The International Steam Pages

Those were the days... Mal Tiempo Sugar Mill

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

I have very mixed memories of Mal Tiempo (Mill 403, 2'6" gauge). In the early days, the crews here were a delight and I well remember the kindness of some of the staff when we had car problems. Alas, the tour groups turned the place into a circus and in latter days the crews (like their daughters in nearby Santa Clara) understandably decided to make the most of the opportunities presented them and make as much money as they could... In particular, there was a very pleasant, but not very accessible, bridge over a stream some way out and this proved a very lucrative venue for enterprising enginemen.  

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A trio of Baldwin 2-8-0s, 1321, 1320 and 1322, sits outside the shed on 17th February 1996, my first view of this system.

Shortly after 1320 prepared to take a train out into the fields.

We were back a couple of days later on 19th February 1996, and caught 1322 taking out some morning empties.

With the sure knowledge of Chris and Steve's experience here, there was plenty of time to get down to near the end of the line near Potrerillo to see the train arrive - smokebox first workings in both directions were a feature here with triangles to turn on both midway and at the end.

The line was built through undulating hills and the locomotives had to work hard, 1355 (Baldwin 2-8-0) was caught charging along in the afternoon of 9th March 1997.

A day before, 1345 (Baldwin 2-8-0) was working a midday train, the grazing bullocks would most likely have found work bringing in the cane, which unusually was mainly hand cut in this area.

By 5th March 1998, some discretion was needed to get authentic pictures. I waited behind a tree to photograph 1355 as it made the final climb towards the mill.

For some reason their locomotives had burner pans set very low. This was the first occasion when I literally felt the earth move as 1355 came by on full power on 17th February 1996.

On the afternoon of 4th April 2000, Roland Beier and I waited outside Potrerillo for 1320. Just as the train approached, we were 'spotted' and speed was reduced to a crawl... We quietly left and went home. 

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

Rob Dickinson