The International Steam Pages

The Sentinels of Cruzeiro, 2012

Since this was written, the Sentinels at Cruzeiro have finished (21st November 2014).

James Waite has been to the Amsted Maxion factory at Cruzeiro. He reports: 

Three of these 5ft 3in (1600mm) Sentinel locos were delivered to the British-owned São Paulo Railway, works no's 8398-8400. They're generally quoted as having been built in 1931 though the young lady who showed us around told us that the staff had found a 1930 date on one of them. They were SPR no's 166-168. The railway was nationalised in 1946 and became the EF Santos-Jundiai - a name which is perhaps most familiar to those of us who visited the country in the 1960's and 1970's for the remarkable cable-worked inclines with their steam braking locos at Paranaciacaba, between São Paulo and Santos. The locos were sold in 1947 to the Fabrica Nacional de Vagões which had been established in 1945 in Cruzeiro as the country's first major builder of railway wagons. At the time Cruzeiro was an important railway centre and the point where the metre gauge Rede Mineira de Viação line (originally the British-built Rio and Minas Railway) running southwards from Minas Gerais met the EF Central do Brasil 's broad gauge main line between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The RMV was a spectacular line which climbed through the Serra da Mantiqueira on the border between Sao Paulo state and Minas Gerais. Sadly it closed in the 1990's and Cruzeiro is no longer a railway junction though two isolated parts of the line at Passa Quatro and at São Lourenço have been preserved by the ABPF, the Brazilian preservation organisation. The ABPF also have one of their repair facilities in the RMV's old works in the town and, intriguingly, there's still a short stretch of mixed broad and metre gauge track within the factory yard. After various changes in ownership the factory has been run by Amsted Maxion, a heavy engineering business, since 2000. The locos still carry their SPR numbers. No 167 was fitted with a new boiler earlier this year and was in steam when we visited. The interior of the cab, which houses the boiler, was immaculate in every respect. No. 166 was set aside and partially dismantled. No. 168 was the subject of an unsuccessful attempt at the factory to convert it to a diesel and its remains are believed still to be around the site though we didn't see them.

The wagon on the right in the fourth photo is one of the factory's products. The factory no longer builds complete railway wagons but only the parts for them for assembly at another of the company's plants. I don't think that there is any connection with the main line network. The working method appears to be that steel plates are brought to the site by lorry where they are offloaded onto the wagons by crane - after which the loco pushes the wagons inside the plant. We were told that the locos don't see very much use nowadays so we were very lucky to see no. 167 in action.

A few words of advice to anyone thinking of visiting. The company has concerns about industrial espionage. They won't let you take your own camera into their premises but instead lend you one of theirs and then vet your photos before uploading them to you which they did very efficiently the day after our visit.

We were most grateful to Bruno Sanches of the ABPF for all his help in arranging the visit for us and for accompanying us on the day - and also to the company's staff who, like so many people in Brazil, were unfailingly kind and helpful. They're well aware of the heritage value of the locos and, now that no. 167 has been reboilered, it should be operational for a good many years to come.

All the pictures except the last one (166) are of 167, the mixed gauge track can be seen in a couple of the pictures.:

Finally this is the rather sad sight of 166 set aside:

Rob Dickinson