandez, an editor at Summitedia. One of our magazines is doing a story on the old rail networks of Manila and Rizal, which you had blogged about previously. Can we email you directly for some questions and leads on primary sources for the story? My email: Would appreciate your help. Thanks!

  6. Kalayo says:

    One has to consider that these lines were abandoned within a few years of operation primarily due to heavy operating and maintenance cost. Not to mention the high incidence of mishaps (we are talking of steep grades after all)

    • d0ctrine says:

      There’s a research group at the University of the Philippines poring over old documents to ascertain just how much these O&M costs were and they have also come across incident reports that they will be mapping along these former lines.

      • Kimberly Jane Arceo says:

        Hi! I’m Kimberly Arceo, a 4th year student of B Landscape Architecture in UP Diliman, and I am currently doing an undergraduate thesis about these former railways. May I know what’s the name of this research group in University of the Philiipines? Would appreciate your help. Thank you!

      • d0ctrine says:

        There are actually two and at least one is ongoing. The on-going one is on Mass Transit in Metro Manila led by the Third World Studies Center. The other is on the old Main Line North stations and is based at your college.

  7. Meow says:

    For the Marikina-Montalban Line stations. Only the galvanized iron structure of Marikina station building still exists, it even does not look like a station unless you will find a old photo of Santa Mesa station having the same materials as Marikina.

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