The International Steam Pages

Steam in Cuba, December 1999 - April 2000

These are the individual reports for Zafra 2000 - they have now been distilled into a summary report if you do not wish to read what is a very long document. The loading point names will be found on the maps in World Steam and on our CD-ROM 'Zafra'. Pictures are available as follows:

Alan W Beard and Peter A G Michie report: on their trip - Saturday 11th March -- Sunday 26th March

All travel arrangements and reservations booked through:

Regent Holidays (UK) Limited
15 John Street, Bristol BS1 2HR
TEL: 0117-921 1711
FAX: 0117-925 4866

A very enjoyable and productive trip. Fly/drive format as per 1999

Special thanks to Christine Gibbons at Regent Holidays for her very professional service

Flights by Air France via Paris CDG (Peter to/from Manchester):
11.3 AF 1171: London Heathrow (9.15) - Paris Charles de Gaulle (11.25) 25 mins late
11.3 AF 3486: Paris Charles de Gaulle (16.40) - Havana (20.55) on time
25.3 AF 3487: Havana (22.50) - Paris Charles de Gaulle (14:40) 165 mins late
26.3 AF 2570: Paris Charles De Gaulle (19.30) - London Heathrow (19.40) on time
I was originally scheduled to fly back from Paris on AF 1970 at 16.00, but, late Havana flight prevented this connection. Once again, luggage failed to turn up at Heathrow (as per 1999). Followed on next day

Car hire by Havanautos:
Toyota Tercel (4-door). Smooth running and fast machine. Boot just adequate for 2 big cases.
Three punctures (plus a flat by sad youth at Osvaldo Sanchez!) spoilt a faultless performance.
T002655 replaced by T002741 at Holguin. (Keys locked in car require forced entry! ie break window).
Total kilometres driven = 3,791.

All railways are standard gauge, except where stated. Key: LP = Loading Point

105 - Augusto Cesar Sandino 3ft gauge system

Sunday, 12th March: Mill working, but few or no trains running. 1350 (BLW 2-8-0) and 1404 (ALC 2-8-0) in steam on shed at 8.50. (We proceed to Pablo). Former loco being fired up on shed at 16.50, but no sign of any footplate crew. Latter loco completely devoid of markings. (We have to drive to airport to have punctured tyre replaced).

Monday, 13th March: 1350 ready to leave mill yard on empties at 8.50. 1404 dead on shed. (We proceed to Pablo). 1350 arrives at mill with loaded train at 13.25. Returns quickly off to collect 2nd portion, arriving at 13.40. 1404 lit up on shed at 13.53. 1350 takes empty oil wagon to mill at 14.40, then takes water prior to dep with empties at 15.30. 1404 dep light engine at 15.40, but returns 'sick' at 16.38 and goes straight onto shed. Starts to rain at 16.50, so we quit.

Other locos: 1210 (BLW 2-6-0) well stripped down on shed. 1364 (BLW 2-8-0), the ex Osvaldo Sanchez loco brought in to replace 'blown up' 1382, dismantled 'around' shed. Guess regauging from 2'6" in progress.

107 - Pablo de la Torriente Brau

Sunday, 12th March: 1662 (VIW 2-6-0) leaves mill at 9.15 on empties for San Ignacio LP. Back to Recompensa LP at 10.30, leaving there with even more fulls at 10.50. Abandons train on arrival road at mill and goes to shed for water. 1103 (BLW 2-6-0) shunts this train into yard in 3 portions from 12.50; previously shunted dead locos 1401 (ALP 2-6-0) and 1703 (Hen 2-6-0) at shed at 11.20. 1103 then takes empties to Bramales LP (north) at 13.20, returning with fulls at 13.45. 1662 light to 'branch' LP southwest of mill at 14.10. Storms up to mill with fulls at 14.30. Back down with empties to Recompensa at 14.45. Back with fulls at 15.15. Quickly downhill light again for more fulls at 15.35. Then all quiet.

Monday, 13th March: 1505 (BLW 2-6-0) struggles with a long trains of empties into Recompensa LP at 9.20. Leaves here at 9.37 for Ignacio LC, stopping at intermediate LP. Dep Ignacio with fulls at 10.10, stopping again at intermediate LP. Recompensa LP 10.45-10.56. Back to mill in fine style. 1103 returns to mill from Bramales LP (north) at 11.50. 1703 light to Recompensa LP at 12.00, returns with 10 loaded cars at 12.15. All 3 active locos on shed by 12.30.

Other locos as in 1999 namely: 1101 (VIW 0-6-0ST) nominally preserved in shed yard, 1102 (VIW 2-6-0) just a dismantled chassis, 1501 (Rog 2-6-0) dumped outside shed. A pair of small orange (numberless?) diesels continue to shunt cars to and from the loader in the mill.

Four of the available five locos working in two days; not bad. Still an enjoyable and busy system. Locos have received 'no' attention since last year though, so rather dirty and unkempt.

201 - Amistad con los Pueblos

Tuesday, 14th March: 1707 (BLW 2-6-0) backs empties from yard to mill at 16.30. Bit more shunting, then all goes very quiet. Second engine chimes (on shed?), but fails to show. We leave at 17.30.

207 - Gregario Arlee Manalich Dual-gauge system, 2'6" and standard

Tuesday, 14th March: Ex-Boris 1510 (ALI 2-6-0), still in that mill's black livery, busy shunting the sg weighbridge at 9.00. All activity has ceased within the hour though and loco retires to mill yard.

On the narrow-gauge, 1307 (BLW 2-8-0) crosses the road from mill to main yard at 9.05. Various shunting activities more or less continuous until 10.20. 1308 (BLW 2-8-0) brings one load of fulls from south LP over flat crossing; very fine chime whistle, but progress somewhat pedestrian. Next action at 11.23, when 1308 takes train of empties to LP behind mill. 1307 takes empties to south LP at 11.45. 1308 returns with fulls at 11.50. Built in 1900, it is this very fine loco's centenary year! 1307 makes a very noisy return with fulls at 12.08. Then everything goes quiet again. Both ng locos retain last year's attractive light-blue paint job.

Other locos: As always, not possible to get near shed although another ng? loco was in full steam. Diesel 38035 stabled. 38225 moves off shed at 11.00 and collects empty sg molasses cars.

210 - Osvaldo Sanchez

Tuesday, 14th March: Mill remains well and truly out of use. Ex-Boris 1701 (BLW 2-8-0), but with Osvaldo Sanchez markings, works a loaded train tender-first from Batey 1 LP (east) towards mill at 13.45. Loco light to shed at 14.15. Loco brought out of shed for us to photograph, for a couple of dollars! 1204 (Rog 2-4-2T) off shed at 14.15 and disappears into mill area to collect departmental cars. Returns briefly, then dep for patio at 15.07 to shunt said cars. Mill officials not overly keen for us to be photing on patio (still!), but all is well. Tank is smartly turned out, but some leaking from cylinders.

Other locos: None seen, but other fans report that 1205 (HKP 0-4-4T) is still here (as are three ng locos).

212 - Boris Luis Santa Coloma

Tuesday, 14th March: A very brief visit en route to Matanzas. 1711 (ALC 2-8-0) dead in shed, with 1756 (BLW 2-8-0) under repair. Diesel 51031 dep on empties for the north line at 17.58.

303 - Australia

Saturday, 25th March: 1515 (ALS 4-6-0) is at the mill servicing point between 8.55 and 9.53. Diesel 37014 is stabled near the mill and takes the first train of empties to San Ramon LP at 9.22. A tatty and only part painted 1593 (BLW 2-6-0) takes a rake of empties out of the mill to the despatch yard at 9.50, returning with fulls at 10.00. 1515 is turned on the mill wye before collecting empties from the mill square area. We drive to km3. Train passes at 11.00. Some of the empties are left at La Juanita LP at 11.30. We drive to Apodaca LP. Diesel 37014 makes up a loaded train to 12 cars and dep at 12.12. 1515 is held outside the LP from 11.55 and then comes into the loop to allow the diesel to pass. Moves forward at 12.35 and leaves all empties here. Loco turns on wye and pushes caboose (only) to San Ramon LP. Loaded train does not depart until 15.20. More fulls collected at Apodaca LP; dep at 15.40. Crosses autopista at 16.35 (12 loaded wagons + a tank car). At Juanita LP diesel 37014 is ready to leave on empties at 16.45 (so this line is 67% diesel today!). 1515 picks up 10 more fulls and dep at 16.50. Train passes the ‘big tree’ at 17.30; a fine sight. Our last phot of the trip. We have to leave for the airport, pronto!

Other locos: No visit to the shed was made.

306 - Cuba Libre

Wednesday, 15th March: 1612 (BLW 2-6-0) in steam at terminal LP south of Guira de Macurijes at 15.10. Starts to make up train at 15.50 and dep to pick up more fulls at Guira. Brake problem hinders progress. Enlarged train dep at 16.43 and passes through Navajas station at 17.08.

Other locos: 1410 (VIW 2-6-0) dead in shed, 1610 (BLW 2-6-0) under repair, 1611 (BLW 2-6-0) makes ready for the road at 14.35, 1808 (BLW 2-6-0) in steam. Puerto Rico Libre's 1409 (Hen 2-6-0) dumped outside shed. Diesels: 37166 on shed, 38123 on loaded inbound train near Navajas at 15.00.

315 - Jose Smith Comas

Wednesday, 15th March: 1530 (BLW 2-6-0) off shed at 9.15. Dep on empties for Delerio LP at 9.35. Contreras station at 10.00. Santa Rosa LP at 10.30. One of the dirt roads is closed so we have to make a diversion. Train arr Delerio LP at 11.10. Fairly quick turn round, not sure if loco collects fulls or not as we ‘struggle’ to find an effective phot spot! Return reaches triangular junction (for J R Cairo mill) at 11.40. 1415 (VIW 2-6-0) arr mill at 14.15 with loaded train from ‘first’ LP. 1530 follows with just a caboose, no load. Thence to shed at 13.00. 1415 stables in centre of mill square at 13.05.

Other locos: 1531 (BLW 2-6-0) dead in shed, plus a couple of out of use small tanks thought to be 1121 (VIW 0-4-0ST) and 1122 (HKP 0-4-0T). A pair of small diesels act as mill pilots, including one which bears Cardenas Port No. 1 markings.

403 - Mal Tiempo 2'6" gauge system

Friday, 17th March: 1322 (BLW 2-8-0) yard pilot. 1320 (BLW 2-8-0) arrives at mill with loaded train at 7.50. 1355 (BLW 2-8-0) is also on line. Dep Potrerillo LP with loaded train at 8.43. Train, now 20 cars, climbs away from Vega Ceiba at 9.30. Dep from Oliva LP at 9.57. Loco takes water 10.30-10.35 and crosses level crossing due east of mill at 10.40. Slow progress over final stretch to mill, arr 10.57. Next train of empties due at 12.00, but hasn't dep from mill by 12.45. (All the badges on our car have been stolen!).

Other locos: 1221 (BLW 2-8-0) dumped in shed yard minus smokebox front, 1321 (BLW 2-8-0) dead in shed, 1345 (BLW 2-8-0) under repair.

Saturday, 18th March: 1320 dep mill at 7.50 with empties. Cross monument summit level crossing at 8.10. Potrerillo LP arr at 8.42. Sun straight down track soon, so we drive to Vega Ceiba LP. 1355 pushes a train of empties into LP at 9.35. 1320 passes junction with its loaded train at 10.00. 1355 dep Vega Ceiba LP at 10.12, but then stalls just after junction. Problems in restarting. Train not on move again until 10.42. We see train again just after Oliva LP. Train over level crossing due east of mill at 11.24. On arrival, loco goes to shed for fuel before shunting its own train. Water then taken. Back on shed at 12.20.

1320 works afternoon train. Passes monument level crossing at 13.35. Potrerillo LP arr at 14.15. Loaded train dep at 15.10. Stops on second grade, rolls back for another go! Plays to the gallery Two French enthusiasts riding on loco, so there is also a run-by scheduled on stiff climb between Vega Ceiba LP junction and Oliva LP. Train leaves Oliva LP in fine style at 16.20. Mill reached at 16.46. Train is quickly shunted by 1321. 1320 is turned and goes to shed. Magnificent light. 1321 booked to work train of empties to Potrerillo LP at 17.30. We drive to LP Oliva. Train arrives at 17.55 and dep at 18.05 after waiting for orders. We make good use of the very last light.

Other locos: Standard gauge 37101 at mill on Saturday afternoon.

404 - Ciudad Caracas

Thursday, 16th March: Primero de Mayo 1545 (BLW 2-6-0) arrives in yard with fulls from adjacent LP at 12.45. Train then pushed towards mill. Some shunting follows, before loco runs light towards shed for water. 1538 (BLW 2-6-2) at rest prior to taking empties to LP. Returns with fulls at 14.00.

Other locos: Dead on shed - Carlos Caraballo 1550 (BLW 2-6-0), 1621 (ALC 2-8-0), 1724 (BLW 2-8-0) derelict and partly dismantled, 1725 (ALC 2-6-0) out of use, Primero de Mayo 1848 (BLW 2-8-0).

413 - Espartaco 2'6" gauge system

Thursday, 16th March: 1327 (BLW 2-8-0) takes water at 14.30; then to shed at 15.02. 1328 (BLW 2-8-0) arrives in fine style on heavy train from far end? of line at 14.58. Loco then waters at 15.15. 1130 (OK 0-4-0F) kept busy shunting fulls and moving them to mill loader. 2-4-0 diesel 4136 replaced the other fireless loco on shunt duties. Belt-drive 0-4-0D 4123 also active.

Other locos: Dead on shed - 1326 (BLW 2-8-0), 1329 (BLW 2-8-0), 1131 (BLW O-4-0F) under repair. Marta Abreu sg diesel 34062 stabled in mill yard.

Saturday, 18th March: Overnight rain stops operations. 1130 stands quietly in mill yard at 7.15. All four 2-8-0 on shed.

418 - Obdulio Morales 2' 3½" gauge system

Friday 24th March: Mill not working, and system not visited. However, one of their diesels 34046 was noted speeding past Simon Bolivar mill on empties at 15.54 bound for a LP east of Centeno.

440 - Ifrain Alfonso

Thursday, 16th March: 1635 (BLW 2-6-2) leaves mill before 8.40 with empties for Pozo LP. Crosses autopista at 9.22. Loaded train leaves Pozo at 9.52. Crew stop to collect money from us. Rate is $5 per car, but, unlike last year, all the crews give very good value for money! Train stops again just before autopista. FCC junction water stop 10.45-11.15. Diesel 38245 passes at speed on w/b molasses empties train at 11.09. Derek Phillip's party has turned up so 1635 makes two very good run byes. Pity it was total cloud for both! Incredible number of railfans (biggest gathering of entire trip) for final climb towards mill, but sun is straight down track! 1910 (ALB 2-8-2) scheduled to dep on empties for Pozo LP at 12.30, but we decide to move on - to avoid the crush! When we return at 16.05, loco is pushing its train towards the mill and then shunts. There is a 3rd trip to Pozo LP today (and most days?). 1910 dep with empties at 16.40, but progress is slow. Held up by FCC passenger train etc. Does not cross autopista until sunset at 18.20.

Other locos: 1636 (ALC 4-6-0) overhaul almost complete, 1637 (ALC 2-8-0) dead am but in steam by 16.00, 1850 (BLW 2-8-2) dead; plus diesels 37084 and 38049.

Friday, 17th March: 1637 arr at mill at 13.00 with 5 full cars, presumably from Pilao LP. 1635 in steam outside shed, so presumably worked the am Pozo LP turn. 1910 had left at 12.40 with empties for Pozo LP. We drive to autopista, but train has already passed! We reach Pozo just in time, 1910 dep at 13.40. Infact it made two departures, such is the power of the US dollar! Autopista crossed in fine style. Attention to motion just before intermediate LP. We drive to phot spot overlooking FCC water-stop jnc. Diesel 37006 + caboose at mill jnc. 1910 arr at 14.28, much longer train now. Dep jnc at 14.45. Spots of rain turn to a very sharp shower. Car gets stranded in mud - has to be towed out by tractor. Road back to mill like the Somme! Diesel 38064 brings a loaded cane train into the mill. 1910 dep at 16.15 with another load of empties, but crosses autopista with a caboose only. Direct dirt road to Pozo a total mess, so we have to take the longer 'via village' route. 1910 dep Pozo LP with fulls at 17.15, a truly fine sight. We give chase and opt for mainroad level crossing south of Ranchuelo. Train passes at 17.50. (The above incidents were our only experience of rain hampering progress during the entire holiday).

Note: Police at the checkpoint by the autopista crossing, do not welcome enthusaists making U-turns!

448 - Simon Bolivar 2' 3½" gauge system

Friday, 24th March: We arrive at the LP north of Centeno just in time to see 1354 (BLW 2-8-0) turning on the wye at 9.25. Loco then stables at LP before starting to shunt at 10.15. Train dep at 10.25 and goes straight to the mill without stopping at the intermediate LP. The locos cylinders leak quite badly when worked hard. Loco then to shed with caboose. 1360 (BLW 2-8-0) in steam on shed, immaculate ex-works 1366 (BLW 2-8-0) also in steam, 1367 (BLW 2-8-0) dead. 1366 is off shed at 11.45 for a short test run to the east side of the mill, returning in like fashion at 12.25. 1354 then comes off shed and runs light towards the Trafico and returns pushing a long train of empties to the watering point at 13.00. It departs for Centeno LP at 13.25. Unfortunately, the mill itself has broken down and so there is no work for pilot 1138 (BLW 2-6-0) to do for some considerable time. It just fires up every now and then. Sadly, this loco does not appear to have cleaned this year, having been ex-works in March 1999. We drive to the 'intermediate' LP and 1354 is already on its way back from Centeno with fulls. It picks up more loaded cars at the LP and dep at 14.45, arriving in the mill yard at 14.55. 1138 takes water, collects some fulls from the yard and shunts them over the weighbridge from 15.10 to 15.30. The loco is not in good mechanical condition. This was its sole activity during our visit. 1354 takes water between 15.35 and 15.56 and then moves down to the Trafico with its caboose to stable until 16.25 when it sets off to collect some more empties. Two thirds of these are left at the 'intermediate' LP at 16.55. The rest are taken to Centeno LP, arr at 17.10. Loaded train dep at 17.35. Departure from intermediate LP with a strengthened train is at 18.00.

Other locos: 1361 (BLW 2-8-0) derelict in shed yard. 1362 (VIW 2-8-0), 1363 (BLW 2-8-0) both out of use in shed. Plus, the remains of 1167 (BLW 2-4-0). Diesel 34047 also present in shed (an O Morales loco).

503 - Orlando Gonzalez Ramirez

Thursday, 23rd March: 1836 (VIW 2-8-0) moves around light before taking water by the Trafico at 13.10. 1837 (ALC 2-8-0) is already at the watering point and moves off at 13.23. Green 1732 (ALS 4-6-0), an inferior scheme compared with last season's stylish black livery, is dead outside the shed (locos 1563 and 1736 are both inside). 1837 departs for Limones with empties at 13.30. 1836 collects empties from south end of mill and then hauls them at 13.40 to the LP on the line to Guayacanes station.

We drive to Limones. 1837 arrives at 15.00 approx and leaves with fulls at 15.25. Derek Phillip's party is here, so a second 'false' departure has also been arranged. Train passes 'new' (but disused) LP at 15.50. We drive direct to Cabrera, but as as the train doesn't pass until 17.35 it must also have taken in the Las Trozas LP branch. The run to the mill is very fine indeed, with a fair amount of thrash. Train is split at the Trafico and the loco works it forward into the reception yard in 2 portions. Golden glints from the last rays of the sun. Loco takes water at sunset at 18.10.

504 - Ecuador

Sunday, 19th March: All very quiet indeed at 11.15; we don't stay long. 1578 (BLW 2-8-0) and 1821 (BLW 2-8-0) both in steam at the shed. Both have green cabs. Two further locos inside the shed. There is also a dumped loco and the tender from 1564, the (most) recent crash victim. Diesels 38099 and 38267 in the mill yard.

522 - Venezuela

Sunday, 19th March: All rather quiet at 10.20; we don't stay long. 1902 (VIW 2-8-0) under repair at the shed, and green 1741 (BLW 2-8-0) at the molasses hopper wagon loading facility on the north side of the mill. Diesel 38097 present, as is 38266 on a rake of molasses cars in the nearby station.

635 - Rafael Freyre 2'6" gauge system

Sunday, 19th March: We arrive at the road overbridge just east of the mill at 17.25. Just in time to see a double-header arrive with much smoke and noise on a long train. We learn later that this is the morning train returning! One of the locos had derailed and it took some hours to get sorted out. Magnificent light, would have made a fine shot from the 'famous' hill west of Bariay.

Monday, 20th March: 1386 (BLW 2-8-0), with Camel motif and brass boiler bands, the only one so adorned, moves on shed at 8.20. 1391 (BLW 2-8-0) filthy dirty and with leaky offside cylinder, arrives at mill on fulls from western Los Mango LP at 8.20 and then shunts its train. The loco is coupled to 1385's tender. 1391 dep mill at 8.55 with empties for Los Mango. On its return with fulls, the loco makes hard work on final approach to mill. Two attempts are made and it stalls both times! 1386 comes to the rescue. Final arrival at 10.05.

1386 then takes a train of empties out on the east line. Paraiso arr at 10.50. Loco runs round train and pushes train onto the Teche branch. Some empties are taken up to Luciano LP (and fulls brought down) however, as (pushed) train does not arrive at the first LP on the branch until 11.50. Some empties are left here. Remainder are pushed past Peluga LP to the end of the branch, Teche LP. Loco returns very quickly with fulls to Peluga LP at 12.20. Train is left on through line as loco collect's Peluga's fulls and takes them very gingerly to the first LP. The previously deposited empties are brought back to Peluga. Loco then collects its trains of fulls and proceeds to the first LP where the complete train is made up at 12.45, for the run to Paraiso where a 42 wagon train is finally assembled! Bariay is reached at 13.58. A four minute stop here prior to noisily storming past the 'famous' hill photspot in very fine style at 14.05. A train from Latour LP is expected shortly. 1388 (BLW 2-8-0) barks past with 30 loaded cars at 15.00. This loco is completely devoid of any markings (but retains its smokebox door plate). (One wing mirror glass on our car has been stolen, and the other broken, during all this fine activity! These eventually cost $50 each to replace as we failed to report this incident to the police. Future visitors be warned!).

We return to the mill just in time to see 1390 (BLW 2-8-0), with swordfish motif, arriving with fulls from Los Mango LP at 15.45. Another loco (possibly 1391) turns on the triangle to face west. We return to the Paraiso area. Diesel 34058 turns up pushing empties to Luciano LP. This was the only diesel movement recorded on the east line. We return towards mill. 1388 dep Sabana siding at 17.58 with empties; it had been stopped here for some time apparently.

Tuesday, 21st March: 1390 dep mill at 8.00 on empties, Paraiso 8.32, Altuna 8.45. Some shunting of the train occurs here, but then the loco fails. Crew are on the phone for help at 9.10, which duly arrives some half hour later in the shape of Carro Auxilio 12 followed by smaller service car 4B.

We turn our attentions to 1386 which reaches Paraiso with empties at 9.52. Some are pushed onto the Teche branch, the rest are taken up to Luciano LP. We drive to Peluga LP on the branch. Train arrives (loco pushing, as always) at 10.55. Takes fulls out of LP and pushes empties in. Three empty cars though are pushed all the way to Teche LP. Loco returns light quite quickly, couples onto the fulls and departs at 11.30. By 12.00 the loco has left its load at Paraiso and is already going up to Luciano LP to collect more loaded cars.

We drive down to Bariay, just in time to see numberless 1388 depart back to the mill with the one coach (toastrack) tourist train at 12.10. We wait for 1386, which duly passes with its loaded train of 22 wagons but no caboose(!) at 12.55. There has been no quick fix for 1390 however, so we return to the mill.

1391 takes empties out of the west side of mill to Los Mango LP, arriving at 13.20. Diesel 34056 passes LP at speed with a loaded train from the far end of the line at 13.38. 1391 departs with a loaded train at 13.45, arriving at the mill 13 minutes later.

We drive out on the east line, in time to see a repaired 1390 leaving Latour LP with a load at 14.55. Princesa LP is shunted; dep at 15.27 for Progreso. Some empties are taken down the Honduras LP branch; returning at 16.00. We drive to the disused Cerrito LP (on the climb to Altuna). PW trolley passes at 15.55. 1390 and first portion of train pass in fine style at 16.30. Loco returns downhill light at 17.00 (so presumably water had been taken at Altuna). Second loaded portion passes at 17.10, again in very fine style. Loco spends some time at Altuna and the sun sets. We return to the Guardalavaca Hotel.

Wednesday, 22nd March: Although there are two locos in steam on the mill shed at 8.10, the first train for the east line has already left. We give chase. 1387 (BLW 2-8-0) arr Altuna at 8.37. This loco is particularly filthy. Takes water at 8.45. Departs sandwiched between empties (standard operating practise) at 9.02. Progreso 9.15, Princesa arr at 9.18. A few empties are then pushed to Latour LP. Loco then stables with caboose (branch on to Uvilla LP not in use this season?) prior to dep west at 10.19. Dep Princesa LP with fulls at 10.40. Three empties have been left at Progreso, and these will be taken to Hondura LP. We drive to Cerrito LP. Loaded train passes at speed at 11.21. (Then disaster, I have locked the ignition keys in the car!! Have to break window glass). 1387 arr Bariay LP with its train at 12.40, dep at 12.50. We drive to mill. 1387 onto shed at 13.10. We drive to Holguin to get a replacement car! There is time for some more linesiding afterwards. 1391 dep with empties from km6, just beyond level crossing, at 16.00. It is bound for Luciano LP; arr at 16.47. Meanwhile, smoke from 1387 pushing empties to Jobal LP can be seen. Loco arr back at Altuna with fulls at 16.48. Water is then taken before continuing further east sandwiched between empties at 17.10. Princesa LP at 17.30; Latour LP arr at 17.45. Quick shunt and loco depart with 3 loaded cars at 17.52. Brief stop at Princesa LP before proceeding to Progreso, arr at 18.12. Absolutely magnificent sunset at 18.10. We head back and just get to Luciano LP to see 1391 arrive for some fulls at 18.28. It must have also worked the Teche branch. Light has well and truly gone.

Other locos: 1 (BLW 0-6-0) and 1389 (BLW 2-8-0) out of use on shed. (Loco 1385 not seen at all - presumed to be under repair).

Note: The use of heavy lorries to transport cane has started. Many of the dirt roads have been, or are being, suitably upgraded. Although this also makes access for the car-borne enthusiast far easier, one can but wonder what effect this will have on the magnificent steam operation in 2001 and beyond.

In closing, a very successful trip indeed. Very productive photo wise, even though was quite a considerable amount of cloud in the west and south of the island. This weather pattern would appear to have persisted for most of the season. Rafael Freyre was the hottest part of the trip. Mid-day temperatures were always around the 37'C mark! Would guess that the Minaz achieved a ‘record' harvest. Steam operations holding up well, although the ‘loss’ of 'Boris' is most regrettable of course.

Colin Martindale was in Cuba at the same time as I was (for his first visit). These are his impressions and details of what he found:

This is a report on a one week mill bashing trip between April 3 and April 10, 2000. The mills are listed in chronological order rather than by mill number, but this could suggest a possible itinerary from Varadaro for other visitors. For this tour I used a car and hotel package from the Horizontes hotel chain. The car was an Audi A4, the hotels are mostly two to three star and comfortable and clean enough if one plans to spend most of the day in the field. The only "important" mill not within easy reach of a Horizontes hotel is Rafael Freyre but, given the distances involved, is hard to include this mill in a one week trip from Varadaro. Cost of the package was $699.00 US for one week with a small discount for additional weeks. Meals are extra, allow about $25.00 per person per day.

In the following list locomotives are complete and apparently in working order unless otherwise stated. The trip was combined with a family vacation and the mill bashing proper started once the loved ones were dropped at Varadero airport on the afternoon of April 3rd. The first stop was…

315 José Smith Comos, April 3, 5 p.m.

1530 and 1531 were on shed, with 1531 in steam, 1121/2 cold and both partially dismantled. 4wD 4117 was shunting the yard and a 4wd numbered 1 was also in the shed.

311 Esteban Hernández, April 3, afternoon

No stop was made at this mill but extensive remains of the 2’6" gauge lines could be seen from the road with many cane cars dumped. (I believe that this system is still operating but with diesels. RD)

427 Quintín Banderas, April 4, 9:30 a.m.

37164 and 37122 in the yard. 1547 and 1823 in the shed together with 1548 minus its tender. 34059 was also in the shed. I was requested to show a photo permit and escorted from the premises when I couldn’t produce one. 0-4-0T #2 (MINAZ 1145) is plinthed at the enetrance to the mill by the main road.

429 José R Riquelme, April 4, a.m.

1645 in shed with frames and cylinders of another locomotive assumed to be 1750 (being rebuilt?). 34023 and 38218 in yard.

442 Héctor Rodriguez, April 4, a.m.

Two class 37 and two class 38 diesels; no steam locomotives.

408 Mariana Granjales, April 4, about noon

34051 on patio no steam.

447 Unidad Proletaria, April 4, early afternoon

Single class 37 on patio no steam.

446 Carlos Baliño, April 4, afternoon

0-4-0ST cosmetically restored, carrying the number 1439 is displayed outside mill. Mill not operating with cane going south (to George Washington?). 1432 in steam, 1555 partially dismantled in shed.

449 George Washington, April 4, late afternoon

Three steam locomotives dead outside shed in fenced yard. Assumed to be 1638/9/44. I was told that photography was not allowed. Three class 34 shunting yard with 38235 working to closest loading point.

405 Luis Arcos Bergnes, April 5, morning

1539, 1622 and 1755 on shed. 1541 plus a flat car and a cane car apparently preserved at the back of the mill.

428 Marcelo Salado, April 5, morning

1429 and 1549 in steam. 1147, 1342, 1343, 1426 in or around shed, all in good to excellent external condition. The crew of 1549 gave a "driving lesson" in the yard then requested $20.00 for a footplate ride to a fairly distant loading point.

418 Obdulio Morales, April 5, morning

34046 working to loading points, 34069 on patio, 34014/43/72/79 on shed. No working steam locomotives at shed, 1333/4, 1420 at back of shed in excellent external condition from display. No photography of steam locomotives was allowed, so I shot some wide angle shots "from the hip".

448 Simón Bolívar April 5, noon

1138 on patio, 1360/1/2/3/6/7, 1360 (must be wrong RD) derelict, 1361 had boiler cladding removed, 1366 ex Obdulio Morales, plus a derelict 2-4-0 tender engine assumed to be 1167 on shed. Only 1366 in good external condition, all the rest looking very dirty and run down. The whole place had the air of shop where two weeks notice of lay-offs has just been given!

515 Ciro Redondo, April 5, afternoon and April 6, morning

Only one half of the mill operating. Very tight security with no access to shed or yard. The foot bridge crossing the patio provides an excellent vantage point but very little activity. Class 38 working the patio on 5th. Only road deliveries of cane on 6th. 34041 parked in yard on both days. 1830 shunted permanent-way department yard on 5th. 1832/4 derelict, plus boiler frames and cylinders of another loco. Drove to furthest southeast loading point on 6th but saw no activity, steam or diesel.

512 Uruguay, April 6, morning

Very busy but all diesel. Several class 37 and 38 locomotives in action. Access to servicing area no problem.

522 Venezuela, April 6, afternoon.

No access to shed. 1741 (green livery) in light steam, 1902 dumped. Cab of 1742 being used as a shelter therefore assume this loco is scrapped. Remains of a 2-8-0 plus 71017 on east side of mill plus another 2-8-0 about one km to the north.

441 Diez de Octubre, April 7, 9:30 a.m.

1661, 1818 (dumped) on shed. Home made rail bus, 15031, on north side of mill and 37097 on patio.

440 Ifraín Alfonso, April 7, 10 a.m.

1636/7, 1850, 1910 on shed. 37084 moved locos around then parked. About 10:45 1635 arrived with a loaded train, shunted yard and left with empties. 1910, in light steam when I arrived, was fired up to work the patio. Very friendly staff, particually the fire-raiser.

437 Carlos Caraballo, April 7, noon

Mill idle, no locomotives, tracks indicate no traffic for several weeks.

433 Marta Abreu, April 7, afternoon

Fireless 1239 not in use/dumped, no other steam. Two class 37 in yard. Mill owner’s house, built 1904 and nicely restored, is worth a look.

403 Mal Tiempo, April 7 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

1221 dumped, 1320/2/55 on shed. A "guide" offered to help me find a working train. We meet 1321 just after it had left the Potrelillo loading point and chased it back to the mill, nearly three hours. An out bound train of empties was crossed at Oliva. Given the maze of dirt roads in this area a guide is almost essential to stand a hope chasing trains. Paid the guide $5.00 after a three hour chase, about which he was delighted.

413 Espartico, April 7, 4:30 p.m.

1326/7 on shed in steam with 1328 cold. Fireless 1130/1 working in mill. The mill was completely open and there was no problem visiting and photographing the unloading operations. Cane deliveries can be received by train, truck or tractor hauled road train at this mill. 2-4-0D 4136 parked on patio.

443 Pepito Tey, March 25, 3:45 p.m.

Arrived to see 1337 make s splendid show of taking a vast train of empties out of the yard, much wheel spinning and smoke. Later 1357 fly shunted its train into the yard and then 1337 returned with a loaded train. 1220 in light steam on the patio. 1358 in steam on shed. 1164 (in working order) and 1236 probably serviceable, 2-6-0 hulk dumped by shed assumed to be 1165.

This mill was visited as part of the family holiday but is placed here as it would have been the next stop on the itinerary. The nearby Rancho Luna hotel is the only Horizontes property which I would advise avoiding if possible; deafeningly loud music, decrepit rooms unhelpful staff and amazingly poor food; Soviet resorts are alive and well in Cuba!

424 Primero de Mayo, April 8, morning

Mill not working, no steam or remains of steam locos seen. A class 37 diesel was making enough smoke to raise hopes for a few seconds! There was also a class 38 on site and FCC permanent way locomotive 3535 on the adjacent main line.

314 Jesús Rabí, April 8, morning

1518 (ex R García) in steam, shunting. 1517, lettered for Reynold García, in light steam, 1529, also lettered Reynold García, dead (IRS book has this at Jesús Rabí). 1413/4, 1810 cold in shed. The shed was just closing (for lunch?) and the guard very kindly waited while I took my photos before locking up. Two or three class 37s at this mill.

302 Reynold García, April 8, morning

Mill not working, no steam locomotives, one tender letter for Australia.

319 René Fraga

Mill appeared to be closed and derelict.

303 Australia, April 8, lunch time

Both Henschels (1620, 1716) were in the shop with 1716 undergoing overhaul. 1515 cold on shed, 1593 dumped, 1620 on patio, "driving lessons" were started but when I proved I didn’t have the requested $10.00 I was quickly deposited back at the shed! 1513 departed on cane empties and was chased as far as the Autopista National level crossing. Several other hulks present near the shed but not examined.

306 Cuba Libra, April 9, morning

1410, 1612 and 1808 in steam at shed. 1409, letter for Puerto Rico, dumped. 1610 in shop for repair. Also one each of class 37 and class 38. The shed is best approached from the Pedro Betancourt – Union de Reyes road on the south side of the mill. There appears to be no way to drive round the mill if you arrive on the north side and the shed is separated from the mill by a high fence.

305 Puerto Rico Libra, April 9, morning

Mill not working. 0-4-0ST (assumed to be 1116) outside the shed. 1527, 1901 and 2-8-0 Baldwin, assumed to be 1718, inside shed in dilapidated condition. Shed also in poor physical shape.

210 Osvaldo Sánchez, April 9, midday

1205 (0-4-4T ex MI Perez) working to first loading point east of mill. 1681 in steam but inactive. No entry allowed to mill or shed.

207 Gregorio Arlee Mañalich, April 9, afternoon

Arrived to find 1306 stalled on the gradient entering the patio. The patio loco, 1338, was sent to assist but 1306 managed to restart without assistance. A spectacular effort was made entering the yard with a heavy train. 1307 followed only two feet behind 1306’s train with an equally heavy load. Both locomotive then retired to the shed. 1308 and 1351 on shed together with a 0-6-0 Baldwin dated 1882 and carrying number 2 (could this be 6608/1883, MINAZ 1181 Rafael Freyre #2? It appears to be very similar to the photograph of 1180 (#1), 6456/1882, in Adolf Hungry Wolf’s Book.) On the standard gauge side 1510 (ex Osvaldo Sánchez), 1551 (actually 1402), 1704 (ex Eduardo García Lavandero), 1806 (ex Osvaldo Sánchez) were on shed with '1551' in steam.

212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma, April 9, afternoon

1606 bringing a loaded train and 1711 cold on shed.

304 Granma and 318 Victoria de Yaguajay, April 10, late morning

Granma mill working, only diesel and several steam tenders on site. All steam appears to be allocated to Victoria. Befriended by two local youths one of whom’s father was the driver of 1811 the locomotive in steam at day. Other steam at Victoria, 1594, 1713/4, 1812, 1519 dumped (all are Granma or Victoria locos), two unidentified hulks and the cab from 1813. With permission from father, "driving lessons" were given along the line between Victoria and Granma. A great time was had by all and, for once, no money was requested.

A quick visit to the Hershey Railway in Mantanzas showed five trains a day scheduled but none before I had to leave for my flight home.

I was in Cuba with Roland Beier from 31st March to 17th April, my thanks to him for allowing me 50% input into the actual gricing and 0% input into the organisation. This is my report, we seem to have had the steam nearly all to ourselves (we saw 8 other gricers of 4 nationalities in passing). Please understand that what we report was 'real', we paid no U$ for special effects whatsoever, although, yes, we did hand out packets of cigarettes to staff who were friendly and a number of Cuban locomen will be receiving photographs of their steam locos in action. When the pictures come back and I upload them, I hope you will see that it is still perfectly possible to take good photographs armed only with a smile and a little bit of courtesy. No doubt most tour leaders and many misguided individuals will continue to hand over dollars and further corrupt the country in the continuing search for the elusive master shot. Our thanks to Nils 'nice guy' Huxtable who was able to fill us in on local operations around Santa Clara as stated and all those who sent in reports earlier which helped us and others plan trips.

Overall, it was a successful trip despite its lateness. Nearly all mills visited were still open, a few like Pepito Tey and Quintin Banderas were already finished and others were much quieter than they would have been a few weeks earlier. Nevertheless, we saw 72 locos in steam and an average of at least two trains on the line each day. The change to Summer Time certainly helped us get extra photographic opportunities but it was noticeable that there was less activity in the mornings than two or three years ago. I wouldn't recommend a visit in April to a first timer, but given that I had been away from home for 8 weeks between November and the end of January and couldn't have gone earlier, I was very pleased I made the trip.

103 E.G. Lavandero

1816 was in light steam outside the shed at 10.00 on 31st March. We were told it would do some shunting at 'about 13.00'. We went off for a drink and a snack, waited till 14.30 but there was no sign of activity (all we saw was 37020 leave in the direction of Artemisa) so we went to A.C. Sandino. At 10.00 on 1st April, the loco was producing volumes of black smoke and the crew were expecting to have some work to do shortly. At 10.30, the burner was switched off, the lid put on the chimney and the crew walked off...., so I left.

For the third time in as many days, I found 1816 in steam in the yard at 12.00 on 2nd April. The crew said '30 minutes' and at 12.45 they turned the burners on. They then lubricated the motion in the old fashioned way and filled the boiler with water. Filling the tender seemed to take an eternity and then finally at 13.30, the chocks were removed from the drivers and the Red Devil was on the move! Despite what you may have read below, the loco propelled its caboose to the first loading point where it picked up more than a dozen fulls which it then took tender first back towards the mill, taking the 'avoiding line' and heading for Artemisa and Abraham Lincoln. Tender first it may have been, but it was an opportunity not to be missed. I just caught it again at the FCC station but it got to its destination before me where I found it propelling its load into the mill. Amost immediately one of the diesels set up the empties for the return journey, smokebox first but with the sun right behind the train for the first section. Once again I was just in time at Artemisa (climbing over the fence because I didn't have time to check whether the station door was unlocked - which it was). Once it rejoined the mill line, the light was not too bad although a dozen empties was no great load. The train ran straight through the mill to the first loading point, running round, picking up another dozen fulls. The loco needed water so the train was left on the Artemisa side of the mill. By now it was 16.00, but by 17.00 there was no sign of further activity although the tender was full. As I had to be back in Havana by 18.30 I left.  Has anyone else seen this working this year?

Jacque Daffis adds: "I went to visit it with the engineer in charge of the project, José Olmo. The locomotive is strangely at a mill actually closed, and with no steam. In fact, it was taken there because the mill is near La Habana, and the investigation service of the Ministry of Transportation, in charge of the project, is at La Habana. So they can check the loco more easily. The loco was not allowed to run of the main line because when running tender first, the tender was so high that there was absolutely no visibility. So the Security Inspector didn't allow it to run on the main line. Of course, the solution was found: the higher part of the tender body was cut with oxy-acetylenic cutter, and now it is possible to see something of the track when running tender first."

105 A.C. Sandino

1404 left the mill around 15.15 on 31st March for Varela LP. At the mill, 1350 was in steam with 1405 cold and 1210 and 1364 under overhaul. It took 1404 nearly 30 minutes from 16.00 to get its train started and the whole train failed to make it to Dos Hermanos LP, eventually 1404 made it back to the mill light engine around 17.00. Meanwhile 1350 had taken out empties to Santa Isabel LP, returning immediately with fulls from there and Porvenir LP. After a long flight the previous day and with cloud building we were happy to call it a day. On 1st April, 1404 had its right hand motion stripped down including the piston. 1350 was the only serviceable loco and was found leaving Varela with fulls at 14.00. It returned by 14.15. It then ran further trips to Porvenir (return 15.45) and Santa Isabel (return 17.15)

107 P.T. Brau

At 12.00 on 1st April, I found 1505 and 1662 in steam in the mill yard. 1103, 1401 and 1703 were cold but serviceable in the shed. 1505 went out on the north line at 12.30, 1662 must have left on the south/west line around the same time. (I spent the rest of the afternoon at mill 105.) At 09.00 on  2nd April, the same two locos were in steam. The mill yard was jammed with full cane cars, there was not an empty in sight. Shortly after, 1505 shuffled some fulls around and was then occupied cable shunting. 1662 went to Recompensa at 10.15 with 6 empties and brought the same number of fulls back. I couldn't see any more worthwhile action in the short term and the sun was getting ever higher so I left.

201 Amistad con los Pueblos

We were here briefly on 3rd April at 11.00. 1803 was in steam in the shed yard, 1106, 1707 and 1303 were inside. There was no immediate sign of 1804/5, the acopio to the east next to the autopista was still being worked. At 15.00 on 17th April, 1707, 1803 and 1805 were all in steam on shed and by now 1804 was also present. Staff said the first movement would be an intermll to Hector Molina n the evening.

206 Manuel Isla Perez

We passed the mill on 3rd April at 12.00. The season had clearly finished.

207 Gregorio Ali Manalich

This was our first stop on 3rd April. At 08.45, 1351 and 1306 were in steam on the patio, 1351 dealing with a derailed flat car. '1551' (1402 in disguise) was shunting the standard gauge. 1307 was in steam on shed, the remaining locomotives were all dead, 1365 being dismantled. (There is now a handy hole in the fence which allows quick access if you don't have a permit.) 1351 brought in the first load of fulls at about 09.45. At 15.30 on 17th April, the mill was quite busy, the yard being nearly choked with fulls. 1338 was yard shunter, 1308 worked in from the first loading point and 16.30 and 1307 and 1510 were in steam on shed.

210 Osvaldo Sánchez

We arrived at 10.00 on 3rd April. 1205 and 1681 were in steam, the latter appeared at the gate for us to photograph but when we declined to pay it vanished back into the mill. 1205 backed some fulls to the acopio west of the mill and then took some empties (which had presumably been left by a diesel) through the mill to the east acopios. We had minimum hassle for a change although we made no attempt to visit the shed. A flying visit at 15.15 on 17th April found the LPs still working, and one tender loco in steam inside the mill.

211 Ruben Martinez Valena

At 12.30 on 17th April, we found the mill finished for the season. The nearby LP was still active (but not much owing to the recent rain). Reportedly cane was going to Boris Luis Santa Coloma, presumably hauled at least part of the way by the only loco in steam, not positively identified but i had 1704 on its tender and faced out of the mill. Since I was flying home in the evening and by 14.30, staff still said 'much later', we could nout wait for what could have been one of the more interesting happenings this Zafra.

212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma

A sad sight at 13.00 on 17th April. 1606 in steam outside the shed and 1711 and a wreck inside. The yard was quite full of cane and although there was a diesel present, we did see 1606 out and about in the yard around 14.45.

303 Australia

This was not our original first choice destination for the afternoon session of 3rd April but circumstances eleswhere dictated that we were heading for the autopista crossing east of the mill at 16.00 when Roland spotted a train at La Juanita. We dived down the dirt road and were able to chase Henschel 1620 back to the mill for a 17.30 arrival. Here 1593 and 1607 were in steam, with 1515 cold and 1716 under repair. This left 1513 which was presumably out at the far end of the system. At 08.00 on 4th April, 1513, 1515 and 1620 were in steam on shed. 1593 was pilot and 1607 was found at La Juanita at 08.30 propelling half a dozen empties to the mill, all the loading points having no space for more.

304 Granma

At 11.30 on 17th April, the mill was quiet but the season was not over. 1812 was the only steam loco present and was not in steam.

306 Cuba Libre

We arrived at 12.30 on 3rd April. 1410 was on patio duty and 1612 was waiting to go out. The shed area contained 1409, 1610 and 1611. Apparently 1808 was stranded at Pedroso, possibly after a derailment. There was some debate as to where 1612 was to go to, eventually at 15.00 it was resolved to be Ciego acopio to the north-east of the mill in the Jovellanos direction, absolutely useless for photography as the loco went out smokebox first. Standards here have declined markedly in the last two years.

308 Humbert Alvarez

Having found one of the locomotives at Julio Reyes Cairo, we decided to check out the mill on 16th April. We found total dereliction with the mill half dismantled and the remains of two steam locos (probably 1315 and 1356) and two diesels on shed. I would have though the surplus locos from Osvaldo Sanchez would have been a better bet than one from this mill for restoration and operation.

The mill itself now seems an unlikely site for a tourist railway, so we checked out the area around Camarioca as an alternative...Not much hope there either.

313 Seis de Agosto

1528 is preserved just outside the mill, a rare example of a large loco being so treated.

314 Jesus Rabi

On 4th April, all the mill's own locos were out of use, 1529 stored outside, 1413 and 1810 stored inside with 1414 under repair. At 09.30, 1518 (from Reynold Garcia) was shunting some hopper wagons on and off the weighbridge. At 10.30, it set off with empties for Demetrio LP, the friendly crew obliging with a nice run past in Pedemonte station. 1517 was also in steam but its only activity during our stay was to move from inside the mill to the shed yard while we were away with 1518. After heavy rain the day before it was no surprise to find 1518 in steam outside the shed at 13.30 on 16th April with no work to do.

315 Jose Smith Comas

We caught 1530 coming with a load at Contreras at 16.00 on 16th April and followed it to the mill where we found 1415 and 1531 in steam on shed. Despite the rain the previous day, there appeared to be plenty of cane around the mill. The next morning, all three locos were in steam. We followed the first movement of the day, 1530 at 10.15 with empties for Delirio to beyond Contreras and then left.

318 Victoria de Yaguajay

More a loco graveyard than a repair depot at 11.45 on 17th April. Enough said.

319 Rene Fraga

At a low ebb at 11.00 on 4th April. 1820 was on duty as pilot, but although the mill was 'in steam', there were no fulls to be seen, it gave the impression of getting ready to end its season. On 16th April, the mill itself was quiet but 1820 came in with fulls from the nearest acopio just as we arrived at 14.30.

320 Juan Avila

We stopped very briefly at 12.00 on 3rd April. 1720 was in steam taking oil but was scheduled to do no more than shunt the patio. 1526, 1721 and 1807 were also seen cold but no attempt was made to record all locos present.

321 Julio Reyes Cairo

The mill seems not to have worked this year. On 16th April, we found 1614 intact outside the shed. 1520 was under long term repair, 1646, 1123 and 1124 were out of use and 1619 appeared dumped. The most interesting find was a narrow gauge 2-8-0 under repair in the mill itself along with what will be a coach for a tourist railway 'in the Varadero area'...... Only identification was '2' on a dome - I suspect it is 1243 (orginally thought to be 1242) from Humberto Alvarez Mill, the loco had slide valves and Walschaerts valve gear - I must check my archives when I have time!

403 Mal Tiempo

Definitely not on our original itinerary, but absence of activity elsewhere brought us here at 16.45 on 4th April. 1355 was in steam on shed and all other locos were also here except for 1320 which was said to be at Potrerillo. 'Senor Dollar' was much in evidence although senior shed staff were as helpful and friendly as ever. 1320 was indeed at the far end of the line as expected, taking its time while the clouds cleared and most of the crew engaged us in conversation, stating that they expected the season to last through until at least the end of April. We saw 1320 make an initial photogenic climb in good light, but matters descended into farce as the train came to a halt as the crew attempted to persuade us to have a runpast and get the 'master shot' on the river bridge. To quote a well known UK Sunday newspaper, 'we made our excuses and left'. I come to Cuba for real steam and if I want to charter special trains, I do it where 'real' steam is no longer available.

404 Ciudad Caracas

Nils Huxtable told us 'not operating today to Lajas' on 4th April, but still operating there from time to time. On 5th April, 1621 sat in steam near the shed all afternoon waiting the call to go to Lajas - but we were told it would run very late. However, there was plenty of other entertainment between 13.30 and 16.00, with 1538 playing with molasses tankers almost continuously and 1545 shuffling between the mill and the nearby LP. Empties out and (less common in my limited experience) fulls back in. All other locos were on shed (1724, 1725, 1848). Having started cloudy and wet, the weather was now good again. On 6th April at 15.00, 1621 was still on shed and 1538 and 1545 were at work around the mill as before. 1621 finally headed out tender first with empties for Maceo LP at 17.30 but was baulked by the preceding diesel hauled train just before Lajas. Arrival was at 18.45 with the light failing fast. Departure for the mill with fulls was at 19.10 where upon we left and got back to Santa Clara just before 20.00. A very interesting operation with a traditionally friendly and helpful crew in stark contrast to the circuses at Mal Tiempo and Ifrain Alfonso.

On 7th April at 09.00, 1550 was shunting hoppers and 1538 cane cars. 1621 was simmering outside the shed and 1545 was now cold. At 15.30 we were told '1621 will go out later'. When we got back from Espartaco at 17.30, it was just about to go out to Guarnal LP (west of Lajas). Everything went well until it returned to the junction with the FCC south of Lajas where we were waiting to photograph it smokebox first at 18.15. The crew could not get their telephone to work to get permission to proceed and we left when the light failed just after 19.00. Another glorious failure...

At 09.30 on 16th April, 1538 came off shed to shunt some empties and visit Batey LP. The crew insisted on Roland having an hour's free steam locomotive driving experience which he greatly enjoyed. Despite the rain the previous day, there were already four fulls there which were taken back.

The only detail I am not sure about on this map is the arrangement at San Marcos which we did not visit.

caracas.gif (6576 bytes)

There are many other mill system maps like this on our CD-ROM 'Zafra'.

405 Luis Arcos Bergnes

Nils Huxtable told us he had seen one of the steam locos deputising for a diesel on an inter-mill at Camajuani. We stopped by at 11.00 on 5th April. 1622 and 1755 were in steam and the latter made the first run of the day to Limpieza LP, returning under cloudy (but clearing) skies at 12.15.

409 Antonio Sanchez

Mill still working on 16th April, but 1623, 1624, 1625 and 1629 all dead with 1726 dumped.

412 J P Carbo Servia

Still milling on 6th April, but not very busy. 1727 and 1728 dead on shed, the latter looking less like a prize-winner than I had expected. On 15th April at 12.00, 1728 was simmering outside the shed, obviously as a spare loco from the light rust on its wheels.

413 Espartaco

We went here on 5th April, when expected afternoon action at Ciudad Caracas failed to materialise. We went directly to the LPs at Jicotea and Jurisdiccion but found both with many fulls and few empties with no loco expected. We found the mill clogged with fulls at around 16.45, but working flat out to clear the backlog. Both firelesses 1130 and 1131 were very busy - much to my delight as I was able to see 'my' OK 1130 in action at long last - the affection resulting from 20+ years of seeing sister locos at work in Indonesia. 1327 was at the north end of the yard shunting, but eventually went to take water (very photogenic in the afternoon) before retiring to the shed. Of the locos on shed, 1326 was dead and 1328/9 in steam. About 17.30, 1329 had enough empties to head for Jurisdiccion and it was touch and go whether there would be enough time for it to get there and set out for home before the light failed. Here, the change to summer time and the rain which had cleared the dust out of the sky worked firmly in our favour. Between 18.15 and 18.30 we were able to catch the train at no less than seven locations between Jurisdiccion and just after Paso del Medio as 1329 thrashed along with 16 fulls in superb late afternoon light. What a contrast with Mal Tiempo the previous day, the crew entered into the spirit of the chase, just easing off a shade to let us over the last level crossing, lots of waves and smiles and no begging at all.

Apparently, the mill had broken down again on 6th April, but had cleared the backlog by 10.00 the next day when 1329 arrived with 20 fulls from the east. 1329 worked an afternoon train of 17 fulls from Jurisdiccion LP leaving there at 16.30 and arriving at the mill at 17.00.

418 Obdulio Morales

Still milling at 10.45 on 15th April. As reported by other visitors, 1333, 1334 and 1420 immaculate and with current 'licence plates' sitting on shed. Will they become part of the tourist operation too?

427 Quintin Banderas

Not milling on 4th April. Staff said the season had finished 'a few days ago'. 1547 and 1823 serviceable in the shed yard, the latter with scarcely any rust on its shiny tyres.... 1548 stored needing repairs.

428 Marcelo Salado

Nils Huxtable told us (on 4th April) that trains were now being made up at the mill rather than Remedios which meant two locos were needed. Apparently 1549 had taken a train 'off' on the main line owing to 'overspeeding', also that there were rumours of a regular (non-tourist) steam hauled passenger service in the area post-Zafra.... On 5th April, it started rainy and when we got to the mill we found 1429 and 1549 in steam awaiting instructions. The crew of 1549 offered us a loco driving course up and down the yard (for U$ presumably) but it was more interesting watching the bird life where cutting was going on. The remaining reported locos (1147, 1342, 1343, 1426) appeared to be on shed, again we also could not see 1148.

On 6th April, we arrived at 10.00 to find 1342 and 1549 in steam. At 10.30, a Minaz security man politely asked us to leave the station on the main line (i.e. public area) near the shed, we politely refused. At 11.15 he returned with a uniformed policeman and two plain clothes policemen who seemed to enjoy looking at our passports with visas for Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Romania, Serbia, Thailand etc (no mention of Cuba in them as usual). Since 1342 was about to leave anyway on empties, face was saved all round and we departed. 1342 took the empties to Remedios and on up the Jinaguayabo branch, returning about 12.45. The empties were left on the branch, loco and caboose returning home after diesel hauled empties had passed through. There were some fulls at the mill so clearly operations varied from day to day.

429 Jose R. Riquelme

Not milling on 4th April.

433 Marta Abreu

Not milling and not visited. We saw a load of empties with its caboose between Espartaco and Cruces. The fact too that this mill's small diesel is at Espartaco clearly suggests where the cane is going.

434 P.G.Toro

Still milling on 4th April but not visited.

435 Hermanos Ameijeiras

Still milling on 6th April, but very quiet. 1667 cold in the mill yard, 1373 and 1431 in the shed. Four out of six Brush diesels were in the mill area doing nothing .... At 11.30 on 15th April, the mill was still in operation and 1667 was simmering in the mill yard.

437 Carlos Carraballo

Not milling and no activity.

440 Ifrain Alfonso

Still milling at 16.15 on 4th April, although 1635, 1637, 1850 and 1910 were all in steam on shed and 1636 under repair (why steam four locos and keep them all on shed?). A surprise in steam on shed at 14.30 on 6th April was 1661 from Diez de Octubre, here solely for the purpose of taking fuel oil, it was gone by 17.00. 1635 was in steam and 1910 was out on a train to Pozo, crossing the Autopista at 16.15. The crew stopped the train when they saw us, but once they realised that no special effects would be paid for, completed their return journey in normal manner.

441 Diez de Octubre

Still milling at 16.00 on 4th April. Unfortunately, 1661 was not in steam, the rust on its tyres suggesting it had not been used recently. However, on 6th April it was in steam at Ifrain Alfonso (see above). On 7th April at 08.30 it was in steam on the shed but needing some runnng repairs. The next day the loco was available for service in the morning but there was no traffic on offer.

443 Pepito Tey

Some Australian friends visited here in early April and told us the mill had finished and the rails were rusty following the rain.

448 Simón Bolivar

At 10.00 on 15th April, it was raining but the mill was still working. 1138 was on the patio and 1360 in steam on shed. 1354 was warm, presumably having been used the day before. 1366 looked superb on shed, the staff told us they were waiting for a coach before starting a tourist operation 'up the hill' in conjunction with Gaviota (who are involved at Rafael Freyre). This contradicts what other visitors reported! I had a quick (and discrete) unofficial look at the inside of the mill, wich confirmed what I had always suspected that it was of the same generation as the Javanese mills with stationary steam engines responsible for the milling.

503 Orlando Gonzalez Ramirez

The mill was nearing the end of its season on 9th April. We arrived at 15.30 to find 1836 in steam on shed (with failed brakes as we were later to discover), 1837 was on wash out and 1563 was cold. 1732 was reported to be at Limones and we headed straight there to find it leaving at 16.00. The crew were having trouble with the burners which were leaking petroleo, but we managed several shot leaving the village and at the disused loading point (bad news for geriatric gricers as they have removed the walkway). The loco was finally declared a failure and abandoned its train, limping home for a diesel to be sent out to rescue the fulls. 1732 was our 50th loco in steam for the trip, not bad when conventional wisdom says the season is more or less over at the end of March. You either love or loathe 1732's green livery, personally I quite like it and anything which encourages a crew to care for their loco is no bad thing. One of the crew spoke good English and said they expected to be working intermills inwards in a few days time.... By April 14th, the mill was working only in the afternoon/overnight.  1563 went to Portilla at 14.30 returning at 16.00. 1732 went to Domenica at 16.30. With a strong southerly wind and cloud cover, photography was a waste of time. Meanwhile 1837 was being lit up as 38008, the mill's regular diesel was not very well.

504 Ecuador

Winding down for the end of the season on 8th April.1904 under repair, 1461 and 1821 cold. 1564 on patio duties with a new tender. 1578 worked out to two LPs north, Montee la Estrella and Nouyen Van-Troi at 16.00 and was back by 18.00, noticeably stopping at the top of the mill yard to telephone for orders! On 9th April in the morning, 1821 was in steam ready to go out but no cane was available. 1578 was on patio duty and 1564 was now cold.

505 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes

At 09.00 on 10th April, the mill was still working and two steam locomotives were dead outside the shed (1445 and another with 1907 on the tender). There were several diesels sitting around, one of the staff said the locos needed repairs - I doubt they will have been used again as the season was nearly over. No change on 14th April.

515 Ciro Redondo

At 07.30 on a wet 15th April, the only loco we could see in steam was 1830 outside the shed. Olive green 1827 was also present but cold.

520 Noel Fernandez

At 10.15 on 10th April, the mill was working and regular loco 1664 was sitting next to the mill inside the main gate simmering. As usual we could take pictures of it from the outside but not go in to examine it closely. We were en route to Holguin so we didn't wait for one of its occasional movements.

522 Venezuela

1741 was cold on shed at 14.30 on 9th April. 1657 was shunting the patio. With no field work likely we did not stay long. 29003 is definitely of Russian origin, possibly it is one of the class 71 locos reported here renumbered (I shall have a photo in due course if anyone wants to help.)

635 Rafael Freyre

I don't think I was quite prepared for the extent of the decline here. During our 4 days here, both the steam loco fleet and mill failed continuously. For the first couple of days the mill received only minimal cane but the yard seemed permanently full, then on the last day it got its act together to clear the backlog only to have to shut down because there was no cane.

1391 was the only loco out on the line at 15.00 on 10th April, although two more were in steam on shed. We found it at 16.00 at Latour LP whereupon it spent the rest of the afternoon doing the standard trip ending up at Altuna at 17.00, with our expectation of a late afternoon shot at Barjay. Needless to say with my luck at Rafael Freyre this never happened, although I did see the diesel hauled turn go round the curve. Perhaps it was just as well because the weather was foul, it was mainly cloudy with occasional rain. The only good news is that the roads all the way to Latour have now been properly graded and are only difficult when wet.

We found out why I didn't see 1391 come round the curve when we discovered it derailed minus its tender at the far end of the loop at Altuna next morning. 1390 left the mill on empties at 09.30 but was declared a failure at Barjay and the train was rescued by diesels 2414 and a 34 class. Anonymous 1388 was being prepared for the tourist train earlier - no doubt it went to Potrerillo. By the afternoon, 1390 was shunting the mill and 1391 had been recovered from Altuna. We found 1386 heading outwards at Barjay with a caboose at 15.45. It shunted some fulls at Luciano and on arrival at Altuna, collected some fulls from Jobal. By 17.00 it had returned, watered and had headed back to Luciano. What happened next I am not entirely sure as I headed for the curve at Barjay (my ninth day here so far and still I don't have the picture). In the next two hours, a diesel came out light engine and Roland found 1386 coming off the Teche branch with just its caboose at 18.15.

On 12th April, at 10.00, we found 1390 in steam, 1386 out and 1388 taking half a dozen tourists to Potrerillo. We took an early siesta. 1391 left the mill with empties for Latour around 15.15. It got there just over 3 hours later after several involuntary stops and of course by the time it started the return journey the light had almost failed. Goodness only knows what time it got home and how many (or few) fulls it brought with it. We were told that another loco had left the mill with empties for Luciano around 17.00.

On April 13th at 09.15, 1386 was out at the far end of the east line, 1388 was being prepared for the tourist train, 1390 was shunting the yard. 1391 was on shed and eventually struggled into Barjay with a train of empties at 10.45. In the afternoon, the train serving Luciano was diesel worked. 1390 left for the east end at 15.15 and reached Princesa LP by 16.45. An hour and a half later it had reached Altuna and then returned to Progresso to work the Honduras LP before the light failed. It was another frustrating afternoon with a strong easterly wind and a lot of high cloud although the tourists in Guardalavaca had almost unbroken sunshine.

If four days here produces not a single decent shot, would a week have been any more productive? One final snippet. We believe that the plinth near the main road was intended for #2 which was preserved at Banes and the management does not know it has been moved to Gregorio Ali Manalich in Havana Province - there are huge competing undercurrents in this area.

Charles Hinton reports on a brief March visit:

200 mills 16/03 / 300 mills 14/03

Mill 201 Amistad

Present 1804 1303 preserved 1106 and seemingly dumped 1712 seen working 1707

Mill 207 Manalich

Milling - lots of ng activity with 1307/1308/1338 all working
1306/1351 in workshops and 1365 receiving overhaul
no 2 present - this is ex R Freyre works 6456/1882 for a Varadero
tourist project.
Standard gauge - 3 x diesel 38s present and lots of steam visitors in workshops.
1510 in steam. (212 loco I think) To shunt in afternoon.
Also present 1704 (103) 1806 (212) and 1402 carrying number 1551
tender lettered FCUH apparently for film purposes. True ID gleaned from worksplate. The real 1551 is still in Trinidad area.

Mill 210 O Sanchez

Unable to access mill and not milling. 38 diesel arrived with empties whilst 1701 was shunting nearby Acopio making up a train of loads for it.

Mill 211 Villena

Milling - unable to access workshops but 1311 shunting and 1805 (Amistad loco) arrived with a train of loads.

Mill 212 Coloma

Working 1606
Workshops 1711 and 1756 latter in poor state + diesel 51031

Mill 303 Australia

Mill suffering technical problem on day of visit - unable to mill.
Working 1513 1607
Shed 1515 1593 - collision damage with truck on autopista
1620 and 1716 undergoing overhaul
diesel 37014 present but shut down.

Mill 304 Granma

1713 present. 1812 out working (had been doing local work previous day)
diesel 34082 working and 39005 also available
see mill 318

Mill 315 Jose Smith Comas

working 1415 1531
available 1530

Mill 318 Victoria de Yaguajay

workshops for 304
present in various states 1519 1594 1714 1811 1813
most need a lot of work

Mill 319 Rene Fraga

not milling - most locos in very poor state.
1119 dumped 1618 either being scrapped or very long term rebuild!
1532 1719 1723 1524 spread around the yard.
1313 - looked ok but I would say hadn't run for a while.
However multi coloured 1820 being prepared for a train the next day

Lenin Park

working weekends 11h00 until up to 17h00 if demand
loco 2 working Sun 05/03 + Sat 18/03
1 on shed available and 3 present in workshops


1551 reported working 3 times a week tourist train. However.... 12/03 train cancelled as a few days earlier loco had failed. Found loco to photograph (with the aid of an inspection trolley!) at a small hamlet Magua 12 km by rail from Trinidad. Probably waiting for MINAZ loco to move back to Trinidad for repair.(There is a diesel worked mill near Iznaga.)

Georg Karner and Alan Pearce were on the Enthusiasts Holidays trip in March

March 8

105 A.C. Sandino - 1350 storming back from the NE LP with a train of fulls around 4pm. Another loco to followed with fulls from the LP close to the mill about half an hour later. (Number of the loco not written on the side facing the photographers - 1404 no doubt RD.) A very pleasing start of the tour.

March 9

107 P.T. Brau - 1703 with fulls (probably from San Ignacio) around 10am. 1401 with empties to Bramales around 11am, returning with fulls shortly after that. 1703 going out on the south branch with empties around 1.30pm. 1101, 1103, 1501 cold.

March 10

207 G.A. Manalich - a very busy mill. 4 locos shunting (1306, 1307, centenarian 1308(!), and 1551 - 1402 in disguise). All n.g. engines in very attractive blue livery. There were also several visitors in the loco shed. Around noon, 1307 hauled a train of empties all the way to the LP between Santa Barbara and Caiman (named Alfaro according to the "Three Yanks"), dropping some empties at Jicotea and bringing fulls back to the junction before continuing towards Santa Barbara. On the return journey, the loco used the watering point at Esmeralda and picked up the fulls from Jicotea at the junction. A short episode highlighted the inefficiency of the operation. A cyclist followed the train (on a footpath right beside the track). He was cycling very relaxed and had no problems to keep up with the train which means the train must have travelled at 10-12 kmph!
Locos found on shed:
1338, 1351
1510, 1806 (both from 212 Boris Luis)
1704 (from 103 E.G. Lavandero)
2 (from 635 Rafael Freyre; in repair)

Parque Lenin - 2 in steam at the shed

March 11

211 Ruben Martinez Villena. We arrived around 9.30 and saw a busy period of shunting, involving 1311 (tender loco built 1904), 1411, and 1805 (the latter being a guest from 201 Amistad).
1112, 1502 cold
1201, 1204 (0-4-0T), 1207, 1206, 1605 oou

212 Boris Luis. 1711 arrived with fulls from the west line around noon. The driver seemed to expect money from the photographers and looked rather angry. When he learned that we had all paid MINAZ the usual 10$ for a mill visit his face brightened and he operated a short special for us on the SE line (propelling some empty wagons up towards the mill). A diesel was present to do the shunting.

1606 on shed

March 13

441 Diez de Octubre. 1661 was steamed up for us and moved a few meters to allow a photo of the loco with the picture of Che Guevara as the backdrop. The identity of the loco is unclear as it carried the numberplate BLW 54228 which according to Graham Leach's book belongs to 1660. 1818 dumped oou

403 Mal Tiempo.1320 went out with empties mid-afternoon, meeting 1355 with fulls en route. 1321 in steam, 1221 and 1322 cold on shed.

March 14

443 Pepito Tey.

1357 with empties to Limpiesa around 9am, 1337 shunting, 1164 moving, 1236 in steam. (Our group returned to the mill on March 15 and was part of the "record crop of gricers" reported by Steve Mourton). 1358 hot on shed, 1220 cold.

March 15

440 Ifrain Alfonso. 1635 with fulls from autopista around 11am, going out with empties westwards an hour later. A little after that 1910 left with empties for Pozo. 1850 in steam, 1636, 1637 cold.

433 Marta Abreu

1239 (fireless) under repair.

438 Ramon Ponciano A special with 1552 ran over the famous bridge adjacent to the mill, to Formento FCC and continued about 1km south on the (now disused) FCC line to another nice bridge. 1634 shunting empties.

March 16

428 Marcelo Salado 1342 with fulls from Remedios around 11am. 1147, 1343, 1426, 1429 cold, 1549 in repair.

405 L.A. Bergnes 1539 with special to Limpieza, 1541 and 1622 cold on shed.

March 17

412 J.P. Carbo Servia 1728 i.s. around 9.30 (maybe waiting for shunting duties). The loco moved some 20m for the sake of the video people.

435 H. Ameijeiras 1667 shunting (late morning), 1373, 1431 cold.

503 O.G. Ramirez Very busy around noon: 1732 and 1837 shunting, 1836 arriving with fulls from the NE line. 1732 then did the great afternoon tour, taking empties to Las Trozas and Limones and returning with fulls, giving very good street running performances in both towns. Late in the afternoon, 1836 went out with empties again and met 1732's train near Cabrera.

March 18

522 Venezuela 1657 shunting in new blue livery. The green 1741 brought fulls from La Susana around 1pm. A diesel-hauled train with raw sugar ran south on the FCC line, then propelled back to Pita Jones LP where it waited for the train from La Susana to pass. Then it continued on the mill line, maybe to the port of Palo Alto. 1902 cold.

515 Ciro Redondo Shunting perfomed with unidentified diesel. 1827 took empties to the LP marked "CR17" on the WS map. There it performed some fly shunting to handle the group's caboose and went back with fulls. 1829 being rebuilt, 1826 cold, 1832, 1834 oou

March 19

505 C.M. de Cespedes 1838 and 33012 (the latter diesel) sharing shunting duties around 9.30. 1173 cold on shed, 1445 and 1907 oou beside shed.

Manati/622 Argelia Libre The very old Brill 4033 operated the train San Eduardo - Manati (arriving 17.05) and Manati - Puerto Manati (departing 17.50, 20 minutes late, taking some 40 minutes for the 17 km journey). The late departure was caused by the late arrival (around 17.40) of the train from Las Tunas with 2709. 4033 used the wye at Puerto Manati to turn for the return journey and headed back to Manati immediately (unfortunately after dark). Railcar 155 was at mill. 717 and 4037 not seen, said to be in works.

March 20

635 Rafael Freyre 1386, 1391 shunting. 1387 operated the tourist train to Paraiso. Busy shuttle operation to/from Los Mango LP. We saw 1391 (with tender of 1385) going out with empties around 11am and returning with fulls immediately. Two long trains with fulls were seen at Sabana, one at 13.30 (loco 1386), the other at 14.30 (with 1388). Both trains were more than an hour behind schedule. A fair part of the wagons was loaded with raw cane which means that some of the chuchos in the SE area must still be in use. 1385 (without tender) in works.

March 21

635 Rafael Freyre Late afternoon shot of a loaded train with 1388 at the famous Bariay curve. Another train with 1389 followed half an hour later and was back at the mill around 17.15.

This is the second part of Steve Mourton's report (added 30th March 2000) - the first part is down below somewhere!

403 Mal Tiempo March 18

1321 was being lit up while we were at the shed around 09.30; 1221 OOU; 1322 dead;
1345 repairs. Other locos said to be out working. On the sg, 37101 was shunting.

404 Caracas March 15

Reportedly more action here this year with steam line workings beyond Lajas. But for us, it was just the usual - 1538 shunting in the yard, with a 38XXX diesel lurking. At the shed there were two more locos in steam - 1545 and 1550, but no sign of any imminent activity. Also here were the resurrected 1621 - dead(!); 1724 dismantled;
1725 dead; 1848 dead; remains of 1630?; diesel 37088 dead.

405 L A Bergnes March 17

1755 was in steam, shuffling around at 09.00, due to do something later.

412 J P Carbo Servia March 16

1727 in steam at the shed; 1728 having minor repairs and a smokebox repaint - important for this engine to keep its smart appearance after winning first prize at the steam loco gathering at Marcelo Salado in December. The banner proclaiming its victory is displayed in the shed. Wonder how annoying this was for Marcelo Salado - hosting the event and then a loco from another mill gets first prize! Bits of 1427 still lie around. On the diesel front were 37123 and a 38XXX.

413 Espartaco March 15

1131 was in steam at the mill tippler.
Around 10.30 1327 stormed in on 18 fulls plus caboose from the San Fernando area, while 1328 arrived at the other end of the yard on 19 fulls. Small diesels 4123 and 4136 were both actively shunting. At the shed were 1130 dead; 1326 dead; 1329 dead.

418 O Morales March 17

All diesel worked. However the three remaining steam locos - 1333, 1334, 1420 all stored inside the shed - are now far smarter paintwise than when they worked, when they were always very scruffy.

427 Q Banderas March 18

Despite many previous visits I think this is the first occasion that I have seen a steam loco in action. 1547 was actively shunting fulls in the yard outside the mill at 14.00. 1548 was OOU near the shed, presumably for repair. 1823 was parked next to the water and fuel hoses, showing signs of recent use. Staff said it is spare to the diesels. With a lot of patience and luck, it may therefore be possible to see it working cane trains on the coast line to Corralillo, which is around 25km long. Perhaps hiring it (which is apparently possible here) to do just that might be the answer - the afternoons being best for pictures.
3' gauge tank 1145 is still preserved outside the mill alongside the main road.

428 M Salado March 17 Mill not working

J M Perez diesel 37081 worked into Remedios station at 10.15 on empties. It left most of them there before going on to M Salado. At 10.35 1342, in good fettle, arrived on fulls from the Carolina area, much to the satisfaction of the assembled multitude of photters. 1342 parked the fulls, presumably to be collected by 37081 for transport to J M Perez, then propelled the empties left by 37081 up the Jinaguayabo branch. At the mill shed were 1147, usable again and very smartly painted - good to see; 1343 dead; 1426 dead; 1429 dead; 1549 dead. 1148 not in the shed area - has anyone seen it this year?

429 J R Riquelme March 18 Mill closed

1645 OOU; frame of 1750; 37XXX diesel.

435 Hermanos Ameijeiras March 16

1 (1156) preserved at mill entrance. 1373 and 1667 were both in steam, for yard shunting and use on a special railtour.1431 was dead on shed.
Brush diesels seen were 2721/ 2724/ 2726/ 2729/ 2731/ 2732/ 2734 of which five were working, with one under overhaul and one OOU. On the railtour, almost certainly the only way to see steam out on the line, steam worked as far as the acopio at Leira. Before Leira is a long river bridge and half-buried in the embankment there is an old steam loco, possibly 6-coupled. Staff reckoned it had been there since 1958.

438 R Ponciano March 15

1634 was shunting fulls, which involves moving out of the yard over the attractive river bridge. However, security is very vigilant, so obtaining a picture in normal circumstances may not be easy.
Diesels 37005 and 37102 do line work here.
1552 was in steam for a special railtour. It went up the mill branch to Fomento station, then reversed a few kms down the FCC line towards Trinidad. This has apparently been severed somewhere by a storm damaged bridge, so is not in normal use. The scenery is superb, with 'Rafael Freyre-like' hills and a long river bridge - well worth a special train, with Alco 4-6-0 1552 in good condition and being put through its paces.

440 I Alfonso March 18

The train crew's demand for money to make smoke ensured we did not hang around here. 1635 worked up to the mill off the main line at 10.45 with 8 fulls and caboose. At the shed, 1637 and 1910 were in steam; 1850 repair; 1636 repair; 37084 shunting.

441 Diez de Octobre March 15

Another first for me - seeing 1661 work a train! It took a load of fulls to the loop on the mill branch just outside Ranchuelo station at 14.00, then ran back le to the mill. 1818 is dismantled. A 38XXX and 34XXX were in the mill yard.

443 P Tey March 15

At 07.00 no loads were available at the acopios on the two short branches, probably due to the previous day's wet weather. On the long branch, only about 3 wagons had been loaded, so no prospect of trains for a few hours. Things started to stir at the shed, with 1236, 1337 and 1357 in steam. 1220 and 1358 were dead; 1165 dismantled. Probably the best news here is that 1164 has been rescued from the dumped line and now appears usable, looking to be in reasonable order.

448 S Bolivar March 17

This mill was working, first time for a few years, and it was good to see the little 2-6-0 1138 back in vigorous use shunting the yard. 1367 was out at the Laos acopio early afternoon, left for the mill on 8 fulls, picking up 8 more at the loader near the mill. Diesel 34072 went out on empties plus a wagonload of sleepers. At the shed 1167 and 1361 were dumped; 1354, 1362, 1363 and 1366 were dead; one diesel in the shed under repair. Another steam loco was out on a gricer's special. It is understood there are still no workings on the hill section. Unfortunately no improvement in the external condition of locos here, still as scruffy as ever, perhaps they should borrow the painter from O Morales...

503 O G Ramirez March 10

This mill's diesel 38008 was at Guayacanes station heading off le. At the mill 1563 was in steam, while 1732 - in light green livery - went out at 11.30 on empties. It shunted at the Patricio acopio, before going up the Las Trozas branch, returning chimney-first with 5 fulls. It then headed off to Limones Palmero. Unfortunately car problems prevented us giving chase.

504 Ecuador March 10

Diesel 38099 shunted empties before leaving on Minaz hoppers at 09.15. 1578, with a green cab and green stripe on its tender, shunted the yard. The frame of 1835 is still here. At the shed 1461 was in steam; 1564 dead; 1680 dumped outside. 1904 not seen and said to be dismantled for overhaul. 1821 arrived le to take fuel, while this mill's 38078 shunted empties.

511 Brasil March 9

Nothing can be seen of the fireless locos here without official entry. At the charging point were 1251 and 1370 in steam. 1250 and 1368 were shunting at the tipplers. 1369 was being overhauled in the shed. All are nicely kept. Diesels do the line work.

520 N Fernandez March 9

The ng 0-4-2, no.2, is preserved outside the mill. 1664 was shunting, which involves coming out of the mill onto the road just long enough to take a picture.1658 was spotted dead alongside the shed (not visited).

521 Siboney March 9

Diesels 37069 and 37095. No sign of any dumped steam.

522 Venezuela March 10

An unidentified diesel and steam loco were observed to be dumped inside the mill. At the shed 1741, in green with yellow lining, was shunting a works train; 1902 for overhaul; 1742 dismantled for overhaul; we were spared the full effect of 1657 in bright blue livery, seeing only the back of its tender on shed! Another ex-FCC diesel is dumped on shed, as in previous years. 38097 arrived on shed. Although we did not see it, we were told that diesel 29003 here is an ex-FCC one dating from 1965. On the FCC line down from Ciego no less than 3 Minaz hoppers trains were seen in the space of 30 minutes.

635 R Freyre March 6/7/8

Busy this year. Locos are not in very good condition compared with earlier years. Here, as noted also at some other mills, engine crews often seem a lot younger, perhaps the older guys have retired and standards have dropped..... Our first sight this year, of 1387, was not encouraging. It was filthy, unkempt - apparently there has been no new paint for locos this season, leaking steam everywhere, stopping for blow-ups, and the top of its chimney is missing. To be fair, the others locos seen working - 1386, 1388, 1391 - were not as bad as this one. Most lines and acopios seemed to be in use - although no trains were seen to run beyond Latour to Uvilla, otherwise the usual pattern of trains as in previous years. Full trains in the evening seem to get later, meaning the 'hill' shot is often not possible. Diesel 34058 was the regular power on El Purial trains, although steam works there as well. To add to the WS map, there is a good dirt road just on the far side of the rail crossing in Potrerillo, turn right and the line is in sight to Jucaral, where a much worse road crosses the tracks and comes out in Fray Benito. Just beyond Jucaral is a small bridge, where a photo is possible.
At the shed, 1 (1180) OOU; 1385 for repair; 1389 awaiting repair; 1390 dead; E2413 dumped; 34049 dumped; 34056 working; 34061 for repair?. E2414 was shunting at the mill.
The tourist train seems to run most days with steam, good business for the mill. A loco plinth has been prepared alongside the Holguin main road....

Steam workings on FCC main line

Just for interest I have looked at Minaz steam workings along the Ferrocarriles Cuba Linea Sur (South Line) which runs 288.7km from Havana to Cherepa, junction with the Cienfuegos-Santa Clara line. The 'steamy' section goes from (probably) Ramal San Agustin, 38.5km from Havana, to Perserverancia, 234.4km from Havana. In this distance of 195.9km, I guess that steam has run trains, during the last two or three years, over at least 108.1km, with locos from seven different mills. The workings have been as follows:
G A Manalich loco from Ramal San Agustin to Melena, 21.7km; Amistad loco from Rio Seco to Hector Molina, 8.1km; Manuel Isla loco from Hector Molina to Ramal Josefita, 17.5km; Cuba Libre loco from Union De Reyes to Navajas, 22.9km; R Fraga loco from (probably) Universo to Guareiras, 14.6km; R Garcia loco from Guareiras to La Paz, near Calimete, 14.8km (on workings to J Rabi); P De Mayo loco from Aguada to Perserverancia, 8.5km. In fact, most of these workings have been seen in 2000, apart from R Fraga, certainly seen last year, but maybe not this year, and P De Mayo, where the mill has been closed for the last couple of years.

FCC Observations

March 9

Diesel 81004 at Camaguey station. 50436 seen on passenger at a station near Central Brasil and also again at Moron in the late afternoon.

March 11

What is believed to be one of the French diesels recently imported was seen near San Nicholas on a 4-coach passenger train, loco number was, we think, 80801.

March 17

50908 was on a passenger at the Universidad station near Santa Clara, which is at the end of a 2.1km branch off the Santa Clara - Camajuani line.

March 18

52661 was seen at Santa Maria, outside Ifrain Alfonso mill, on a mixed freight.

March 19

A long passenger train in a smart blue livery was observed passing R M Villena at 09.30, heading towards Havana.

Canadian diesels

Three of these recent imports, 1200hp A1A-A1A type ex Canadian National, were seen. CN no.1113 was standing at Union de Reyes station on March 14. Another group observed that it had been derailed here, probably accounting for the presence of the Matanzas Province works train, including diesel crane (ex-steam) no. 11886, built by the Industrial Brownhoist Corporation. Also on March 14, the same type of ex-CN diesel, this time repainted and renumbered as FCC 51208, was seen on a passenger train at Guareiras at 16.30. On March 18, ex-CN 1124, still in CN livery, was leaving Ranchuelo at 09.00 on a mixed freight, with Minaz 39009 coupled behind on a hopper train.

Random Observations

Bejucal station, 28km from Havana on the Linea Sur, was the site of Cuba's first public railway, opening on 20 November 1837. A plaque on a memorial records this event, there is a small museum in the station building and it still has an attractive old trainshed.

Part of the old narrow gauge station at Caibarien still exists in town. Closed pre-revolution, it is now used as a fish gutting factory! A blue-and-white railcar was seen in the evening going up to Fomento station on the branch from Ramon Ponciano mill.

A small diesel no.2103 is at Lenin Park in what is presumed to be a railway training school, along with a variety of rolling stock.

One for bus gricers - something not seen for several years was a Leyland coach on the move. On March 17, a Leyland Olympic, complete with maker's badge, bearing fleet no. 10078 and reg. no VV0036, was seen heading away from Caibarien just after midday on the Moron road. In the front window was destination board 'Caibarien - Santa Clara' . It looked and sounded in good order. It was also seen at 18.30 that day heading north near Remedios.

Carsten Gussmann's report includes some FCC and Minaz diesel information:


102 Harlem (21st Feb.): no railway.

103 E.G. Lavandero (17th/21st Feb.): mill not working, cane transferred with 37020 to 101 A. Lincoln. The only one steam loco was red La Porta 1816, but under repair in the shed. Photography inside prohibited, outside allowed after long discussion with the mill manager. Other diesels were 37023, red B-B DH TU7-30671, 0-6-0 D ESJM 34 (orange/grey) and green 0-6-0 D 34036/7. After a recent accident 34036 is now fitted with the blue cab of 30409, but still wearing its old number. This double numbered engine shunted the next to mill acopios on the southern and eastern lines, erupting more black smoke than any steam loco!

105 A.C. Sandino (18th Feb.): in steam 1350 for south-east line and 1382 for north-east line, 1210 under repair.

107 P.d.l.T. Brau (21st Feb.): 1103 shunting, 1703 on line, 1401, 1505, 1662 inside the shed, 1101 and 1501 dumped, railbus 06 near the shed, and a small self-made diesel shunting the crusher. In this area many teams of oxen, transferring their cane into lorries at small ox driven loading points. The lorries transport the cane to acopios of the railway.

109 O. Nodarse (18th Feb.): TU7 34006/8 in bad condition and two more wrecked 34 stored near the entrance. Photography denied.

201 Amistad c.l.P (20th Feb.): 1707 and 1804 in steam, tender of 1803 and a Porter 2-6-0 derelict.

203 H.M. Riano (20th Feb.): 37044 on line, 38233 in best condition as FERROAZUC from Ciego de Avila.

206 M.I. Perez (20th Feb.): 1603 and 1705 in use, 1107 on a plinth outside the mill, access to mill area denied.

207 G.A. Mañalich (19th Feb.): 1306 (serving first southern acopio), 1307 (with train to Esmeralda, line there behind the water crane abandoned), 1308, 1510 steaming, converted diesel 5 cold in the middle of the yard. At the diesel facilities 38258 and 38225 (leaving eastbound with one sugarwagon and caboose). At the standard gauge yard outside of the fence any photography was prohibited by two security man, one armed with a gun. He said "take your photos inside". Sometimes Cubans can be very strange.

210 O. Sánchez (20th Feb.): 1701 serving the acopio east of mill.

211 R.M. Villena (14th Feb.): in steam 1311, 1602 (1502?).

212 B.L.S. Coloma (13th Feb.): 1606 shunting, 1711 cold, 51031, 51xxx. No steam on line, all trains diesel. Steam locos neglected, crew very friendly, but photography at the mill not allowed.

302 R. García (22nd Feb.): mill not working, 38228 with empty cane train from Seis de Agosto, 1517 and 1518 in use at J. Rabí.

303 Australia (22nd Feb.): 1515, 1593, 4110 and 37014 in use, at the mill the usual "give me dollar" show.

314 J. Rabí (22nd Feb.): well maintained 1517 and 1518 from R. García, and 37015.

315 J.S. Comas (11th Feb.):in steam 1415, 1530, 1531. 4wD 4117 (Whitcomb 1941, 20 Ton, ex US Army) shunting, inside the shed a blue/red flat wagon with canopy for tourists from Varadero.

319 R. Fraga (22nd Feb.): 1820 shunting, painted in seven different colours (black, red, blue, orange, silver, yellow and white).

401 H. Duquesne (25th Feb.): well-kept Brush Bo-Bo DE 2720/23/25 in service. Flat crossing with FCC line Santa Clara - Moron at the remote LP General Carrillo. (This location is marked on the Atlas de Cuba, although the description of the railway line is perhaps not very helpful!)

403 M. Tiempo (27th Feb.): sg 34044 and 34064 (new cab) in good condition but not running. 1320/1 running, usual dollar game.

405 L.A. Bergnes (25th Feb.): no moving train, all engines under repair in the shed. Visit allowed, but no photography.

406 G. Moncada (23rd Feb.): 1126 preserved, 4wD 4121 at shed, 4wD 4122 shunting the yard, orange 34003 and turquoise 34007/45 in use. Photography with mill in the background denied.

409 A. Sánchez (23rd Feb.): 1624 and 1629 in steam, 38259 collecting sugar wagons, 4wD departmental car 13721.

412 J.P.C. Serviá (28th Feb.): 1728 switching the acopio 1 km east of mill, with number painted in graffiti style in bright colours. On a flat wagon lay aside the remains of 1427 (Alco 62716/1922) waiting for the torch. Useful parts are stored at the shed: cab, axles with wheels, firebox. Also shunting was 37123 in attractive green and orange paint. Inside the shed cold 1727 and 38261.

413 Espartaco (26th/27th Feb.): fireless 1130/1 shunting, 1327, 1328, 1329 in steam, 1326 cold. Converted 2-4-0 diesel 4136 shunting, Brookville 4wD 4123 under repair in the open at the yard, 34062 ex M. Abreu for sg shunt. Car drivers should beware of a small but deep hole between the yard and the southern road. It's easy to sink a wheel and catch the car!

416 C.d. Julio (23rd Feb.): 34019, 34021, 34055 in several duties. A burning cane field caused us some problems, somebody must have set it on fire, but who was it? Of cause the aliens!! MINAZ security and workers blocked our car with three Jeeps for more than 40 minutes, than a police officer noted our personal data and gave as way. In this time some of the workers throw their burning cigarettes into the weed...

418 O. Morales (25th Feb.): milling, shoeshine E1333 wearing at the front a sign indicating that it was used by Camilo Cienfuegos in a battle during the civil war. No access into the shed. The well-kept fleet of TU7 consists of 34069/72/9 and three more.

424 P.d. Mayo (23rd Feb.): mill not working, brown motorwagon 4163, made out of a flat wagon, a dieselmotor and the cab of a steam locomotive.

431 R. Balboa (26th Feb.): not milling, no trains moving, but track maintained. 34001/4 and B-B 2202 (GE 1959) visible from outside.

437 C. Caraballo (26th Feb.): not milling, no wheel turning

441 D.d. Octubre (24th Feb.): 1661 now black/silver, serving the acopio south of mill, 34067 shunting the mill, 37097 in shed, 38135 taking fuel. Bogie railcar 15031, amalgamated from an Ikarus bus and a Russian truck, waiting to be repaired.

443 P. Tey (25th Feb.): 1236, 1337, 1357 in steam, 1164, 1220, 1358 cold, all without plates. Some activity on the northern and the quarry line, but less on the southern.

448 S. Bolivar (25th Feb.): milling, a warm welcome. 1138 (shunting the mill), 1360, 1367 in steam, 1354, 1362, 1363, 1366 cold. 34042 in shed, galloping goose like truck 5 now painted orange and yellow. Trains only as far as Centeno, not up the hill to Loma. Staff stated, that 1366 and four passenger cars will be prepared for a tourist park in Playa Baracoa!

521 Siboney (29th Feb.): in use 37069/95.

604 L. Peña (2nd Mar.): in use 37045, 38037, 38067. At the loco shed was a steam crane, but access denied. Plinthed in a park at the mill is 2-8-2 50 (ALCo 66030/1924). East of mill at the pw shed were 4wD departmental cars 111 (green, repair), 113 (orange/black, in use), 115 (red/yellow, repair), 124 (grey/green), 2w-4w rail truck 114 (red/black) and 4w draisine 122 (orange, "comunicaciones").

Blue/white 4wD TAINO railcar 0157 serving Baguano - La Carida, arrival in Baguano at 8:45 and 16:00, leaving at 13:00 (first departure unknown). His home is in a fenced area beside the yard east of mill. There is also a rail ambulance numbered 446 with a red cross, looking like a survivor from first worldwar, but without its motor.

608 C. Naranjo (5th Mar.): in use 37061 and 38130. Stored at the level crossing close to the shed was 2-8-0 53 (BLW 44799/1917). (After some debate between Wayne Weiss and Carsten, it appears that this loco has boxpok wheels and therefore is 1591 with the number off the old 53. RD) In use 37059 and 38230, on the Parera branch near the first acopio were the small 4wD railcars 002 (orange) and 003 (yellow), in the shed 37061 and 38130. Stored near the shed was 2-8-0 53 (BLW 44799/1917). In the town 0-6-4T 1 is plinthed at a museum beside the main road, missing most parts of its motion.

621 A. Maceo (5th Mar.): 37114 (normally orange parts were red painted) shunting the yard, 39007 on FCC exchange siding.

622 A. Libre (29th Feb.): in service: standard coloured GE Bo-Bo DE 2405/2705/9, B-B DH 38076/100, grey/red 4wD TAINO railcars 026 and 030, blue/white 4wD departmental car 50, small blue/white railcar 104, small orange/white railcar 109. Under repair: 37031, green/yellow bogie railcar 155 (Brill?), brown/yellow bogie railcar 4033 (Brill?), tankwagon 11 with inscription "THE FRANCISCO SUGAR COMPANY" (unchanged since 40 years or longer). Also under repair (staff said so), but more derelict: GE B-B 2308 (from Congo [?]), GE Bo-Bo DE 2704. Dumped: blue/red bogie railcar 001 (Sumitomo?).

626 Guatemala (2nd Mar.): in use 37060/2, 38034/73/103. Beside the shed are two steam cranes, 2w-4w 24 (Industrial Works Bay City, Michigan 3349/1916) and 4w-4w 25 (Industrial Works Bay City, Michigan 3007/1919). Staff stated, that 24 is out of order, but 25 serviceable.

Blue/white/red 4wD TAINO railcar 071 is running on Guatemala - Guaro line, offering nice photo opportunities with Bahía de Nipe in the background. In the afternoon happens in Guaro a 4wD railcar meeting, with members 69 (orange/red), 071 and 168 (bluegreen), all arriving around 4 PM and leaving minutes later. In the station waits "AMBULANCIA" 65 (orange) for victims, and some 300 m south is a little depot for railcars, with the remains of railcar 80.

635 R. Freyre (1st/3rd/4th Mar.): in use 1386, 1387 (tourist train), 1390, 1391 (tender of 1385), ex Hawaiian Bo-Bo DE 2414, 34056/8/61. 1 "La Mambista" cold, 1385 and two class 34 in workshop, 2413 derelict at the yard. Also in service were green/white bogie railcar 12 (carro auxilio), small yellow 4wD railcar 20 and racing drasines 45, 48, 49. Transporte Obrero (workers transport) 50 was in pieces, and 4wD railcar 626 (blue/white) under repair in a little shed at the eastern end of yard.

Some tenders are wearing paintings of animals: 1386 dromedary, 1387 rabbit, 1390 swordfish (marlin).

Shed and mill visits are possible for dollars, ask at the information office some 50 m from mill entrance to town for Mr. Rodolfo. He can help and gives information about trains, timetable and locomotives.

Late in the evening of 3rd Mar. happened an accident at the remote LP Teche. A coupling opened on the incline to Paluga, the last three wagons rolled back to the LP and crashed into the buffer-stop at the end of the line. These wagons were seriously damaged, also a switch, so that no train was able to change wagons at Teche. This accident caused some troubles for the timetable, all trains of the day were running very late, the morning train arrived back at mill around 4 PM.
The train for Guardalavaca based tourists leaves around 10:30 and return at 1 PM. It runs nearly every day, consisting of one or two semi open wagons in blue and white, named FERROTUR. One has a platform on which a music group is playing Samba during the stops. A strange scene to see this music tourist train in a dusty Cuban village, like a thing from outer space.


General: more trains are running and timekeeping is much better than in recent years, especially on the main line Habana - Santiago de Cuba (linea central). Some trains run only every second day, like Habana - Cienfuegos or Habana - Pinar del Rio, and on secondary lines trains are often cancelled. The vintage class GM 900 (50900, GM/EMD 1954, type G8) are still in service, but the much newer russian class M62-K (61600, Woroschilowgrad 1974/5) are mostly withdrawn (see below)

Budd railcars 2304, 2305, 2306 with sign FERROCUBA and FIAT railcars 2146 seen on line between Habana and Moron/Santiago de Cuba.

Cárdenas (11th Feb.): scrapyard for rolling stock, beautiful stationbuilding in "Magreb" style, painted pale blue and yellow.

Matanzas (12th/15th Feb.): harbour branch (Ramal Dubroque) was served by 71064 and MINAZ trains, MINAZ area with 39013 and several class 37/38. There was no photo possible in cause of to much security and military.

Hershey (13th/14th Feb.): most traffic in hands of the green spanish railcars, also on the branches to Caraballo and Jaruco (402, 405, 407, 408, 501, 502, 508, 509, 802, 903). The following trains were run by a old red railcar (3006, 3009): Hershey 12:40 Jibacoa 13:04 - 13:46 Canasi 14:06 - 14:14 Jibacoa 14:39 - 14:41 Santa Cruz 14:55 - 15:05 Jibacoa 15:20 - 15:22 Hershey 15:42.

Electric locos 21001 and 21203 with freight train Matanzas - Hershey (13th Feb., late in the evening), 21004 and 21003 with cane train on the Jaruco branch.
A workshop visit was allowed by the female doorkeeper - unfortunately only for five minutes, then she realised her error and draw us out. At the workshops: flat roof 3021, Westwaggon 3027 (some days later scrapped), loco 21202 (converted from french diesel loco, ex class 50800), and several spanish railcars. Most of the wrecks collected over years are now transferred to a track south of the diversion to Jaruco, including the Budd with his original character "Guantanamo & Western Railroad".

Some trains are now ending at the new terminus "La Coubre" close to Habana Estacion Central (main station). These trains are hauled on the non electric section from Guanabo to La Coubre with diesel, usually using locos 71050 and 51032. Arrival at La Coubre 11:31 and 16:05, departure 12:05 and 16:30.

Habana (16th-19th Feb.): Taller "Jose Ramirez Casamayor": 51036 in a nice white/paleblue/darkblue livery (not KRONOS). No shed visit possible.
It was not allowed to visit the depot near Cristina station (Taller "Revolution de Octubre"), but outside of the fence we had no problems with security. Their main job is to prevent the theft of FCC material, they control every bag and every engine leaving the depot. Also the fuel of locomotives has to be checked.
Main station: platform visit only possible with ticket, and no photography allowed "in case of terrorism". The only engine we could take photos of, under attention of a guard, was the red 4-2-2 1 LA JUNTA in the main waiting hall.

The "new" ex Canadian 11xx (Co-Co DE or A1A-A1A DE) are everywhere around Habana, in use were 1113, 1134 (GMC 5813), 1139 with original orange/black colour and number, and 51207 in new blue/white colour (hauled on 16th Feb passenger train 67 to Cienfuegos after shunting the Taino works).

Some class MX-624 (52400, MLW 1975/6) were seen in pale and dark blue KRONOS livery: 52405/11/20/31/2/4/7/40/3/4

The San Antonio branch was worked by bogie railcar 4107 (unknown origin) and 4w railcar 4130 (Ikarus design) with trailer 5145 (TAINO). Train crews friendly, but the stationmaster of San Antonio prohibited any photo. Both railcars are fitted with only one control end, so they have to be turned on a triangle at San Antonio.

Guareiras (22nd Feb.): weed killing train with yellow 4wD departmental car 3542 of Russian origin. At 10:30 passed an ugly railcar (4122, blue/white, 4w single cab, seems to be one half of a DMU) on its way from Aguada to Cárdenas. In the afternoon empty cane train from central Seis de Agosto to R. García hauled by 38228.

Cienfuegos (24th-26th Feb.): shed visit no problem, but the end of class M62K 61600 is near. Only three remains in service, two more (61605/12) are withdrawn and waiting for their transport to the smelters at Habana steelworks Antillana de Acero, all other members of this class were scrapped over the last years. 61602 is station pilot in Cienfuegos, 61611 and 61613 are used by Fabrica de Cementos "Karl Marx" for shunting at the work near central Pepito Tey and seldom for trains to Cienfuegos. Once 21 M62K were delivered from Woroschilowgrad in 1974/5 and numbered K-500 to K-520, later renumbered 61601 - 61621. The original enamel numberplates were overpainted with the new numbers, but not in order (under 61612 is K-513 visible, 61605 wears two different K numbers).

Most trains between Cienfuegos and Santa Clara are now hauled by second hand class 51200 (ex Canada). Their reliability seems to be high, the passenger to Sancti Spiritus runs daily, mostly in time (for Cuban timetables...), and several freight trains were seen. Santa Clara based 51201 and 51212 are painted black/silver (third colour scheme for this class, see Habana).

Many sugar trains are hauled by various MINAZ diesel to the harbour of Cienfuegos.

Santa Clara (28th Feb.): FCC shed visit denied, an authorisation from government is needed, not from ministry of transport! Trains to Universidad branch are hauled by Bo-Bo DE 50900 (GM/EMD 1954).

Camajuani - Placetas (28th Feb.): served by little two axle TAINO railbus 005 named "Carahata de Camajuani", smart looking in bright yellow with black lining. This railbus, maybe belonging to J.P.C. Serviá, gives place for 41 passengers, max speed is 30 kph.

Other Industrial Railways:

Antillana de Acero, El Cotorro (Habana steel works, 18th Feb.): visit only possible for commercial travellers. 38249 in pale blue/white livery and one other 38 in standard MINAZ colour were visible from outside.

Fabrica Martires de Artemisa (cement works, 8 km east of Artemisa, 17th Feb.): shunter here is French Bo-Bo DE 50801 (B&L 1965, type BB63DE, similar to SNCF BB63500), coloured bordeaux with yellow and silver lining. On 17. Feb. this engine was send to Pinar del Rio FCC works for repair. It showed problems with engine and electric and needed nearly one hour for the way to Artemisa. Next day it should be transferred with a regular freight train to Pinar del Rio. Staff stated, that only three locos of this type remains on Cuban rails. Red 50831 (FCC?) was seen on 19. Feb. at Habana Cristina depot. The third engine should be in Pinar del Rio.

Cantera de Guaimaro, Palo Seco (gravel quarry, 29th Feb.): access was no problem, all seems to be unchanged since the report of last year (thanks to Chris Walker!), but unfortunately all boilers were cold for overhaul until May. The steam engine dates from 1914. The boss gave us a personal tour, stating that there were one year ago two English visitors, and we are the second one's. The Marion steam shovel is still on display.

Union de Niquel, Nicaro (2nd Mar.): a visit to the steam worked incline Piedra Gorda - La Mina near Mayari was not successful. Any near inspection or photography was strictly forbidden, a permit from the government was badly needed. At Piedra Gorda was shunting a Co-Co DE class 91 (said to be TEM2TK), some more of them shall shunt the mine, and from time to time they are exchanged over the incline. The plant was build in 1906 by an american company.


As we were leaving the country, customs at Holguin airport controlled intensively our luggage and asked many unnecessary questions for half an hour. Fortunately no film was confiscated, only 35 US Dollar disappeared by control of purse for Pesos.

Here is Steve Mourton's initial report from early March:

Report of a trip to Cuba from March 6 to March 19 2000 by Simon Bowden, Steve Mourton, Mike Randall, Chris Walker This season has produced a record crop - of gricers. For example, at Pepito Tey around 7am one morning about 40 gricers disgorged from a large bus, several minibuses and cars and - guess what - there were no trains due until about 11am, just a loco or two shuffling off shed, albeit in good light.

The cane harvest has been relatively good this year, meaning there should have been lots of steam action, but finding it in daylight during this part of the season appeared to present problems for most visitors, especially for standard gauge line workings. Too often a loco in steam for most of the day was not departing the mill - tender first - until late afternoon, meaning the return full train was after the sun went down. Additionally the sky tended to cloud over in the afternoons, making things even more difficult for photography. While some 'old favourite' line workings are reported to have succumbed this year to total diesel haulage, as at Boris Luis Santa Coloma, other 'new' or 'revived' line workings have been seen by various people this year - 'new' being the workings between G A Manalich and Pablo Noriega while 'revived' are steam line workings at Caracas. We were not fortunate enough to see these workings in our trip. Workings we did see are shown in our report. In our two weeks, we saw 61 locos in steam at 30 mills plus Lenin Park. I looked back to the 1990 trip for comparison. That year we saw 88 locos in steam at 31 mills. In 1990 it was more difficult to visit sheds, where there were other engines in steam that we could not identify. So while - along with rest of the world - there is less steam activity now, there is still more than enough for a two week visit. Another loss compared with 1990 is that there are now very few small shunting engines in action. On the other hand, this year has two big 2-8-2s in use, both of which were stored in 1990.

Parque Lenin March 12

2 was working the train, which still appears to be popular with the locals. At the shed were 1 and 3 both used. 1260 was being cut up. A large Bo-Bo diesel is also in the shed, but does not work - it was made in Camaguey in 1979. Did not see or look for the plinthed 30" gauge steam.

Mill visits:

105 A C Sandino March 13

The remains of 1382 still lie at the Porvenir acopio after its boiler explosion. One of the safety valves has completely sheared off and the front of the boiler has gone. The firebox end was still intact, intimating that it was not low water level which caused the problem.

1350 worked the long line to the Varela acopio both morning and afternoon, being handled fairly carefully by the crew, stopping every so often to check everything was in order. 1404 was seen leaving the Porvenir acopio for the mill at 16.00. The Dos Hermanos acopio on the Varela line appears not to be in operation. On shed 1210 dead; 1364 dismantled; 1405 dead.

The remains of 1209 and 1424 have gone from the roadside near the mill.

107 P T Brau March 13

This mill must now qualify as one of the best standard gauge operations. It always seems to be busy and has a good variety of working locos. 1103 was out on the port line at 11.30, bringing back 6 fulls from the acopio there. Meantime 1505 was taking fuel at the mill, while 1703 was at the first loader, Recompensa, on the 'main' line, where it put together a train of 10 fulls before arriving back at the mill by 12.30.

An hour or so later, 1703 went out le to the loader at the far end, near San Ignacio. It arrived back at the river bridge just before Recompensa with 16 fulls, where it 'slipped' 6 of the wagons, before carrying on to the mill. It then returned le to the Recompensa acopio, picked up 4 fulls, which it reversed over the river bridge onto the 6 wagons standing on the main line and then carried on to the mill. At the shed - 1401 under repair;1662 ready for use; 1501 OOU; 1101 preserved; 1102 frame only. According to the shed foreman, a diesel was tried here some years ago, but was not successful. Sharp curves restrict the mill to using 6-coupled locos. We often wondered whether locos transferred to this isolated mill came in by sea via the port, but it was confirmed that locos are brought in by road.

201 Amistad March 12 Mill not working

1804 arrived tender first at Rio Seco acopio around 10.00 with a short train of fulls. It collected some more and then went on the FCC Linea Sur main line to San Nicholas station with 15 fulls and caboose. It waited to cross FCC diesel 71064 le, before proceeding to the siding for Hector Molina mill. 1804 travelled 8.1km along the Linea Sur. It did not work its train down the branch from the main line to the mill, this was to be done by a Hector Molina diesel, but went back to Amistad le and caboose, arriving there at midday.

At the mill 1303 was simmering in the yard. At the shed were 1707 dead; 1803 dead;

1106 for preservation; 1712 in store; diesel 39021 with caboose for Minaz main line working.

206 Manuel Isla March 14

Although due to finish for the season on March 11, the mill was still in operation this day. 1302 was shunting hoppers and a Minaz diesel arrived on 3 tank cars. 1107 is now plinthed by the main road.

Possibly the highlight of our trip - the better for being completely unexpected - was this mill's 1708 storming along the Linea Sur from Los Palos to the siding at Hector Molina, a distance of 15.9 km. 1708 was first seen in the distance at 09.30 as we drove along the autopista. It was hauling 16 fulls plus caboose and blasted through Vegas station and under the autopista. We could not find road access to the siding mentioned, but it looked like 1708 would be leaving its train there, as with the Amistad working. So this siding has seen steam locos from two different mills working trains on an FCC main line bound for a completely dieselised mill - not bad for the year 2000. We do not know exactly where this train originated - presumably at Manuel Isla mill, although, as stated, the mill there still appeared to be operating. Perhaps it was winding down, hence this transfer.

207 G A Manalich March 12

A brief trip here found 1306 shunting with 1308 arriving on a fulls train at 13.00. Nothing doing on the standard gauge, we were told 1806 was receiving maintenance and might go out around 17.30.

Just to correct a previous report, the ng 0-6-0 here is the one from Banes wagon works, not the one from Rafael Freyre. It is for a museum - in Havana??? Also 1551 here is not, we were told, the 'real' 1551 which remains at Trinidad. It is actually 1402, for some reason repainted as 1551 for filming. Also 1403 has supposedly gone for preservation - in Havana???

210 O Sanchez March 12

An official shed visit here. The three remaining ng locos - 1309; 1310; 1347 are all stored. Officials said a decision was awaited from Minaz on the fate of the ng line to Los Mangos which is still in place. On the sg, 1701 was in steam; 1204 dead for repair; 1205 dead; 1507 for repair; 1681 under repair. A cylinder block noted was off loco 1506, formerly at Hector Molina, which had been brought here for parts to be used by 1507. So 1506 can be regarded as scrapped.

211 R M Villena March 19

A brief visit found 1411 shunting around the mill.

303 Australia March 11

Around midday on shed were 1513 in steam; 1515 in steam; 1593 dead with wrecked cab; 1620 dead; 1716 OOU??; 37XXX diesel dead.

1607 was found at the far end of the line, San Ramon. The loco was actually visible from the Aguada - Amarillas main road, as the acopio is only a kilometre or so from this road. 1607 left tender first after 14.00 with some fulls. The loco turned on the wye near Apodaca, picked up more fulls there, before leaving at 15.30 with 14 fulls plus water tanker, a fine sight and sound. It had crossed the autopista before 16.00.

304 Granma March 19

1713 dead; 1812 in steam; 1615 being cut up; small diesels shunting, also a 34XXX bringing in fulls. In the early afternoon, 1812 took empties to the acopio at Victoria de Yaguajay, shunted them, then pushed a few fulls back up to Granma. It looked and sounded a lot better than two years ago when it could hardly drag itself along.

305 P R Libre March 14 Mill closed

This whole place looks increasingly derelict, the chances of it ever reopening do not look good. 1527; 1718; 1901 all OOU in the tatty deserted shed. One small bright spot is the little tank 1116 which has been dragged out through the back wall of the shed onto the road and is being prepared for putting on a plinth (not being scrapped as intimated in a previous report). The plinth is already in place in the mill.

306 Cuba Libre March 14 / 19

On the first visit, 1612 shunted the yard, while 1611 and 1808 were both in steam outside the shed. 38123 was present in the mill yard. Steam was predicted to go out 'soon' but nothing happened and the forecast was revised to 'later' so we made an excuse and left. No better on March 19, when 1611 was shunting, with 1808 in steam, no line working expected before 16.00. 38123 arrived from P R Libre on fulls.

314 J Rabi March 11

I have lost count of the number of times in recent years there has been absolutely nothing happening at this place. 1413 needs repair to l/h eccentric; 1529 dead; 1414 repair;1810 OOU. Diesels 37010 and 37015 sitting in the yard; one R Garcia steam loco was blocked inside the mill by lines of full cane wagons. Time to move on....

318 V de Yaguajay March 19 Mill closed

The shed here appears to function as the loco workshop for Granma, with 1519 getting repairs to its regulator and 1714 having a major boiler overhaul. Of their own locos,1811 had wheels and axleboxes receiving attention; 1514, 1594, 1813 stored for possible future repair. 39005 arrived for brake block changes.

319 R Fraga March 14 Mill not working

Absolutely dead, had the mill closed for the season or was it merely resting? 1820 dead in its strange livery; 1313 dead; 1532 dead; 1524 OOU; 1618 OOU. Possibly other bits and pieces lying around but we did not inspect the shed very closely.

320 J Avila March 19

At 13.30, 1721 was in the mill yard in steam. 1807 also in steam attached to a caboose, so presume it could have been doing line work beyond the two acopios near the mill. Unfortunely we had a plane to catch... At the shed were 1526 dead; 1534 overhaul; 1720 dead; 1535 dumped; 1814 dumped.

Mind where you stand, these are some bits from 1382 at Sandino (courtesy of Chris Walker) - more pictures are available:


Werner Fritthum and Anna Kolmer have provided a fuller version of their report of their visit from 26 Feb - 16 Mar


After an obviously normal growth period good cane harvest at an estimated stage of season´s total harvest of less than 40% in the north, 30% in the south and even 70% around Pepito Tey. All mills milling as indicated (with exception of short breaks for repairs, as Pepito Tey 14/3). Good transport performance (similar rail operating schemes as 97) and good loco condition, crews increasingly fascinated by colourful liveries for their locos, fashionable... (O.Gonzalez, Venezuela) ! Some groups, but only few gricers met  Best season as concerns weather - few clouds, often late evening sun (even 18:15) Chiclets and pens, even clothes are still in great favour ! - children fetching everywhere ...

Havanautos offers very small „Tico"-kind Daewoo car MATIZ (800 ccm, A/C!!!) which turned out very economic for 2, but attention: luggage space is limited to 1 bag only, no suitcase ! over 6422 kms in 20 days (sic): 1 tire damaged, but no flat, no worries...
Rate 36 $ + 12 $ assurance, 6 l/100km and suitable even for worst roads -
no need for 4WD now after rainy period, „2WD" is sufficient indeed !

Hotels even without any pre-arrangement no problem (except Playa Larga in mid-March), prices 44 - 55 $ per double (even 34 - 36 $, as Ciego and Don LINO!), now generally breakfast included (but not before 07:30, some 07:00), but lunch-package might be arranged.

As I´ve tried hard to learn a (very) little spanish I suppose (to ask for food, way or train only), we got quite good access to mills and were welcomed surprisingly warm and friendly, even by guards (and traffic police as well, when I was stopped at 100 instead of 50 kph....) nevertheless infos turned out confusing as ever: such is life and that kind of „sports".....

Nasty habits: are widely spread, but we should consider that generally some „service" is included for such „obligatory" tips, as smoke, cabin access or guide offers to photo spots and the „tariffs" are „common" and throughout 1 $ or 5 $ for all 5 staff.... When I tried to test them, even 1,2 single cigarettes for each (!) or even 2x20 Pesos for the crew (!) could make them content .. so, I deem their behaviour not exaggerated, but quite tricky and always polite! An horribly evil habit is to stop the train for fetching and to fall down from cabin and tender to spoil the shot (video as well as even photo!), as happened to us particularly at Smith Comas, Australia, Mal Tempo, Pepito Tey and M.Salado !

Generally no refusal of photography outside (fenced) mill area at all ! But inside mill area and depots or shops guards are ubiquitous; they often even refuse infos, where to get local permits (Ciro Redondo) and are rarely helpful to get infos about lineside train operations.

MILLS VISITED and locos seen active (others omitted):
Note: abbreviated geographical directions: N, E, S, W; LP names additional
„told"= someone from staff told me (in spanish..), but info is not verified
00:00 = approx. timings


PARQUE LENIN #2 ca. 15:00


BORIS L.Sta.COLOMA 11:30 Diesel from LP E, 1606 pilot only, no other steam told & seen

VILLENA 1502 (with 1602's tender) + another for pilot and LP W short haul seen

MANALICH 1307, 1308, 1351; 1551, 1806 ex Boris. They very friendly (really!) reminded us, first to get permit from MINAZ (after a 3 hrs stay in patio....)


SANDINO 1350 + a dirty one (1404) from 1st Lp ca 15:30, 2nd train same loco from Lp NE 18:20 (as usual, sunset !)


PABLO DE LA TORRIENTE BRAU (or in German: Paul Braubach? Sounds reasonable), 1401 pilot, 1703 at 15:00 from LP N

SANDINO 1350 + dirty one; in shed: 1405 oou; Told: 1382 blast, no one died(?), After waiting for 17:30 train out to LP SE back from Lp NE 18:20 again...


AUSTRALIA 1513 out 08:45 (exactly, as usual), no gricers, no dust, but hellish noisy ! 1593 afternoon backwards at Juanita 16:30, crossing train: DIESEL !


AUSTRALIA 1607 derailed at shed main switch, delay until 11:30: 1513 out, 1515 in good condition (as pilot? Told: also on line duty occasionally)

E of AGUADA 1624 ex Sanchez 13:30 back to NE

JESUS RABI 1517 ex Garcia 15:00 arriving at mill from Calimete, pilots etc. Diesel

RENE FRAGA 1820 (much red, blue cabin) 16:30 - 17:00 short hauls from both LPs E through mill


MAL TIEMPO 1320 back from Potrerillo 11:30, nothing else since 08:00, 1321 out 12:00

IFR. ALFONSO 1635, 1637, 1636 little repairs, 1910, 1850 seems serviceable. Out to N Pozo around 08:30, back 10:30 and out 16:00 again, back 17:30

DIEZ OCTUBRE 1661 pilot, none else but Diesels


REMEDIOS Told: all FCC-line operations Diesel, no steam via Camajuani ! 1342 waiting at 10:30 for Diesel with empties to serve LP N Jinaguayabo around 12:00 out to LP N, back at 13:15 and light back to mill

M.SALADO any attempt for shed visit refused by tall guard, friendly staff interventions useless: The 2 pretty ST´s newly painted, Red Devil not seen

MAL TIEMPO 1321 shunting late afternoon, told: 16:00 dep., back around 18:00 -19:00

IFR.ALFONSO Told: 15:45 to LP N Pozo, back soon at 17:00, pilot Diesel rarely used, many ZIL-trucks delivering cane

ESPARTACO 1130 pilot, Diesels standing around, 1329 to and from LP N Esperanza, 1327 from LP SFdo (Cuban: San Fernando de C.) back after Sunset 18:45


PEPITO TEY 1357 out early, back from LP W Lajitas 07:30 (seems usual), no gricers, no dust, but stopping in scene to tell us, they will go out again to bring a second part of train (around 08:15) !1358 at 08:00 out for LP E Limones, quick return, 08:45 out for LP N - that´s all until late afternoon (usual, as 2 Germans told)

O.GONZALEZ R.1837 back 16:30 from ?, 1836 back 17:00, 1837 back 18:00 again from LP SE Portilla


VENEZUELA 1741 (green!) in use (Told: going out 08:30, back noon), pilots Diesel

ECUADOR 1821, 1578 pilots (blue cabs) 11:00 - 12:00

RAF. FREYRE from E back 17:55 late, because „manned" with group T.Nicolas, (and lost caboose in super-hill spot - and spoiled scene...), 1391 coming in from LP W (Los Mango, not Purial?)


RAF. FREYRE from W back 8:00 Diesel. Told: no train leaving, no train out (doubtful)

BANES display of 4-wheeler found, some funny rail-„car"-services seen


Santiago d.C.streetcar-rails (one-way-system) can still be found in city !


DEMAJAGUA no rails, not milling, 2-6-2 on display vis-a-vis CAI (Museum is 3km NE!)


RAF. FREYRE info got threefold: no steam to LP W Purial, only Diesel around 07:00, 1390 Marlin out 08:45 (told Uvilla, but only Latour) serving Jobal, and Honduras (push) first, leaving Latour 12:15, back at mill around 13:30, (group Huxtable met), obviously was 2nd train to Teche


RAF. FREYRE 1386 Camel out 08:45 serving Teche, Peluga and Luciano, 1390 Marlin out 13:30 for Uvilla (was told again, but was Latour only), return 12:15 back empty to LP Princeas, loaded back at mill around 15:30 - good enough for super-hill. Obviously was 1st train to Latour earlier


C.REDONDO  no steam at 10:00, no info obtained - „nice" guard refused even contacts!

BOLIVIA not milling, all 4 F´s dead but o.k., Diesels on inter-mills told

VENEZUELA 1657 (intensive blue!)12:00 coming in from LP SW through mill (noisy...) , short way found direct from Rasco to Limones P.

O.GONZALEZ R.1732 (green like a frog)16:00 coming to LP SW Limones P., starting back again 17:30 (stop for tips..), serving LP NW Las Trozas late


IFR. ALFONSO 1635 starts from LP N Pozo around 09:00 with 1(!)loaded, (stop for tips..)

MAL TIEMPO 1321 back from Potrerillo 11:30, told: 13xx out 12:00

ESPARTACO pilot: Diesels, at noon 13xx from LP N Esperanza

MAL TIEMPO 1355 starts at 14:00 from Potrerillo with bus-group, meeting train with 1320 at mid-LP around 16:30, back at mill late around 17:15

IFR. ALFONSO 1910 from LP N Pozo arrival late at 17:45


IFR. ALFONSO 1635 starts from LP N Pozo around 09:30

ESPARTACO 1130, 1131 pilot; 1327 at 13:45 out to LP SW Jicotea - back after 15:45, no train served Sfdo today

PEPITO TEY 1236 pilot; 1358 out for LP W Lajitas 15:30 (seems usual), back 17:00, 1357 out for LP N 17:15


AUSTRALIA 1607 out on schedule 08:45, met at autopista

GUAREIRAS 1517 with hopper-empties 12:30 to J.Rabi on „high speed-line" (60kph!)

J.REYES CAIRO not milling, no sign of any activity

SMITH COMAS 1531 out via Contreras, Texas-TV watching it. 1415 in shed, serviceable

Three Yanks report (8th March 2000, updates to 17th March, final update 22nd March):

103 E.G. Lavendero

All steam transferred away, but 1816 (Cuban Red Devil) has been here since Feb 6th for Patio work only. Mill closed with cane going to Abraham Lincoln. The shed foreman seemed to be quite impressed with his new charge, 1816. He told me it had increased in horsepower from 800 originally to 1200 after the modifications. When asked if it was doing any linework or taking cane to A. Lincoln, he was emphatic that it remained only within one or two kilometers from the mill. He then showed me the stenciled plate near the cab which most Cuban locomotives seem to have and indicated it was a license of some kind which spelled out what kind of duties or where the locomotive was permitted to run. What he couldn't explain was why they were using such a capable locomotive for a patio switcher at a closed mill with no need for a patio locomotive.

105 A.C. Sandino

The boiler accident with 1382 (see below) has been blamed on a stuck safety valve. 1404 and 1350 in steam, 1405, 1210 and 1354 under repair.

107 PT Brau

Working normally with 1103, 1703 and 1401 in steam.1501 needs new pistons which are not readily available. 1505 and 1662 on shed.

201 Amistad

Working normally, no diesels seen, not milling with cane to H. Molina by diesel (it was steam last year).1707 and 1803 in steam, 1805 cold but serviceable, 1303 and 1804 in shed.

206 Manual Isla Perez

On March 13th, 1107 plinthed in front of the mill. 1708 was in steam near the dumper. The usual friendly reception with someone yelling at us as soon as a camera was raised.

207 Manalich

Working normally. 1551 working the standard gauge, 1306 and 1308 in steam and working. 1806 ex Boris is here working west on the FCC to a junction at San Filipe, then down Pablo Noriega trackage to bring cane here. Chimney first on eastbound run - left the mill at 08.30 on this visit. The field lines to the west were definitely being worked. We investigated the trackage around Santa Barbara and found the track north of Santa Barbara lifted! The line to the west was working and the first copio out (name not indicated on the World Steam map, but I have it as "Alfaro" from another visit) was loading. 1551 was shunting the standard gauge on March 2nd. I had never seen this loco and had to look up its history myself. Didn't see any of the other SG locos as we were denied a look at the shed with no permit.

210 O. Sanchez

Patio and nearest copios only on March 3rd 1204 was working west acopio, crew said 1681 was also running. Mill closed with cane to H. Molina by diesel.

211 R.M. Villena

Working normally with 1411 at the nearest acopio on March 2nd.

212 Boris L.S.

Disaster with most steam transferred away! 1606 on patio March 2nd, 1711 in shed. Two large diesels here now.

302 R. Garcia

Not milling, 1517 and 1518 at J. Rabi.

303 Australia

March 12th, 1515 dragged in 1607 and its train from San Ramon LP. 1607 had dropped a fusible plug. At the mill 1513 was in steam at the oil rack.

304 Granma

March 13th, 1812 shunting the patio and the close LPs. Later observed to work the double LP further out from the mill.

306 Cuba Libre

March  13th 1611 shunting the patio. 1410 and 1612 in steam in front of the shed. 1808 was beside the shop undergoing maintenance and 1610 was inside undergoing heavy repair. 1409 from Puerto Rico Libre appeared dumped at the end of the siding beside the shed.

314 J. Rabi

Working normally with 1517 and 1518 doing the patio and near acopio. All JR locos cold in shed. 1413 ran early in the season but broke an 'eccentric valve rod' and unlikely to run again this year.

315 Jose Smith Comas

March 13th, 1415, 1530, 1531 under steam. 1122 is in the shop for heavy repairs and a gas (or diesel) mechanical 4117 is switching the dumper. In afternoon, 1531 worked to Delirio LP and 1415 shuttled twice to Dos Hermanos LP. The tourist car was used as a caboose on one of the shuttles to Dos Hermanos.

319 R. Fraga

Working. 1820 on patio and close acopios. LP Gonzalito not working this year. 1313 dead on shed, 1522 has given up its tender to 1820. 1524 dead.

403 Mal Tiempo

Working normally with 1320, 1321 and 1355 in steam. Crews up to their usual tricks demanding money and closing oil valves if not paid.

404 Caracas

Good news here, with steam on line mainly 1621 working on FCC to the two copios north of the autopista and one west of Lajas. 1538 and 1545 on patio. 1848 at shed. A very helpful lady in the traffico outlined the copios at Caracas for us. The mill has five in total. "Batey" is the close copio just to the east of the mill; "El Guanal" is just to the west of Lajas; "Santa Susanna" is the first copio north of the autopista; "San Marcos" to the north of Santa Susanna with "Maceo"  about midway between Santa Susanna and San Marcos. El Guanal, Santa Susanna, and San Marcos are all places indicated on the Cuba atlas map as well. All but Santa Susanna are working this year. Very busy with several trains each day. On March 3rd 1621 was departing the mill right at dusk and 1538 was working the patio. On March 4th we caught 1621 working south under the autopista at 15:30. A stop was made at Lajas station where an empty oil drum was loaded on the tender. The FCC line runs almost due north-south with the locos facing south, chimney first on loads. A number of superb positions are to be found and the paralleling road is tar in good condition (for Cuba). Lajas station faces east, so better shot in the am. A winner!

405 L. A. Bergnes

Not milling, cane to JM Perez, 1622 in steam apparently working acopios.

409 Antonio Sanchez

March 12th, 1623 left mill with empties at 08:30. We gave chase but loco gave us the slip and we lost it. It appeared to only distribute empties and by mid-day had not returned to the mill. 1629 worked the patio and the close copio to the south.

413 Espartaco

Working normally, all locos except 1326 in use.

418 O. Morales

Milling, (not as predicted) but 100% diesel

428 Marcelo Salado

Not milling with cane to JM Perez, 1343 on patio, 1342 to Jinaguayabo on March 5th, cane goes to mill for weighing then forwarded by diesel.

433 Marta Abreu

Not milling

438 Ramon Ponciano

11th March On arrival, just missed 1634 on the bridge by less than one minute! It ran to the shed area and never moved again. 1552 alongside, looking serviceable. Minaz security men very much in evidence as soon as we arrived. We had no permit, so no pictures.

440 Ifrain Alfonso

1636, 1637 and 1910 in steam on 4th March. March 11th, 1635 on a return run from Pozo charged across the autopista and then up to the FCC connection. At the bottom of the hill into the mill, the train was stopped and the crew came over to beg. They did not get their requested five dollars. A departure offering no smoke and noise plus the addition of the blower and cylinder cocks was attempted. However, the grade prevented this for very long and soon the expected noise and smoke were on offer. A final touch - the front coupler had a small piece of foliage stuck in it. We gave a hearty thumbs up to the performance!!

We are fairly sure the crew may not have noticed us at the first two positions. Much clag and noise were in evidence at both of those. The importation of the Mal Tiempo crews last year has forever corrupted at least some of the crews at this mill. The same problem was encountered at Pepito Tey. The crew stopped the train to beg here also. Of course, the Mal Tiempo crews have the attempting to ruin the picture if not paid routine down to a science. We witnessed one outbound train near the Mal Tiempo monument almost put the fire out trying to reduce the amount of oil to the absolute minimum so there would be no smoke!

441 Diez de Octubre

March 11th, 1661 switching the patio. In mostly black with a little orange left from last years' paint. Perhaps a more significant change is the addition of a bullet nose to the smokebox!

443 Pepito Tey

Working normally, 1358, 1337, 1236 and 1220 in steam.

448 Simon Bolivar

Milling! (not as predicted) 1138, 1364 and 1360 in steam, not running LP Loma

503 O. G. Ramirez

March 11th, painted in a tasteful green paint scheme, 1732 was switching sugar hoppers and then weighing them. 1563 and 1837 in black, outside the shed looking very serviceable. All others inside, condition unknown.

504 Ecuador

Another disaster here (they are making a habit of this...) on the morning of March 6th about 07.00 in fog 1564 and 1821 collided, 1564 was patio loco and 1821 was returning from acopios. First reports suggest 1821 is not badly damaged, but 1564 may not have been so lucky. 1578 and 1461 were also in steam with 1904 under repair. March 10th, 1578 on patio duty. 1461 in steam at shed. 1821 fully recovered from collision and south of mill at LP's Sagua and Las Mercedes. Outbound with empties at over 50 kph.

505 Cespedes

Milling on 10th March, 1838 shunting patio everything else diesel. No access to shed. A quick pop in off the Central Highway caught 1838 leaving the first copio out from the mill yard. Only linework (such as it is) left on this system.

515 Ciro Redondo

Working normally, however, first impressions were of less team activity. 1830 to CA 3 and 12 on March 5th. On March 6th 1826 in steam, 1827 painted olive green and 1830 on shed. 1832, 1834 and 1829 appear dumped (but numbers are always a problem here with interchangeable parts).

522 Venezuela

March 10th, 1741 in a reasonably tasteful green paint scheme working the patio late in the day. Supposedly running out to copios on the west lines, but after dark. 1657 in a dreadful blue paint job was in light steam at shed. It looks like most everything above the running boards except the stack was spray painted blue, no lettering. Not very attractive! On March 11th, 1657 was very much in steam at the shed and 1741 working around the patio again.

635 Rafael Freyre

Working normally. 1386, 1387 and 1388 in steam on March 6th and 7th. Despite the advent of tourist trains, the locos appeared to be in poorer condition than previously.

March 9th 1390 worked out to Altuna in the late morning. While 1390 was working the Jobal branch, Auxilario 12 arrived at Altuna with a very badly running engine. This was followed with the tourist train consisting of 1388 and one car. After quite a bit of shunting, everyone left for their respective destinations. After returning from Jobal, 1390 then worked to Latour and Princesa LPs. Hondura LP was next, followed by a spectacular doubling of Altuna hill. Smelling a chance at another shot on the hill at Barijay, we ran there to set up. Shortly, 1388 appeared light engine from the mill to recover the afternoon Teche branch train whose loco had failed near the bridge west of Barijay. The failed loco was set out in the siding in Barijay and 1388 continued to Teche. Finally, 1390 dragged thirty cars around Barijay hill spot on 17:00 in spectacular light. The train had no sooner gotten past the bottom of the hill when 1390 had problems and could not continue. One of the ex-Hawaiian GE's and a 34 came out to recover the train.

The locos seem to be in poor condition except for 1388. No wonder it is used on the tourist train. We witnessed several loco failures in four days and others spoke of seeing even more. Also, the previous schedule of two trains out in the morning and two in the afternoon was seldom if ever being run. It seems that two trains working to Teche and Luciano, plus one working beyond Altuna was usual most days. It was not positively determined, but this may be the result of the tourist train running. It doesn't run every day, but did run 3 of 4 days we were there.

Speaking with several of the crews at the chuchos revealed that while the chuchos themselves are still powered by bulls, all loading from bull hauled carts ceased after the 1998 season. Only trucks and tractors were seen unloading at the chuchos. The result of this is several of the chuchos are no longer needed or may only load in some years. This year Uvilla, Palmarito, Jamaica, and Bostann were not loading. It looks like the chucho at Barijay had not been used, but we could not determine this for sure.

Cuba 2000 - diary, by Steen Cavour Nielsen (I have included ten pictures from this report separately as this page will get bigger and bigger as the season goes on - but all show newsworthy events...)

Two weeks stay 17.02. - 01.03.2000 based in Varadero. Family holiday, so steam was not chased every day.


Day trip with Jakob Stilling - see his report.


315 Jose Smith Comas

Visit 9 to 10. Working as usual. All three locos in steam. 1415 was shunting in mill, 1531 stands in the depot and 1530 was shunting by the LP nearest to the mill . The "new" 4117 also shunting in the mill.

303 Australia

Visit about 11. 1593 standing in the oiltrack, 1515 in steam in depot, 1513 and 1607 cold in depot. 1620 and 1716 on line.

404 Cuidad Caracas

From the autopista we spotted a lot of black smoke a few kilometres north by San Marcus Uno. We followed the smoke and found 1621 shunting at a LP, then returning with a full train to the mill. After several stops en route to blow up and in station and a total journey time of about one hour the train arrived in the milll at 14.38, where 1550 (ex. 437 Carlos Caraballo) was waiting with a train of empties, and departed immediatelty after the arrival of 1621. In the mill 1538 and 1545 (of 424 Primero de Mayo) were shunting and 1724, 1725 and 1848 cold in the shed. 37088 "dead" in the yard.

440 Ifrain Alfonso

Arrived at 15:30.1635 and 1637 in steam in the shed, 1636 with numbers painted over was under repair and 1910 was cold. From the hill we could see 1850 standing on the Pozo-line waiting for a clear track on the FCC. It was a heavy train, and it had been split. Rhge first portion was worked into the mill wye by the main line and left there, then the second portion was picked up and brought over the hill into the mill, after which the other portion was collected. Thus 1850 climbed the hill twice in 20 minutes.

Overnight in Santa Clara


441 Diez Octubre

We visit the mill at 10. 1661 in steam in the shed. 1818 scrap. 34067 and 37097 "cold" inside the shed. A further diesel was shunting the yard.

413 Espartaco

Visit about 11-12. 1327 shunting in the yard and going to Esperanza to collect a full train, which was borught back within 20 minutes. 1329 departed light engine on the south line and came back with a loaded train after about 30 minutes - so a portion must have been left at the siding near where the dirt road rejoins the line. 1326 and 1328 cold in the shed. 1130 and 1131 active in the yard.

443 Pepito Tey

We were there from 14. 1236 and 1357 shunting in the yard. 1358, 1220 in steam and 1164, 1337 cold in the depot. Major track work was ongoing in the yard with many workers exchanging some rails.

440 Ifrain Alfonso

Visit about 16. 1635 shunting vigourosly in the yard and preparing its train for Pozo. 1637 and 1850 in steam in depot. 1910 still cold and 1636 still unter repair.

315 Jose Smith Comas

Returning to Varadero the shed was passed at 18.00 - all three engines 1415, 1530 and 1531 warm in the shed.


315 Jose Smith Comas was visited going out in the morning and returning late afternoon 21, 22, 23, 25, 26 and 28 February with the usual full traffic all days, and therefore not repeated in detail. Traffic pattern is with little day to day change: A train of empties goes out at ca. 9.30, hauled by one of the 15xx engines. Engine returns with loaded cars from the first LP and/or Santa Rosa sometime after 10. After the return of this train, around 10.30, 1415 takes out the "Tourists from Varadero circus train" to the first LP, with the brightly painted open "passenger coach", returning ECS within the hour. The passengers change to the bus at the LC by the main road to Jovellanos south of the mill, and 1415 leaves the coach by the shed. Another regular departure is a train of empties to Santa Rosa departing around 16.00 that drops empties at the first LP, and collects the loaded cars on the way back, usually arriving at the mill shortly before 18.00. In the afternoon of 23.02. a railcar arrived from Cardenas to be turned in the wye by the mill, as there was only one driver's compartment, returning for Cardenas at 17.

306 Cuba Libre

Visit 11-12. 1409 dumped behind shed. 1410, 1610 and 1612 cold in the shed and 1611 in steam. 1808 departed from the LP just north of the mill on a full train at 12.08 going to the mill.

320 Juan Avila

Visited at 13:15, with 1720 (and 1721's tender!) taking oil at the big, leaky oil tank by the shed. 1721 (with another tender also painted 1721) and 1526 cold in the shed.


Family outing Varadero-Havana

On the way, Hershey "tram" 3008 was seen near Santa Cruz at 10:15, ready to depart and very full of passengers. Mill visited, a very old catenary inspection trolley standing in Camillo Cienfuegos station.


303 Australia

Visited at 10:50. 1593, 1513 and 1607 were all tanking in the oil siding. 1515 shunted in the yard. This mill has also adopted the dollar approach in a very uncharming way - we were surrounded by 7 or 8 guys, all claiming to be drivers with small children in desparate need of gifts for a birthday "tomorrow" demanding clothes and/or dollars. We fled the mill for the fenced-in charms of the crocodile farm. Some special Australian holiday must take place in the second half of May, as all children in this area are born around March 1st! · . or maybe the birthday theme is popular aming the local beggars?

314 Jesus Rabi

We passed Calimete at 13:50, and encountered 1517 (borrowed from 302 Reynold Garcia) was just arriving from the mill with a caboose and a single box car. A prolonged shunting session in Calimete station followed, with all 8-10 cars in the siding moved around, after about an hour the engine and caboose returned to the the mill via La Paz wye south of the Calimete. This working has been fairly common - but rather unnoticed - for several years as we have witnessed it also in 1997 and 1998. In the mill 37015 and 1518 (also borrowed from mill 302 Reynold Garcia) were shunting. In the shed were 1529, 1414, 1810 and 1413 all cold.


212 Boris Luis St. Coloma

Visit the mill at 11:15. 1711 in steam outside the shed, 1606 shunting in the yard. At 11:25 51031 arrived from the south line on a full train.

211 Ruben Martinez Villena

We visited the mill about 12-13. 1502 (1602 painted on tender) and 1311shunting in mill and the yard. Visits to shed area behind the white villa are still politely denied, while there were no problems "outside the fence".

More from Roy Smith's visit (Feb 13th to 26th 2000) via Steve Mourton (2nd March 2000)

105 Sandino 1364 is here from Osvaldo Sanchez, will presumably be regauged for use - perhaps now more urgent following the demise of 1382.

PL Lenin Park The Vulcan was working, while another loco - 1260 seems the likeliest candidate - was being cut up.

201 Amistad 1707 worked to Hector Molina.

206 Manuel Isla Two in steam, while 1107 is now plinthed

207 Manalich A n.g. train was seen working out to one of the longer lines. However it is the s.g. here which has changed a lot - no sign of 1402 or 1403 either working or on shed. Instead 1510 and 1806 ex Boris were both working, while 1551 ex Trinidad tourist operation was also in steam. It has FCUH on the tender, which is known about, but Roy said it has the worksplate attributed in the lists to 1402. A bit of a mystery - is the list right regarding the works nos of 1402 and 1551, both BLW 2-6-0s of 1919. So where are 1402 and 1403? Surely not cut up? How about this wild guess - maybe one or both are at Trinidad.... Oh yes, and No 1 (Minaz 1180) BLW 6456/1882 ex Rafael Freyre is also here... One last thought - is cane coming in here by s.g. as well as n.g., it seemed a possibility last year with s.g. cane wagons seen. Maybe they need a bigger engine like 1806 to work trains to loaders, it seems a bit big to just be a shunter....

210 Osvaldo Sanchez The Forney 1205 was working

211 RM Villena usual shunting observed.

212 Boris Lusi Santa Coloma 1 loco in steam, not much happening. With two of their locos at Manalich, are line workings here even less than last year, if any at all?

306 Cuba Libre 1808 worked a train of empties through to Puerto Rico Libre via Union De Reyes.

305 Puerto Rico Libre The small tank which has been in the back of the shed was being cut up.

320 Juan Avila 1721 and a diesel were seen working

314 J. Rabi 1413 was in steam, while two of R Garcia's locos had apparently worked in.

319 Rene Fraga 1820 in steam.

404 Caracas Lots of locos in steam, but what do they all do??? 1538, 1545 ex P de Mayo, 1550 ex Caraballo all in steam, as well as 1621 - I think it's some while since this loco last worked. 1848 also ex P de Mayo dead.

412 J.P. Carbo Servia one in steam. Contrary to a previous report, the shed gate was swiftly shut and locked as our man approached.

413 Espartaco very busy.

435 H Ameijeiras 1667 working.

438 R Ponciana entry not allowed, two locos couild be seen.

440 Ifrain Alfonso Locos in steam. The branch to Pelayo is again being worked with steam.

441 Diez de Octubre 1661 is back in black and actually did some work! It went to a loader near the mill and brought in some fulls.

443 Pepito Tey train seen on one of the short lines.

449 G. Washington 1638, 1639 and one other all dead, unfriendly reception here.

O G Ramirez/ Venezuela/ Ecuador have some green engines as previously reported. One unwelcome mystery at Venezuela was the arrival of a loaded cane train hauled by diesel no. 29003... seems like a new series...

515 Ciro Redondo had steam working, one came in on 36 fulls.

Steve Mourton reports (29th February 2000):

"Herewith news from my friend Roy Smith who arrived back from Cuba yesterday, Sunday:

1382 exploded - blew up- probably last Friday. We were at Sandino on Saturday and as far as we could tell it had happened 'yesterday' there was nobody killed but two (presumably the crew) gravely injured.

The accident was at the first loader away from the mill and the front tube-plate and the boiler barrel as far back as the dome is completely detached from the rest of the loco which is off the rails but upright. The tender was on the track and was dragged back to the sidings just before the mill while we were there by the 'wrecking crew' that came out to pick up the fittings and copper pipe.

Don't stand too close - you have been warned! The only problem now is if the 'authorities' get twitchy. "

(Common sense dictates that word is spread amongst the enthusiast community but nothing is said about it to any senior management in Minaz or the Mills! RD)

Jakob Stilling reports (24th February 2000) on his return from a tour of Cuba:

There seems to be more line work in the Havana East/Matanzas/Santa Clara area compared to last year - at no mill was time wasted waiting for a train as something always turned up .

Jose Smith Comas. Working as usual. 1415, 1530 and 1531 in action. The tank engine shunter has been replaced by the ancient diesel 4117 on the north shunt, but the big steam engines seem to be used here sometime, as 1415 was seen in the LC by the oil tanks one morning. On the evening of Feb. 19, 1531 derailed most of its train at the south points of the station. Recovery and repair was well underway next morning, but empty trains had to use the north connection and run via track 2 in the station to avoid the damaged points. Engines in fine shape technically and optically, and staff friendly as usual. A "passenger truck" with nicely painted verandas and a canopy has appeared and is used to take tourist groups out of Varadero to the LP ca. 2 kms south of the mill.

Granma. Visited on 20.2. 1519 shunting the downhill LPs. No trace of steam working on the Carlos Rojas turn or of any other steam activity. Other steam engines presumed cold, but access to shed denied

Fructuso Rodriques. Mill still closed, 1216 and 1849 cold on shed as 1999.

Boris Luis St. Coloma. Steam seems to be very reduced. On 20.2. only 1606 was seen in steam, shunting at the mill. 1711 seemed to be in working order, but was cold outside the shed. 1604+1511+1512 dumped in the siding on the south line. 71.067 on a freight in the yard.

Amistad. On 20.2. 1707 was working the east line at 14.30 - returning very spirited through the mill and disappearing in the sidings west of there. 1303 and 1804 in steam on shed, 1106,1805 and 1803 cold on shed..

Manalich. A good deal of NG activity on 20.2. - mainly to the LP just south of the NG/SG crossing. Several black steam engines were on shed on 20.2. but a shed visit to get the numbers was firmly denied, while the "front lawn" was freely accessible. However, 1551, 1510, 1306, 1307 and 1308 were identified, while 1338 and another NG engine were shunting the yard. (I have queried the Standard gauge locos. 1510 from Boris Luis Sta Coloma is definitely confirmed. 1551 has historically been the Trinidad tourist train loco, perhaps it is here for repair? Confirmation please or was it a misquote for regular narrow gauge loco 1351? RD)

Ruben Martinez Villena. At sundown on 20.2. 1605 was returning to the mill at sundown with a loaded train from the north, stopping at Roble for water and blocking the way for Boris' 71.067 on a loaded train from the north line (presumably an intermill picked up from the mainline??). 1311 and one of the 2-8-0s (noted as 1602, so could be 1502) shunting the mill at dusk.

Juan Avila. On 15.2. 15.40 1721 was returning to the mill from with a short loaded train after crossing two diesel hauled intermills with 37.057 amd a 39 in Juan Gualberto Gomez station.

Hershey. Even the branch lines seem to be firmly in the hands of the "new" Spanish railcars.

Australia. A good deal of steam work this year, the 37 seems to be standing idle in the yard.
1593 cold, 1620, 1716, 1607 in steam. The line north of the autopista worked morning and afternoon - observed by the plume but not visited as cutting was just starting in this area and the roads very dry and dusty.

Espartaco. 1131, 1326, 1327, 1328, in steam, 1329 cold on shed. Very busy with a good deal of work from the yard to the north LP at Esparanza, where some nice shots are possible with returning trains near the LC at the start of the yard and near the LC with the dirt road from the main road. On 18.2. a full train from San Fernando behind 1329 stalled near the points to the shed at 10.20 and spent almost 20 minutes collecting steam and hand sanding for the last leap into the yard. This engines seem to favour a long lunch break, with only the yard pilot working from ca. 10.30 to mid-afternoon.

Pepito Tey. Several engines in steam, however repairs were ongoing on several engines. The north line to near the cement factory was busy, while little activity could be traced on the south line. 1337 and 1358 + two other engines seen in steam.

Diez Octubre. 1661 has returned to black and was seen on 15.2. at ca. 15.30 collecting a full train in Ranchuelo, that had been brought in by a 37 from the north. 1661 appeared on FCC metals for less than 5 minutes before the train returned to the mill. If all outings from the mill area are equally short, it is not strange that 1661 is rarely recorded moving. By the time my car had reached the autopista, the train had already arrived at the mill!

Mal Tiempo. Mill busy, but crews not too obliging - why tell anyone what is going to happen, if your are not paid? On 16.2. 1321 and 1355 were busy shunting in the late afternoon, and a big empty train left the mill behind 1321 at ca. 17.50, but the burner was turned off and speed reduced to a crawl past the LC just after the 180 degree curve out of the mill when the crew spotted the lone photographer and realised that the attempted "sneak departure" of the train had been guessed.

Cuba Libre. Mill busy. Cane is collected several times a day from a LP on the line towards Jovellanos, seen arriving behind 1612 (tender first) on two different days 13.15 and 15.30, going out about 30 minutes earlier. 1410 and 1611 seen on shed. Some time spent near Navajas in the early afternoon with nothing happening.

On 15.2. at ca. 14.00 1808 was seen storming through Guira de Macurijes from the west on a full train exchanging single line tokens - could be an intermill, as the train had been spotted several kms west of the station?

Rene Fraga. On 16.2. 1820 was shunting the yard, no other activity seen.

Ifrain Alfonso. Trains start to run fairly late in the morning, often around 11.00. On 17.2. an empty train was seen on the way to Pozo around 9.30. 1850 is regular performer on the Pozo trips, working into the evening on a regular basis. On 17.2. 1637 was waiting to cross a FCC train on the short line to, while 1850 was waiting in the wye to go to Pozo.1910 was in light steam, but not moving, 1636 is under repair.

Cuidad Caracas. Rather surprisingly, 4 engines were seen in steam here by Steen Cavour Nielsen on 22.2. - with 1550 ex. Caraballo and 1. May's two engines working trains through Lajas to the LPs north of the autopista and shunting - this year's surprise?? Further details about this in about one week, as Steebn is stayiung on for anothere week.

Marta Abreu. Mill closed, diesels busy at Espartaco, 1239 cold on shed.

FCC type 61. The engines are getting rare. Only 613 was seen moving on the dock shunt in Cienfuegos, 605 and 612 seemed dumped on shed. The St. Clara passenger trains (St. Clara arrive 6.50, dep. 17.20 ) were not observed.

Tim Murray visited Cuba over the New Year for a non-gricing trip in the main but had a few things to report:

There was a ceremony to commemorate the start of the Zafra in Villa Clara province on 29th December 1999. It took place in Marcelo Salado yard and was entitled 'welcome to the first provincial steam festival' (hopefully there will be a second)! there were 18 locos in steam, a number of which got there under their own steam down the mainline (the four from Ifrain and the loco from 10th de Octobre definitely did)!

During the summer the state railway were so short of diesels that they had to borrow some Minaz ones. At the start of the season these returned and a number of passenger trains have been cancelled. The state railway have bought 12 second hand diesels from Canadian National. During October, 1910 from Ifrain worked the passenger from Santa Clara to Cienfuegos on two occasions and was used for some crew training.

Ifrain season started on 31st December 1999 and 1635 and 1850 both worked on that day with heavy trains. 1910 and 1637 also worked a couple of days later but 1637 has a cartoon character painted on its tender.

1724/5 at Cuidad Caracas both have boiler problems and 1545 (2-6-0) and 1848 (2-8-0) have been transferred from 1st de Mayo to Caracas. The mill started on 27th December 1999 and on 2/1/00 1545 and Caracas's 2-6-2 were both working.

Marcelo Saledo is not milling this year and loads will be taken to either Batala de Santa Clara or Carbo Cervia, whether by steam or diesel is unknown. On 5/1/00 Marcelo was visited. Not due to start bring cane until late in January but both the ten wheeler and the 2-6-2T have been turned and face away from mill. On 5th they were both in steam; the 2-6-2T shunting and the ten wheeler took a ballast train at 13.15 down the main line. Unfortunately it had to leave the trucks at Remedios and return light engine as it had a minor boiler leak.

Other start up date is Mal Tiempo at 26th January 1999.

Wayne Weiss adds the following points based on a conversation with Adolf Hungry Wolf who had been in Cuba for 6 weeks (to mid-February 2000). (These will only be intelligible to regular visitors! RD)

He felt that 'most mills seemed to have a diesel doing most work and steam usage very limited, "stay 3 or 4 hours and #---- will go out for a load". I noticed this very much last year.' (But Wayne says he does not do an 'every mill bash' and may be basing his comparison on some years ago...)

The January steam festival at Caiberian has had a very positive effect on morale of crews, most now are very enthusiastic. If you get near J P Carbo Servia you will be taken to the shed and shown the loco that won first prize.

A new director at MINAZ is moderately pro steam. Most mills have found some paint and the locos look much better this year, At least 4 locos at Ciego (Orlando, Ecuador and Venezuela mentioned had green painted locos and nicely done). The painter at Rene Fraga found all the half empty cans of paint to be had and one of the locos has 6 colors.

Marcelo Salado is bringing cane to the mill by steam then it is sent by diesel to another mill.

He bought a mill pass to Quintain Banderas and the crews very friendly, but then Security arrived and honored the pass but glared at him for an hour hoping he would leave (from the Dorridge visit last year I would have expected same). Also had a pass to Ramon Ponciana and had a good visit ( 2-6-0 but not Alco 4-6-0 was running) and loved the bridge shot (afternoon better) but guard said he had run several gricers off although I don't know that is describing people who walked in the branch from the junction or came to the gate and asked in. Got a shed visit at Caracas (3 in steam ) may have just talked his way in with samples of his books. #1550 was there.

Only 2 steam left at Cespedes, 2-6-2 and 2-8-0, all others appeared sc.

Jesus Rabi #1413 ran early in season but now has a couple defects, indeed a later report stated that Reynold Garcia is not grinding so 2-6-0s are here.

Hermanos A. is using steam in yard #1373 but problems with #1667 kept them from running to Zaza river bridge for him.

Jose N Figueredo not grinding.

Bartolome Maso has 2 of 3 engines serviceable and like them but have enough diesels, want to get in steam tourist bussiness.

Renulfo Leyva was going to start running steam in a few days.

Rafael Freyre - they have a daily morning (09.30) tourist train at $39 from mill to Paraiso and are turning away business and they aren't really advertising at Guardalavaca yet, only have 2 cars for about 40 people and one day made over $700 US which is 3 times what they make on a cane train, so now it gets the best loco and cane trains get what's left. Motorcar #50 is still in pieces so the tourist train brings workers from Altuna to mill before dawn. Left train dirty for tourists 2 days and he raised hell (they are learning). Mill manager is now a convert, tourists and steam are the future, more cars are a priority and they are working on a two year plan to make the whole mill a working museum. They are taking out the turbine electric drive and reactivating the Coreless. The old clock tower is being fixed up and the offices on the top of the hill will become a museum. The ugly guard house at the entrance and a few other ugly buildings may come down. They have initiated a pass system, pay the "tourist director" at the operations building $5 and he gives you a map and a list of all train movements for day and a sticker to alert crews you are a "good guy" and will get more cooperation. $10 for mill visits. He said he had a lot of hassles from Police about his working with the mill, he was shooting video in the mill to publicize the mill and tourist train "they just want to stick their nose in everything". Mill manager was called on carpet at Holguin and he told security to get out of his way, "I'm making money for Cuba and you are trying to stop it, leave me alone."

He understands there will be 3 steam festivals this year, the September one which now looks quite likely because of the success of the Caiberian one in January, and smaller ones strictly for Cubans at Rafael and he thought Quintain Banderas and probably again at Caiberian.

Rob Dickinson