The International Steam Pages

Steam in Negros 1997

Johannes Müller reports on his March 1997 visit:

Central Azucera de la Carlota. La Carlota 914mm

Steam traction was at a very low ebb here, normal working having gone diesel. During my visit on 3rd march 1997, only one 0-6-2 107 was in steam to be used as stand-by engine, it stood at the beginning of a row of other machines which looked somewhat rusty and obviously hadn't been in use for quite some time. However, they were claimed to be serviceable: 104, 108, 100. 105, 106 5 and 6 were present on site but dead. Thus the former steam shed was largely used as a kind of scrap yard.

The sugar central is undergoing a process of modernisation at the moment. A new boiler was being installed and due to further rationalisation, the work force is to be reduced from 1100 to 800. Dieselisastion obviously has to be seen in this context. A visit was arranged on the spot. We had to register with security and show our passports, then photography of the steam locos only was allowed.

Victorias Milling Company, Victorias 610mm

On my visit on 5th March 1997, of the once large fleet of steam locos just five were left at the compound. Nos 2-H, 6-H and 8-H stood next to the shed. They hadn't moved for quite some time with plants growing on them and I doubt they are still serviceable, although this was claimed by the personnel. 4-h, however, standing on a track next to them did look so. No. 5-H was stored at a separate small shed and I was told that it was last steamed for use in weed destroying and that it would be regularly steamed for visiting parties.

A visit to the mill ca, despite the demise of steam, be recommended. People are very friendly and open. In order to obtain a permit it is just necessary to fill in a form, then one can roam freely around the mill and yard. For a nominal fee (ca 50p) a conducted visit to the mill itself is possible. The capacity of the mill is 18 000 tone sugar per day, although around 10 000 tons are the normal quantity, resulting in the production of 1250 tons of refined sugar. Work force is around 4000 and the track length was given as 357km.

Hawaiian Philippine Company, Silay 914mm

Best of all was, as ever, the Hawaiian Philippine. Although there is now a fleet of 7 diesels for going into the fields plus one small for shunting, there was no reduction in steam activity. I noted 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 in use, 2 and 9 were not in use standing in the depot. Standard haulage for the steam locos is 40-45 cars with 5 tons from the fields in the plain. Due to the inadequate braking system of the steam locos, the few tracks with gradients into the hills are exclusively worked by diesels. At the time of my visit in the early afternoon of 7th March 1997, the locos were already coming in from the fields, proceeding to the yard and then pushing their loaded trains to the crushers in the mill. Two at a time were busy exchanging loaded and empty trains between the mill and the cane car unloading point, which is situated 2km away on the turn off from the main road, one of several such points.

This procedure will be ended next year when an installation will be built within the mill compound, enabling trucks to unload directly. It will, however, not necessarily mean a reduction in railway or steam activity, as this measure is to be carried out in conjunction with the increase in capacity of the mill from 6 500 to 9 000 tons per day. According to the dispatcher, there are no plans to withdraw the steam locos and their use will continue for a couple of years, chiefly because of the cheap bagasse.

For a visit to the mill, it is recommended to contact first the tourist officer of Silay City at the mayor's office, which is situated behind the large church. The tourist office in Bacolod City can give directions. Silay tourist office will contact the mill to arrange admission on an individual basis. As well as photography of the engines, a footplate ride was allowed by the dispatcher at the depot. Silay City itself is worth a few hours' visit as this small city can offer a complete ensemble of nice colonial architecture. Shops and a basic hotel are also available and Silay with its quiet friendly atmosphere is much more rewarding than dusty, noisy and polluted Bacolod City.

Rob Dickinson