The International Steam Pages
Steam in Cuba 1998
This report is a compilation of a number of reports including mine. Thanks to Roland Beier, Christoph Oboth, Terry Bagworth, Ted Talbot, Steen Nielsen, Tim Murray, Graham Knight and Bill Alborough. Any errors are, of course, my responsibility. It is not too late to let me have additional information which can easily be slotted in. (Minor additions and corrections made 15th, 20th July 1998).
It is intended for those readers who are familiar with the Cuban mills and if you are contemplating a first visit you should read the extended 1997 mill by mill report. Please remember that at most mills, not all serviceable locos are steamed every day, of those reported in steam throughout the season maybe only 50% will be in steam on any given day. (In contrast to Java where virtually all locos are steamed every day.)
Most visitors agreed that the unsettled weather caused problems with the harvest. Many mills were short of cane and a number of mills were closed for the season. I felt that the average level of presentation of the locos (with one or two honourable exceptions) was well down this year. It was also a bad year for centenarians and not a single one was reported in steam. Minaz in Havana (offices in La Rampa) issued permits (12-24 hours notice is all you need) to visit specific mills at U$10 per head per mill. The system worked well with mills expecting their visitors and making them welcome. On a sour note there were several thefts from visitors, generally of the 'opportunist' nature.
Trinidad tourist train
1551 was located failed in Trinidad FCC station in March, very small and on the edge of the city. The report says "The loco looked OK so may be a plug or firebox problem, 2 superb coaches, all very sad, a total lack of management to get some staff from Pepito or Ramón to examine it and sort the thing out. "A June visitor added "Last week I saw this engine fully serviced and was advised that had I arrived at 7:00AM it could have operated. Perhaps $50.00 U.S. would have done the trick "Has anyone ever photographed this in action?
Parque Lenin, Habana
Certainly operating on Sundays in February and March. #3 and #1 were seen working the passenger train. We saw departures at 11.00 and 12.00 and the train took the best part of the hour to make its way round the circuit.
Few visits here.1302, 1704 and 1705 reported serviceable and used from time to time with diesels doing much of the work.
This mill was rightly very popular with visitors.1210, 1350, 1382, 1404 and 1405 were all seen in steam at various times, with one loco at work on each of the north and east lines, but unfortunately they were very grubby.
This isolated mill was working normally.1103, 1401, 1662 and 1703 were all seen working but 1501 was not used..
I believe this mill was closed this year, but did not confirm this. Of course there are no steam locos here any more.
109 Orlando Nordarse
This mill appeared closed for the season - some at least of its cane will have gone to mill 105.
1303, 1707, 1803, 1804 and 1805 were reported in use. From late February the mill was due to be closed for at least 2 weeks with inter-mills operating from here and mill 210 Osvaldo Sanchez to mill 203 Hector Molino. However, no-one actually seems to have bothered to observe these!
All operations are diesel. One loco (presumed 1506) was seen stored out of use.
Minaz would not issue us a permit as they said the mill was closed. However, another group was allowed in and found just 1603 in steam for an inter-mill (which one was not stated). The small tank locos were not working.
All locos had been repainted in an extremely attractive red-brown livery. Standard gauge 1402 was regularly shunting hoppers and although 1403 had also been repainted, shed staff said it needed major repairs before it could run again.
On the narrow gauge it has been reported in World Steam that much of the narrow gauge system south of the mill was out of use. However, visitors to the mill area found it busy including the short line to the north between the shed and mill. Locos seen in steam were variously 1306, 1307, 1338, 1351, 1358 with 1365 under repair.
This is another mill that was reported closed for the season. Surprisingly we saw 1364 in steam and others reported similarly.
No-one reported activity at the Fenix LP during the season. 1207, 1311, 1411, 1502, 1605 were all seen working. As in 1997, there were no restrictions on photography around the patio.
This was a major disappointment compared to previous years - the combination of the arrival of diesel 51031 and lack of cane made for a very low level of steam activity. 1510, 1711, 1806 were seen at work, but not 1606.
1517 seen in steam for working to the nearby LP. There was at least one caboose here (and 2 diesels) from mill 313 Seis De Agosto so perhaps that mill was not working this year?
A much better year than 1997 with no diesel in sight. 1513, 1515, 1593, 1607, 1620 and 1716 were regular performers and the large number of visitors came away well satisfied.
We did not visit this mill, but were consistently told by other visitors that no steam was working out on the line. However, one group found 1519 and 1714 at work in the mill area.
This mill was closed for the season, on 21st February 1998, all locos were locked in the shed and a diesel hauled cane train from the mill was seen in nearby Union de Reyes, believed headed for mill 306 Cuba Libre.
1410, 1610, 1612 and 1808 all seen working by visitors. As always the lines through Navajas provided plenty of afternoon activity.
Not many visitors here. 1414, 1529 and 1812 (from mill 318 Victoria de Yaguajay) working. Centenarian 1413 was more or less complete although most cab fittings were still missing....
Working normally although the locos had lost their supershine condition. 1122 as pilot with 1415, 1530 and 1531 reported on the line.
Another less popular mill. 1618, 1524 seen as pilot. 1594 from mill 318 Victoria de Yaguajay and 1313 from mill 312 Fructroso Rodriguez are still here.
Only two visits reported with just 1534 and 1807 in steam.
Probably the least pleasant mill to visit in Cuba. Variously 1520, 1614 and 1646 seen in use in the mill and nearby loading points. 1123 shunting occasionally.
1321, 1322, 1345, 1355 reported at work by all visitors (did 1221 or 1320 work this year?). Many people find the attitude of a minority of the staff who demand money for smoke etc objectionable. The mill was very busy with cane coming in from mill 413 Espartaco and mill 431 Ramón Balboa which were closed for the season.
1538 and 1724 reported in use for pilot work.
Not many visitors this year but 1539 and 1755 (not active in recent years) at least working.
1224 and 1540 were found dumped about 200 yards east of the mill. On 27th February 1998, the mill was found closed, apparently for the season.
The mill was working taking cane from mill 424 Primero de Mayo. 1623, 1625 and 1629 variously seen in steam at the mill but no reports of line working. 1543 and 1545 were here from mill 424 Primero de Mayo and appeared to be working intermills together with a class 37 diesel.
WS 98/3 reports that this mill was closed for the season.
On 5th March 1998, all locos were found locked in the shed with the mill closed for the season.
Few visitors found much happening here. Certainly we found 1334 and 1420 in steam and 1420 went out on the line, but several others found no locos in steam at all.1333 was another 'runner'. Simón Bolivar locos were found working to this mill.
424 Primero de Mayo
The mill was closed for the season with 1544 and 1848 under repair. 1543 and 1545 were mainly stationed at mill 409 Antonio Sánchez sharing inter-mills with diesels, although one reporter found 1545 working from 'home' to the LP just north of the Autopista in January.
Just one visit, 1547 was pilot with 1548 cold. Repairs to 1823 were progressing slowly, it may make the 1999 season but 2000 looks more likely.
1816 in bright red had apparently worked itself in from Sagua la Grande, but was under repair with piston and valves stripped down for most of the season LD Porta was expected at some stage and staff had a target of March 20th to get the loco running again. 1343, 1426, 1429, 1549 all working as normal but 1342 was under major repair. It certainly was working trains in May and was being tested in July.
As before 1645 looked useable on 27th February 1998.
Found closed for the season on 1st March 1998.
On 27th February 1998, 1626 was cold on shed but had clearly been used recently.
1373 and 1667 shared pilot duties during the season.
Found closed for the season on 1st March 1998.
1634 shunting with line work diesel.
Much busier than in recent years with the mill working and taking cane from mill 437 Carlos Caraballo. Most of the latter workings were diesel but some short workings used mill 440's locos. 1635, 1637, 1850 and 1910 were all regular performers for the crowds who visited and the AutoPista shot must be in just about everyone's collection by now.
1661 was found under repair on 1st March 1998.
With Espartaco closed this mill attracted more attention from visitors. 1236, 1337, 1357 and 1358 were all seen working. The 'back line' leaving the south side of the mill got some deserved attention from visitors in addition to the more accessible shorter lines to the north of the mill.
WS 98/3 reports that this mill was closed for the season.
This mill was closed for the season. 1360, 1362 and 1367 were seen in steam, for working the mill lines and the intermills to mill 418 Odbulio Morales. While there may have been 'specials' up the hill, I have seen only one report of a normal working this year (in January).
1563, 1732, 1836 and 1837 were found working as normal, there being considerable day-to-day variation in activity.
1564, 1578 (ex mill 603 América Libre), 1821 and 1904 working. The other new arrivals 1461 (ex mill 603) and 1680 (ex mill 623) were being worked on. 1649 is indeed a write-off and with the new locos more or less serviceable it is unlikely that repairs to 1817 will get a high priority. No-one seems to have spent very long here this year but presumably line workings were much as before.
1838 reported at work here but few visitors.
Just one visit reported with fireless 1169, 1170 and 1172 'in steam'.
1826, 1827, 1829, 1830 and 1834 were all seen at work by visitors. Not very easy to track down the locos here but the World Steam map was a great help! Note that it is not very accurate on the south west side. The airport is actually on the new ring road west of the mill and this ring road seems to carry on to the west of the main line to the edge of Ciego (i.e. there is one road too many marked in this area). The new roads (and the airport) seem to have been built for the hordes of tourists en route to Cayo Coco. This mill seems (deservedly) to have had more attention from visitors who seem to have been well satisfied with what they found.
This mill is on the east side of Moron and staff here confirmed there was no steam on 3rd March 1998.
1657, 1741 and 1902 were reported as working, with 1657 the pilot loco. Two class 71 diesels under repair here were said to be for the use of the mill. They would be too heavy for the field lines but presumably the displaced class 37 and class 38 diesels would not be. Again, like mill 504 this was probably working as before but I have seen few detailed reports of line operation this year. One visitor was told 1742 had been 'cut up', has anyone seen it lately?
As has been widely reported this mill did not start until early March. I have had no reports to suggest other than it was working normally thereafter.