The International Steam Pages

Those were the days...  Gregorio Arlee Maņalich Sugar Mill

This is one of a series of pages showing my pictures of Cuban narrow gauge steam at work in the closing years.

Gregorio Arlee Maņalich (Mill 207, 2ft 6" gauge) was the last mill on the island to use working narrow gauge steam . Situated in flat countryside south of Havana, there was constant activity all day particularly the shuttle across the standard gauge main line the short distance to the first loading point. Catching trains from the further loading points required some patience and to be honest the scenery didn't exactly encourage spending much time doing it.

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1306 (Baldwin 2-8-0) was delivered to this mill as #4 and was caught coming off shed on 21st February 1997.

1338 (Baldwin 2-6-0) was a chunky beast and was shunting the patio on 27th February 1996. Behind frustratingly off limits for those interested in what was potentially stationary steam engine mill machinery, the twin chimneys also belch black smoke.

Incoming trains had to be reversed back into the mill after arrival, 1307 (Baldwin 2-8-0), delivered to this mill as #2, performed the manoeuvre on 21st February 1997.

1308 (Baldwin 2-8-0) was the oldest locomotive on the roster. Here it sits outside the shed in a fetching new brown livery on 25th February 1998.

On the same day, 1306 shuffles some empties - the railway control office had a wonderful balcony from which to watch trains and in the closing years the friendly staff were extremely co-operative.

Again on the same day, 1307 performs the reverse for the camera, one of my favourite pictures in Cuba - it was refreshing to see such smartly turned out locomotives although the colour scheme would not have pleased the purists who would have expected and preferred black. After may years of rainbow locomotives in Java, I didn't have such a problem. 

I gave a Cuba a miss in 1999 in favour of extended trips to Burma and China. When I next returned, the locomotives had been repainted in a somewhat impractical pale blue. While most of my visits here like other people's were in the morning, this time I caught 1308  coming in over the flat crossing on 3rd April 2000, this was its centenary year!

Earlier on the same day, 1351 (Baldwin 2-8-0) threaded its way through the standard gauge tracks as it entered the mill yard. This locomotive was first reported by visitors at Hermanos Ameijeiras mill in Villa Clara and was apparently regauged when it was transferred here in the early 1990s.

The short field line to the north of the mill did not offer much in the way of photographic opportunities and the only time I saw a train on it was on 25th February 1998. Here 1307 drifts back to the mill with a short train.

The main field lines lay in the south-west, hardly the best direction for photography with trains most often returning from midday onwards. With a high sun, 1351 roars over a level crossing on the outskirts of Melena del Sur on 21st February 1997.

In yet another paint scheme 1365 headed out for the fields across the standard gauge main line on 4th April 2001.

Its destination was Jicotea loading point. The bullock cart provided some photographic interest as it returned with a short train.

Click here for the 'Those were the days' index page.

Rob Dickinson