The International Steam Pages
Zafra 2003 Summary
I see no reason to doubt that this will be the last such report. There was certainly plenty of 'plastic' steam in Cuba this year and I am sure that most punters on tours will have been reasonably satisfied with the photographic results - see Bernd Seiler's site for some excellent images http://www.farrail.com. However, having been fortunate enough to have had 5 trips in recent years when it was nearly all 'real', I have to confess to finding it all rather pathetic. There was, however, some genuine 'real' steam in Cuba this year although you needed intelligence, patience and not a little luck to strike gold.... This report attempts to deal only with the latter although with crews and mills more than happy to adjust operations for the tourist dollar it was not always obvious where the 'real steam' finished and 'the circus' began.
Mills not included but which have appeared in previous summaries can be assumed to be closed, dieselised or converted to road transport. See the detailed reports. It must be stressed that a consistent element of any reported activity was that it varied from 'occasional' to 'not every day' with the honourable exception of Gregorio Arlee Manalich.
201 Amistad con los Pueblos
1707 was seen in steam here in early January but the intermills to 203 were variously reported as diesel or by road with steam locomotives out of use.
207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich
Widely reported as the only mill on the island to be operating traditionally. 1402 worked on the standard gauge and 1306, 1307, 1308, 1338, 1351 and 1365 on the narrow gauge, both within the mill and on the field lines. Operation continued at least until late May! Someone obviously forgot about this mill and I have seen one report which says that the situation will be 'corrected' by 2004.
211 Ruben Martinez Villena
1606 from Mill 212 (Boris Luis) was stationed here for the season and worked regularly to/from Roble with diesel up the hill, the locomotive going home light engine for fuelling/servicing. By late May, the operation still continued but 1606 had been retired and a diesel was on the inter-mill.
If there was any 'real' steam in Matanzas Province (3zx Mills) then I didn't spot it among the various reports of tourist operations. There was a single report of 1612 at Cuba Libre on test runs including Navajas, obviously mills which keep steam for tourist purposes may well use it on day-to-day activity if only to ensure it is serviceable.
404 Ciudad Caracas
An early report had the mill working with 1621 to Nearest LP. Thereafter no activity, I believe that officially the mill was 'under repair' with the intention of re-openining in 2004.
411 Jose Maria Perez
1728 was used for shunting within the patio/mill area.
427 Quintin Banderas
1548 was in use as yard shunter.
428 Marcelo Salado
Although officially a 'tourist mill', the molasses operation continued (normally but not always dieselised) although its stock may have been shunted by steam from time to time.
434 P.G. Toro
1626 was a regular performer in and around the mill.
440 Ifrain Alfonso
In between the tourist/gricer specials, the patio seems to have had steam shunters, particularly 1635. Very occasional (upaid for) steam substiution on the line to Pozo, more commonly this was for tour groups.
441 Diez de Octubre
1661 was active here and if left to its own devices occasionally shunted the patio and ran down the line (as well as to Ifrain for refuelling). 1637 from Ifrain had spells working here in March/April.
503 O. G. Ramirez
While the operation here was officially dieselised, several visitors found 1563 and/or 1732 out and about. On a good day, it might just have seemed as if nothing had changed.
Steam operated the patio fairly regularly, usually 1461, line working with 1821 and 1904 was less frequent.
515 Ciro Redondo
The only serviceable steam lcomotive, 1826, spent most of the season based at Patria o Murte for tourist trains but by April had returned and was shunting the patio.
Perhaps the least reported 'real' activity was 1742 regularly working intermills to Ciro Redondo via Minaz lines. Certainly not daily, but quite frequently.
1590 available and sometimes shunted the patio and may have done some line work.