The International Steam Pages

Zafra 2003

Here is the traditional running report from visitors (latest addition 13th June 2003):

At the start of the season I commented: "For what it is worth (and I stand ready to be proved wrong from thousands of kilometres away), I think that (real) line steam working will be well down this year. Tour groups will no doubt run their charters but I think the classic days of the independent car bashers are over. Those who have developed other interests (railway history, bird watching, wives etc) will still visit profitably....." I was wrong, it was much, much worse than that!

See also the annual Zafra summary.

Miroslav Kalivoda and Rudolf Tyller have sent me their report rather late! (13th June 2003)

14.3.2003 207 Gregorio Arlee Mañalich

1307, 1338, 1351 cold in the shed 1306, 1308, 1402 shunting, 1365 on the line to Lp centro acopio

201 Amistad con los Pueblos

the mill is closed
1107 = No 21 monument, 1707 and 2 other cold in the shed

15.3.2003 FCC Hershey

3009 working, 21 001 with the goods train at Jibacoa del Norte

16.3.2003 207 Gregorio Arlee Mañalich

at morning 1308, 1338, 1402, shunting, afternoon 1365 on the line to Lp centro acopio

La Habana, Parque Lenin

1350 working, No 1, 2, 3 cold in the shed

17.3.2003 320 Juan Ávila

1807 under steam in the shed, 1720 cold in the shed

303 Australia

1620, 1607, 1716 cold in the shed, 1515 in repair, 1593 under steam for the tourist train

18.3.2003 314 Jesus Rabí

1414, 1529, 1216, 1413, 1810 cold in the shed

409 Antonio Sanchez

1629, 1625, 1624 not in working condition
1623 cold in the shed, working condition
diesel 4163 shunting

404 Ciudad Caracas

the mill is not working
shed: 1621 cold, in working condition, 1538 under repair, 1725 not in working condition, steam locos without work, no oil

433 Marta Abreu

1239 monument

403 Mal Tiempo

shed: 1322 cold, in working condition, 1321 cold, waiting for repair, 1345 under repair, 1355 tourist train to Potrerillo, 400 US dollars

19.3.2003 440 Ifrain Alfonso

steam locos are not working, no oil

413 Espartaco

the mill is not working
shed: 1326, 1329, 1328 all cold

441 Diez de Octubre

1637, cold, in working condition
1661 under repair, 1639 cold in the shed

20.3.2003 443 Pepito Tey

the mill is not working, probably closed
in the shed: 1357, 1236 under steam for tourist train, 1164, 1220 cold, not in working condition

441 Diez de Octubre

1637 working between Lp on east (centro acopio) and the station Ranchuelo

21.3.2003 405 Luis Arcos Bergnes

the mill is not working, probably closed
1539, 1823 cold in the shed
intermill diesel locos
1343 = No 3 monument, intersection Crucero - Carmita

411 José María Perez

1728 under steam in the shed, for steam   

428 Marcelo Salado

the mill is closed, museum
1342, 1343 cold in shed, 1529 in repair, 1147, 1426 museum
1429 shunting

448 Simón Bolívar

1361 wreck, 1364 cold in front of the shed
depo: 1138, 1367, 1354, 1366, 1383, 1362 all no working condition

515 Ciro Redondo

1829 under steam in the shed

22..3.2003 504 Ecuador

1461 shunting, 1904, 1821 cold in the shed, no oil

522 Venezuela

1742 Lp La Trocha, intermill to 515 Ciro Redondo

515 Ciro Redondo

1829 shunting, on the evening train to Santa Ana
1742 afternoon intermill from 522 Venezuela

23.3.2003    418 Obdulino Morales

1333, 1420 cold in the shed
1334 heat up for the tourist train

24.3.2003 503 Orlando Gonzáles Ramírez

1563 breakdown, 1732 at morning under repair, afternoon heat up - shunting
diesel 29 003 intermill from 522 Venezuela

25.3.2003 Ferrocarril de Cuba, Trinidad

1551 monument in the station, 1517 under steam, the tourist train

440 Ifrain Alfonso

1636, 1635, 1910 cold in the shed, 1850 under steam in the shed

26.3.2003 440 Ifrain Alfonso

1850 morning train to Lp Pozo and back

27.3.2003 211 Rubén Martínez Villena

the mill is not working

1606 from 212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma shunting in Lp near mill, the proper steam loco is under repair

28.3.2003 La Habana, Museo del Ferrocarril de Cuba, estacion ferrocarril Cristina

steam loco No 1 La Jauta, E1210 from A.C.Sandino, 1303 from Amistad con los Pueblos, 1534 from René Fraga, steam crane No 22, el.loco No 29, diesel 61 038, 61 602

Probably the last, last Zafra 2003 report comes from Yoshi Matsuo (5th June 2003):

211 Ruben Martinez Villena, 212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma

212 is still working as long as 211's adjacent LP. But 1606 (regular performer during Zafra 2003) is now sidelined at 212. Cab windows of 1606 are blinded with plywood. I did not see any working steam at 211 nor 212. Intermill operation between 211 and 212 is now pulled by diesel.

207 Gregorio Alree Manalich

Mill is still working. No change from previous reports.

Parque Lenin

As previously reported, 1350 is working. FCC line adjacent to Parque Lenin is now abandoned.

Graham Knight (and Ray Gardiner) found little different from other visitors (16th May 2003):

1637 worked alternate weeks with 1661 at Diez de Octobre. On 22nd March, we gatecrashed a German group at Ifrain who claimed they paid $450 in Havana to have 1850 run to Pozo (and the crew still tried to bite us for $5 ). On 25th March, 1742 was being steamed at Venezuela for another German group, we also got real working at OGR with 1732 at Limones (roads out there worse than usual). Plenty of action at Ecuador on 26th March. On 28th March, 1386 was shunting 1387 around Rafael Freye, while on 30th March 1386 did a tourist charter to Frey Benito. A guided tour of the mill and yard cost us $5 (exposure to heaps of asbestos from the boiler house demolition was free). A guided tour of JS Comas ($5) produced the following engines : 1530, 1531, 1714, 1812, 1614 and 0-4-0T Porter no 4437/1909 under repair for future running. On 14th April, we got 1612 at Cuba Libre running a load in from the central acipo and then light engine to Navajas for testing .On 16th April, we arrived at Manalich to see them splitting 1510 off its derailed tender with the assistance of 1402. Only 2 ng engines in steam in the yard. On our last day, 17th April, we visited Mariano Mill ( near Havana ) said to be the oldest mill in Cuba, and had a guided tour for $10. We were told that by next year they expect to have 50 locos there and 10 km of track to run them on. 1309 was stuffed and mounted, 1803, 1805, 1806 all dead and 1502 under repair in a shed. This mill is working as a sugar refinery and we were given samples of icing sugar, castor sugar and sweets that they produce. All in all a totally ratshit year and it will only get worse as the industry gets rationalized. We observed at least 20 mills being dismantled, including the most scenic n/g ones, so there is no chance for better times ahead.

Keith Smith sent an update (8th May 2003) on the situation at Rafael Freyre Mill from that posted by Reinhard Fichtl in February 2003.

The sugar mill closed in June 2002 and, as stated, is to be turned into a museum. I visited the works on 28 April as part of a tour from our hotel in Guardalavaca. Parts of the mill were being dismantled with machinery being cannibalised and sent to other operating mills. This included some of the more modern plant and easily removable items like electricity generators. The remainder looked fit for scrap only. There are no plans we were told to operate the machinery to demonstrate the crushing or refining process. The large stationery steam engines are to be retained in situ as they are quite impressive. The town authorities did not appear concerned about closure of the mill as a new nearby tourist complex at Playa Pasqual had taken on more workers than had been displaced - an odd world. The hotel has a plinthed locomotive, No.1 an Alco 2-8-0 of 1920 (apparently standard gauge) together with a couple of items of rolling stock.

On the day of our visit the railway was operating and we had a tour of the depot and works. No.1386 was the train engine in steam. No.1388 was dead outside the depot but looked serviceable. Inside the depot No.1387 and an unidentified 2-8-0 were under repair so they would become available for operating tourist trains - potentially a fleet of 4 operative locos. Elsewhere within the mill Nos.1385; 1390; 1391 and three diesel locomotives were dumped out of use. All are at least under cover and safe for the present together with a large number of wagons.

The steam trip appears to be running regularly (on a Monday) and on 28 April was well patronised by a group of about 20 - at $45 a time it is a bargain. The trip was over 6 km of track running northwards from the Central and includes a visit to a primary school and tobacco/sugar farm. No.1386 seemed in good heart despite the need for some attention to its boiler lagging. The return journey for tourists is cut short by de-training in the middle of a level crossing in order to get a bus to an eco-park as part of the excursion.

A worthwhile visit and an incentive to return to Cuba in the future!

Yoshi Matsuo started this report and in all likelihood finishes it... (6th May 2003)

201 Amistad con los Pueblos

21-Apr: Mill closed. Rail system is used but intermills to 203 are handled by diesel. 1707 (in working order) and 1804 (with tender uncoupled) are in the shed. 1803 and 1805 (I saw here early January) are gone.

207 Gregorio Alree Manalich

Standard Gauge: 1402 shunting hoppers in the yard.
Narrow Gauge: 1365 on line to San Jose del Rio or further (destination not confirmed). 1307 to adjacent LP. 1338 on patio. As recently reported, this is the only and last mill with steam fully working.

211 Ruben Martinez Villena

21-Apr: 1606 on intermill to Roble, as recently reported.

428 Marcelo Salado

26-Apr: No steam action. 1426 is standby for molasses train. Next Steam Festival has been scheduled for 23, 24-Nov.
29-Apr: 1429 on tourist train.

440 Ifrain Alfonso

26-Apr: 1635 in steam, ready for patio. Line work is entirely covered by diesel. 1661 came here for fueling.

441 Diez de Octubre

26-Apr: 1661 is gone to 440 for fueling and said to return LE.

446 Carlos Balino

26-Apr: 26-Apr: Mill looks closed. Adjacent LP is working by diesel (intermill to 449?). At the shed, 1432 and 1555 (I saw here last April) are gone.

503 Orlando Gonzalez Ramirez

24-Apr: No steam action. Only diesels are working.
25-Apr: 1563 (now has dual headlights) in steam and left the shed after fueling. Probably had some line work afternoon.

504 Ecuador

24-Apr and 27-Apr: 1461 (without lettering on tender side) on patio. 1821 and 1904 are in working order but cold.

515 Ciro Redondo

23-Apr: 1826 (has returned from Patria o Murte) on patio. 1829 is cold. 1830, 1832 and 1834 are dumped.

522 Venezuela

23-Apr: 1657 is cold in shed. 1742 intermills to 515 via Jagueyal and San Francisco (NOT on FCC via Ciego de Avila). In addtion to 1742's stretched tender, an auxiliary water tanker is coupled.
24-Apr: No steam action. 1657 and 1742 are cold in shed.
25-Apr: 1742 is in steam but under minor repair.
26-Apr: 1742 intermills to 515 again.
This intermill is real working! One of the highlights of Zafra 2003, although operation is not daily.



Bernd Seiler has posted his tour report (27th April 2003), which includes some 'real' steam.

Roland Beier's report covers a visit from 29 March to 10 April 2003.

"Paradise lost":

The results of raising efficiency of the Zafra and reducing the number of cane fields to steam workings in Cuba have already been reported by other visitors. Nevertheless I consider my visit as worthwhile and with some luck line work on both standard and narrow gauge could be witnessed. The great spot was without doubt Manalich, but also Orlando Gonzales was good on some days, whilst J. M. Perez was a welcome addition to the dwindling number of mills that are using steam. There seems to be a trend to extend the milling season at the working mills to cope with the cane arriving from closed mills, but if this will continue in 2004 when the number of cane fields is to be reduced even further remains to be seen.
The number of "working" mills differed from the published lists. Venezuela and Diez de Octubre were not milling but expect to reopen next year. It seems that there are now 3 categories of mills (apart from tourist and special operations): working mills, mills not working but under repairs and mills totally closed.

"Paradise regained?":

The raising number of tourist operations gives hope that not all steam locos will be cut up and at least some may be retained in working order for a while. It remains to be seen if this is sustainable or if equipment for steam maintenance and the skilled fitters and drivers will disappear and dry out the source of serviceable locos.

Parque Lenin
1350 working on Saturday 29 March, the first departure being at 11.00.


Habana Cristina station
This is now a railway museum. Items include No.1 "La Junta" (formerly at Habana central station), MINAZ 1210, 1303 and 1524, electric 29 (Hershey, ex 20801), diesels FCC 61602 and 60138 and a steam crane. Entrance is USD 2,- plus USD 5,- for a photo permit. The museum is closed on Mondays.

207 Manalich
Mill working.
Visited on 30 March and on 9 and 10 April. LP's north and south of mill were in use as well as Jicotea and C. Redondo. The latter were good for Photography during the afternoon. When these two LP's were served the engine ran tender first to Jicotea junction, left some empties behind and continued to Jicotea. Then chimney first with fulls to the junction which were left behind, then tender first with the remaining empties to C. Redondo. The return is chimney first, at Jicotea junction the additional fulls are attached to the rear of the train. Ng. locos in use were 1306, 1307, 1308, 1338, 1351 and 1365. On the standard gauge 1402 was in use but not all days, a new arrival was 1704 in dumped condition (for repairs ?). 1403 is plinthed on the roadside south of the mill.


213 Manuel Martinez Prieto
The mill refines sugar and also produces alcohol of various types ranging from medicinal use to rum. It has now been turned into a living museum and acts as "Centro de Referencia de la Cultura Azucarera". On 30 March 1510 (ex 207) was in steam for a group of tourists who also took a visit of the mill machinery. Other locos present were 1309 (plinthed), 1803/1805 ex 201 and 1806 ex 212 which had their rods removed for the transfer and were awaiting external restoration. 1502 was noted under heavy overhaul. Staff expect more locos to arrive, a number between 20 and 50 being quoted.

212 Boris Luis
Mill working, Zafra expected to last until mid-May. 3 diesels present on 8 April, 1606 was at the LP near mill 211 and took 15 fulls (the regular load) to Roble. There the wagons were left behind and the loco continued light engine to Boris Luis for fuel. Refuelling is said to take place every day.


301 Australia
31 March, mill not working. The rails around the shed were rusty and indicated that no steam (tourist) trains had moved at least for some time. The rails at the level crossing with the autopista were blank, however, as were those on a new built section of line south of Amarillas whilst the former connection between Jesus Rabi and Australia at Calimete was totally overgrown. Obviously cane from Australia goes to Jesus Rabi behind diesel.

314 Jesus Rabi
Mill working but all steam was dumped with rusty wheels on 8 April.

411 Jose Maria Perez
Mill working and Zafra expected to last until early May. 1728 was in use both on 5 and 6 April, shunting hoppers wagons between the yard and the sugar loading pit. Good for photography during the morning until noon.


428 M. Salado
Mill not working, cane by lorries to other mills. On 5 April 1342 was in steam and shunted some molasses tankers (not for tourists!). The molasses depot at the mill is still in use but molasses trains to Caibarien are now diesel. Entrance to the museum is USD 1,- whilst a photo permit is available for USD 5,- (this is the usual fee also at many non rail-related museums around Cuba!).

440 I. Alfonso
Mill working.
During 5 to 7 April diesels were doing all the work with 1635 being in steam as standby but did not turn a wheel.

441 Diez de Octubre
Mill not working, cane going to 440.
During 5 to 7 April 1637 from 440 was working as yard pilot. This work included serving the LP near the mill and taking them to the exchange siding at Ranchuelo where a diesel took over. 1637 usually took 4 to 6 fulls from the LP to Ranchuelo at a time which resulted in 3 to 4 trips being made every day to complete a full train at Ranchuelo. Good for photography during the afternoon with the loco working chimney first to Ranchuelo which includes a climb just before arriving at the loop. Empties were propelled back to the mill and on to the LP.


503 Orlando Gonzales Ramirez
Mill working and expect to work until the end of May. Cane from Venezuela (closed) arrives behind diesels.
On 3 April 1563 was in steam and went out to La Gloria in the early afternoon. Later the loco served LP La Domenica and finally went out to Patricio. So this was a perfect day like it had used to be many years ago. On 4 April 1563 served La Gloria at noon and was then used as yard shunter. 1732 was steamed after concluding repairs but did not move until dawn. LP's Las Trozas and Limones Palmero were not served by rail.


504 Ecuador
Mill working.
On 1 April everything was diesel but 1461 was in steam to replace a failed diesel next day. On 2 April 1461 was dead again but 1821 had been steamed instead and acted as yard pilot.

515 Ciro Redondo
Mill working but no active steam encountered

517 Patria o Muerte
Tourist operation usually Monday to Friday.
This seems to be a popular mill with tour operators and on 1 April even two different groups arrived. The first left the mill at 11.45 after a visit to the premises on a train of two open coaches behind 1836 to a restaurant about 7 km away. The next tour group repeated the same about 1 hour later. Other locos kept there (all dead on 1 April): 1564, 1826 and fireless 1169.

522 Venezuela
Against announcements by some "experts" mill not working, cane to Ciro Redondo and O. Gonzales by diesel, mill may reopen in 2004 (?).
1657 were 1742 both under repair "for use later".

David Ibbotson comments on the current scene at Trinidad (9th April 2003):

During a year in which steam operation on sugar lines is at a low ebb one of the brighter Cuban scenes at least in theory is the tourist operation out of Trinidad, down for a daily departure at 09.30, which should see the train back in town by one in the afternoon. Motive power features 2.6.0s 1517, still recumbent in the small yard minus the pony truck, and 1551 usually in light steam but unable to move for some inexplicable reason. And then there is the 4.6.0 No. 1432 recently arrived at 444/FNTA, awaiting attention to work tourist trains, presumably from Trinidad; the addition of a tender would help.

The old station in Trinidad has been completely renovated and in March was about to open as a museum. Nearby there is a bus shelter-cum-platform, somewhat smaller than the rural bus shelters in Sancti Spiritus Province which happen to have name boards whereas there is nothing for the train passengers whether they be tourists or regulars for the railcars which function on this isolated line. There is a station building with train times, cancellation notices, fares and ticket office a few metres from the train stop. The station telephone number is the provincial code 419+3348. By six in the evening the day before you hope to ride the train the station should know what is happening the following day

The photographic attraction is of course the big trestle on the outskirts of Trinidad, it has photographic potential at any time from the south west side but better for the return train around midday or later. To reach the trestle on foot take a taxi to the far end of the Calle Maceo where there is a T-junction with the Calle Manuel Feijo (spelling?). In a rental car you can of course arrive at the T-junction but do not drive up the parallel Calle Independencia as it is best Spanish colonial cobbles!

From the T-junction walk down an unpaved street which becomes a very irregular track of dirt and stones down to the Tayaba River and cross under the trestle The river water was quite low in March and presented no problem, less than 15 minutes walk from the T-junction.

Bearing in mind that the engine on the tourist train is turned for the run back to Trinidad another photo location is the return arrival in to Manecas-lznaga station providing this not in the afternoon when the sun has moved round. If departurefrom Trinidad is midday or later better pick up the train as it leaves Manecas-lznaga on the way out.

Alan Murray-Rust reports (8th April 2003):

17 March


Midday 1606 worked a train of 4 loads from Villena to Roble as part of a Globe Steam visit. Various run-pasts at Roble before return light with caboose to Villena. 1112 in steam on the Patio making short runs as required.

22,29 March

Lenin Park, Havana

1350 in service both days. Hourly departures from Amusement Park stop (nearest to depot) from 1100 to 1500 (22nd) or 1600 (29th). Loco in excellent condition; crew friendly and appear to encourage footplates rides (doubtless for the dollars!).

1350 at PL

29 March

Cristina Station - National Railway Museum.

Well worth the visit particularly for those interested in more than steam locomotives. Good side gallery with display of signalling equipment, etc., with helpful labels. NB There is a $5 charge for photography on top of the entrance fee, but the original Cuban locomotive 'La Junta' is not allowed to be photographed! As with Chris Hart, staff are most eager to help and it deserves the support of any railway enthusiast visiting Cuba.


Arrived late-morning. 1306, 1308 on patio but mill not crushing, so no activity. Tippler roads and reception sidings generally full of loaded cars, so clearly a technical problem in the mill. Enquiry at Trafico elicited reply that a train was due to leave 'soon' to Jicotea acopio and did so within a few minutes. Departed Jicotea with 23 loads for the mill. Around lunchtime 1308 took empties out to the local acopio and returned with around 20 loads. In both cases the movements were essential to ensure that loading could continue at the acopios. Mid afternoon 1365 left with empties to Jicotea and Ciro Redondo acopios. Train was split at the junction with the first destination being Ciro Redondo. Return with approx 12-15 loads to junction, took remaining empties to Jicotea and returned with fulls, combining to make a train of 30 fulls plus caboose back to the mill. Perfect late afternoon shots for photographs near Melena.

1402 in steam but not seen to move from shed.

16 to 28 March

Hershey Electric Railway.

3009 is only serviceable Brill railcar. Seen operating 16 and 18 March but failed with compressor problem that day and had not been repaired by 26 March. This is the normal allocation to Santa Cruz branch. Ex Barcelona 707 converted to single car (with General Electric equipment ex-Brills) normally on Caraballo branch but deputising for 3009. Other work is performed by 3-and 4-car ex Barcelona sets. When not beset by vehicle, track and overhead failures, the trains generally keep very good time.

Hershey 2003

The other Brill cars 3006, 3008 are used for the tourist trains but are hauled by 20803 which is set aside for this duty. There seems little prospect of these cars becoming self-mobile due to the problems of maintaining the Motor-Generator sets which provide low voltage current for the control circuits.

With the ending of cane traffic at Camilo Cienfuegos mill there is virtually no electric revenue-freight which is reduced to 1-2 trips weekly over the Santa Cruz branch for the rum factory. On the main line this freight is handled by diesels but track conditions mean that they cannot use the branch.

There are only 4 electric locos serviceable - 21001, 21004, 20803 and 20808.

Hershey 2003

Converted steam coach 3021 (operating in 2001) suffered major underframe failure and has been broken up. Its remains can be seen at Portillia between Havana and Hershey.

Despite an enthusiastic and conscientious local workforce - from the top down - the future of electric operation must be in some doubt due to the enormous investment that would be required to bring it up to a decent standard. Even the Spanish sets are 50 years or so old and are showing it. There is a limit to what can be done with make-do-and-mend, so if this type of operation interests you, get there sooner rather than later. Even without steam, Cuba is a great holiday location!

Pauil Engelbert comments (23rd March 2003):

From 5th until 18th March I spend a 'normal' holiday in Cuba (Varadero and one-week tourist excursion). In those two weeks I saw NO active steam locos, although I was more after the narrow gauge lines than being focused on steam locos. The narrow gauge (762mm) systems of Catorce de Julio, Guillermo Moncada and Esteban Hernandez are operational, using TU7E diesels (class 34000). At CAI 303 Australia I saw the operational and well-kept 1593 standing outside the shed on two different days. Further I observed wrecks of 1818 at Diez de Octubre (diesel 38152 working) and 1713 and 1813 at Victoria de Yaguajay. The Granma mill was being partly dismantled as I passed. At restaurant 'El Rancho' on Avenida 1ra / Calle 58 in Varadero recently restored steam engine 1242 (this locomotive is the one that was at Cairo for some time - I agreed with Wayne Weiss during the preparation of our Zafra CDROM that it is actually '1243', neither number was ever carried) is preserved in the open air (so it is not in Matanzas). Also, mill FNTA near Trinidad is working, including its railway (contrary to another list published on the web).

You can now find seam locomotives in the most unlikely places reports Chris Walker who assures me he did not take up the invitation to visit the Cubamambo nightclub near Matanzas. He suggests it may be one the Humberto Alvarez locos:

Chris and Steve Mourton vist Cuba like I visit Java. Here is Steve's account of the 2003 bash, 26th February - 11th March (added 20th March 2003). The picture below is 1732 from Orlando Gonzales Ramirez - real steam - a rare event this Zafra:

The steam situation has been well reported, so straight into the details of what was seen by us - Stephen Mourton and Chris Walker, with additional input by Mike Randall and Mike Squire. Historical data provided by Chris Walker.


105 A C SANDINO 28 Feb

Closed, nothing happening at the shed, tracks rusty, though a small gang was clearing a point at the throat of the shed yard. 1373 has a hole in the smoke box where the works plate was removed; 1667 looks nominally usable; 1364 and 1404 overhauls abandoned; 1405 oou.

201 AMISTAD 27 Feb

Closed, cane goes by road to Hector Molina. The shed has a fence across the front, tracks rusty. 1707, 1803, 1805 oou; 1804 oou minus tender. We did not venture into the mill where there are other locos oou.

207 G A MANALICH various dates

THE highspot this year. Narrow gauge locos 1306, 1307, 1308, 1338, 1351, 1365 all working, up to four at the same time. Four acopios in use - one round the back of the shed; one across the flat crossing, one on the Jicotea branch; and the first one on the main line beyond there, at Ciro Redondo. Locos in good condition, heavy trains, busy - for example three trains were out at the same time on 2 March around 13.30. Additionally 1402 was shunting hoppers on the standard gauge and 15” gauge Cagney 2-4-0 of 1902, numbered 1182, was in steam on a short length of track by the traffic control office. The latter has been restored by local mill workers, after spending years stored in Varadero. The same workers have recovered the boiler of the oldest-known steam loco on Minaz premises, a Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST of 1873, works no. 440 or 441. This was converted to a diesel some years ago and is currently oou near the loco shed. They have also now found the loco’s saddle tank, in someone’s garden! So the plan is to restore the loco for static display, though the cylinders remain to be discovered. The people here are optimistic that steam will be in use next year……
At the shed - 1704 oou; 1806 oou; 1181 dismantled, no work being done on it.


Mill closed, but the nearby acopios are still in operation, with cane transferred to Hector Molina, whose diesel 38062 was noted, collecting cane cars, shunting etc, thus doing away with the need for any steam activity. Two standard gauge tender locos could be seen from the outside, also a dumped narrow gauge steam loco.

211 R M VILLENA various dates

Mill closed, shed not visited. 1112 said to be available for tourist use; 1702 said to be under repair. The acopio adjacent to the mill is still in use - and very busy most of the time - but now belongs to Boris.

212 BORIS LUIS SANTA COLOMA various dates

Three diesels - 38035; 38135; 51031 in use, also one steam - 1606. 1711 was oou up by the mill, with 1756 dumped.
1606 works from the acopio at Villena to the flat crossing at El Roble, it was said that the track on this section is not suitable for the diesels. 51031 takes the train on to Boris from El Roble. 1606 goes light engine to Boris daily for fuel, but stays overnight at Villena, where the crew are based. 1606 seems busiest in the afternoons, two or three workings. On 10 March, 1606 returned from fuelling at Boris with four empty cane wagons, to add to the ones brought down by 51031. On the morning of 11 March, 1606 was in steam at the acopio by 09.15, but the loader had not started work, and it needs 15 full cars to make a trainload for El Roble. 1702 might take over if it is ever repaired, as 1606 is felt to be a bit too small for the work. Diesel 38135 is still lettered ‘CAI Diez de Octubre’ where it was working last year, but now belongs to Boris. 51031 was working beyond El Roble to Bainoa, collecting cane which used to go to the Hershey mill, Camilo Cienfuegos.


This mill is in the environs of the city of Havana, in the district of Marianao. Though not cutting cane, it is still in use as a sugar refinery - molasses in and bagged sugar out, all by road. But the rail system remains and is being adapted for a Minaz museum. Narrow gauge 1309 is preserved on a piece of track. On the standard gauge, 1510 of Manalich is available for a tourist train to the FCC museum at Bejucal - to where trains first ran from Havana in the year 1837! - and 1502 formerly at Villena is under heavy overhaul. A large building is actively being worked on to accommodate more than 20 Minaz steam locos, with a steam festival planned to take place here next year, 2004. An item of note is an ancient wooden boxcar, possibly ex-USA, worthy of preservation in its own right.


1518 was here, dead. Mill closed.


Long closed, just a scene of dereliction. Bits of cut-up loco at the engine shed. Loco 1242, last seen stored at J S Cairo, is, we believe, now installed at the ‘Tropicana’ night club adjacent to the Hotel Canimao in Matanzas. This was discovered from a leaflet advertising said night spot.

314 J RABI

Tracks at shed rusty. 1216 and 1413 not used; 1414, 1529 and 1810 all oou.


Mill closed, now solely a museum operation. Cane from its former acopios goes to Espana Republicana, but with no involvement by Comas locos. 1415, 1530 and 1531 are still in good condition in the shed. Tanks 1121 and 1122 are not around, perhaps plinthed somewhere? Small diesel 4117 is on the back line, close to where immaculate Granma loco 1714 was in steam, having worked a tourist train to Cardenas earlier. Also here is 1614 ex J S Cairo, oou, and 1812 ex Granma needing a lot of work before it runs.


1119 preserved; 1820 not used; 1313 oou; 1532 oou; 1618 dismantled.

320 JUAN AVILA 27 Feb

Mill working, diesels only. 1807 is immaculate in the loco shed, but we were told it is solely for tourist use. 1720, 1721 nominally usable, with 1526 and 1534 dumped.

403 MAL TIEMPO 3 March

Mill working, but road has replaced the narrow gauge trains. 1322 and 1355 were both in steam for later tourist trains to Potrerillo. 1322 shunted the cane wagons used for the specials, so with a working mill as a backdrop, there were some pleasant ‘real’ photos to be had. 1221 is oou, with 1321 and 1345 both dead. 1320 is plinthed at the autopista café at Lajas, where the line to the Caracas mill passes underneath.

404 CARACAS 3 March

Mill not working, we were told it will be operating next year.
1621 dead on shed; 1538 part dismantled; 1724 and 1725 both dumped, part dismantled for scrap. Some cane from here is currently going to Mal Tiempo.


Diesels on line work. 1728 was not at work on two visits here.


Mill in operation, with diesels only. Steam 1334 used on the tourist special at Simon Bolivar. The line towards Centeno appears to have been taken up, at least where it crossed the road into Simon Bolivar.


1548 was in steam as yard shunter, 1547 dead on shed, so no change here from previous years. Diesels on line work.


Now a museum operation. The acopio close by the mill is still in operation but the cane goes by road. 1342 worked a tourist special - 3 tank cars, tourist coach, caboose - to Remedios station and back. 1343 was shunting the stock. At the shed, 1429 was dead; 1549 dead, parted from its tender; 1426 is an exhibit with a large hole cut in the firebox. 1147 is plinthed at the museum entrance. 1549 is still lettered ‘CAI Marcelo Salado’ with the other locos lettered as ‘Museo’ locos.

430 A FINALET 9 March

Fireless 1151 is plinthed near the entrance to this closed mill. The FC Resulta was a 30” gauge common carrier which, years ago, ran from here into Sagua La Grande and the trackbed on this section can be discerned quite easily. In Sagua, the station still exists at a road intersection, recognisable from the legend ‘Central Resulta’ high up on the frontage of the building and some track set into the road. Minaz 1356, which ended up at Humberto Alvarez, was a loco on this railway, but was sadly scrapped in recent years.

431 R BALBOA 8 March

Mill closed. Although the shed was empty last year, there are now 3 locos here - 2 Russian diesels both part dismantled and, more interesting, a GE 0-4-4-0D which looks in reasonable order. It has a number, 6449, crudely painted on the cabside.

434 P G TORO 9 March

No change here. Mill open and the sole steam loco, 1626, still works regularly, though it was having a washout on our visit. Shed staff said it would be working the next day. It looks in good order.


Mill closed, shed not visited, at least one diesel noted outside. As reported elsewhere, the shunting yard has been ripped up and planted with vegetables. The preserved 2-6-0 is still at the entrance, although it may be moved to the museum at Marcelo Salado. A couple of old wooden boxcars from the long-closed 3’ gauge common carrier railroad are extant in the village, used as dwellings, and the engine pit for the loco shed was also found.

440 I ALFONSO various dates

1635 took the afternoon train to Pozo on 7 March and both workings there on 8 March, giving excellent photo opportunities. The reason for steam usage was said to be a shortage of diesel fuel. On 3 March 1850 was on the afternoon Pozo working; it was seen at the autopista performing for a group of tourists, after which they went on their way and 1850 continued to Pozo, coming back on 17 fulls in the late afternoon in good light. 1910 needs repair, having a buckled crown sheet; it should get repaired as both it and 1850 are going to Santiago de Cuba in December to work a tourist train. 1636 is not in use. 1637 is working out of Diez de Octubre. Diesels 37084, 38064 and 38152 were noted working fulls from Diez, bringing them from Ranchuelo, and elsewhere. Both 1635 and 1850 were also seen on tourist specials on the FCC during our visits. Noteworthy was the lack of rapacious demands for money from crews which made Ifrain a place to avoid for a couple of seasons. Cash was still on the agenda, but in a much more reasonable and acceptable way with crews being very co-operative.

441 DIEZ DE OCTUBRE various dates

A closed mill, with cane going to Ifrain, and a location which has had something of a revival in steam working. On 2 March, 1637 ran light into the mill from Ifrain in the late afternoon, perhaps after taking fuel. 1661 was absent and may well have been out on a train. On one occasion not seen by us, it was reported that 1661 worked through to Ifrain on a loaded train and then took fuel. 1639 was still under overhaul in the shed, and 1638 dumped. The 34XXX diesel was oou. On 3 March, 1661 came off shed at 13.00, worked the back acopio, before returning with fulls and making up the train to 11 fulls at the mill, before taking it up to the loop near Ranchuelo station. There is a big climb to get to the loop, so the action is excellent. On 5 March both 1637 and 1661 were in steam at 09.00. 1637 worked the back acopio, while 1661 went light to Ranchuelo station to await a tourist special. 1637 stormed the grade later in the morning with 8 loaded wagons. Friday 7 March saw 1637 come up to the loop at 15.30 with loaded cars, probably it had already done one trip as more fulls were there. By this date 1661 was at Marcelo Salado having worked in on tourist trains.


Closed, being dismantled, no locos.

448 S BOLIVAR 7 March

Mill closed. Railway used only for tourist trains. All locos at shed, just one, probably 1354, said to be usable. Some rails, switches etc around the yard and sidings in the village of Jobo Rosado have been taken up and stacked neatly - some equipment has been sold to the ex-sugar tourist railway operation on the island of St Kitts. Obdulio Morales loco 1334 was in steam on a short train of cane cars plus 2 cabooses waiting for a tourist group which was to travel up the hill to Jobo Rosado. We were informed the molasses train from Bolivar to Obdulio no longer runs.

503 O G RAMIREZ 5 - 7 March

Mostly diesel worked. On the afternoon of 5 March, 1732 was yard shunter, but managed not to move at all in well over an hour. However on 6 March 1732 worked the afternoon train out to La Gloria - probably due to diesel maintenance. It left the La Gloria acopio on 7 loaded wagons at 16.30 and came back to the mill in glorious late afternoon light - just like the old days! On 7 March, 1732 was dead on shed, nothing at all in steam.

504 ECUADOR 6 and 7 March

1461 was yard shunter on both days. All line workings were diesel, with 3 38XXX class, including newly refurbished and recently arrived 38013 - an ominous indication that more diesels might be under overhaul to sweep away the remaining steam. On 6 March, 1904 was in steam on shed at 09.00 for tourists and 1821 was also being made ready for similar duties. 2 other steam dead on shed.

515 CIRO REDONDO 6 March

All diesel worked on our visit. 2 steam said to be serviceable - but not 1830, 1832 and 1834 which were dumped at the back of the shed. One of the working locos is 1829, seen at Moron FCC station on a tourist special - of one de-engined Budd railcar and a caboose. 1829 left at around 14.45 on this consist and ran along the main line in fine style to Pina, the station for this mill.


Ecuador’s 1564 worked a train of 2 ’home-made’ open tourist carriages from this museum mill at lunchtime. The train goes for around 7km to a restaurant. 1836 from O G Ramirez is also here, said to be usable. Ciro’s 1826 needs repair while fireless 1169 from Bolivia is an exhibit. 1564 was lettered ‘E A Ecuador’ , E A standing for Empresa Azucar which seems to be replacing the previous ‘CAI’. Perhaps this is a prelude to making each mill stand on its own, perhaps ready for joint investment input or even - gasp - privatisation.


1120 is still at a school in Agramonte.

1163 the 0-6-0 preserved at Aguada, has now been correctly lettered C Constancia (G Moncada) where it worked, instead of the incorrect C Covadonga (Antonio Sanchez).

Espartaco’s old Porter 0-4-2T, 677 of 1884, converted to diesel, which last year was very forlorn, was seen in operation on a Sunday at the children’s park in Cienfuegos. It has been repainted. Moves have been made to emphasise to Cuban museum officials the importance of this loco as an historic item, which really needs to be restored to its original, steam, condition.


Even Cuba cannot ignore the harsh economic reality of falling sugar prices, so has acted like a hard-nosed capitalist - closing mills, throwing people out of work, laying waste to whole communities which have depended on the zafra for generations - leaving more people than ever sitting around doing nothing, demotivated. Mill closures and transfer of rail traffic to road has finally done in steam as much as dieselisation, a familiar tale in other countries. But let’s face it, working steam lasting until the year 2003 is much more than anyone would have dared predict back in the 1960s when main line steam ceased in the UK and USA, to name but two countries where proper working steam is but a distant memory.

Last year we saw 50 locos in steam for MINAZ service; this year just 15 - and 7 of these were at one mill, Manalich. So much less steam activity, almost certainly the last year for ‘real’ steam. But it did enable visitors to concentrate their efforts - no more zooming across the island from P T Brau in the west to Rafael Freyre in the east - and as a result often being in the right place to get action, rather than arriving five minutes too late. And the weather during our visit was absolutely glorious - it only rained once and that was after dark. Even the clouds co-operated by staying away from the sun when a train came into sight. So if you cancelled your visit due to gloomy reports, well it’s too late now.

Our last sight of real steam on this trip was Boris’ 1606 awaiting a trainload of full cane cars, still working for the mill it was built for back in 1920, 83 years ago. Typical Cuban sugar steam.


Olaf Guettler reports on a mixed family/steam trip:


Lenin Park : 1350 started around 11 am 4-5 trips sat/sun


Diez de Octubre: not milling 1637 from Ifrain in action to Ranchuelo.
Ifrain: milling no steam 1850 and ? under minor repairs
Mal Tiempo: narrow gauge all steam in shed .action only for groups


Orlando Gonzales: milling but no steam .1732 under repair for 2-3 days, all other steam under major repairs


Ramon Ponchario 1 steam engine, entry denied was told to go to Sancti Spiritus and get permission for a visit and have engine worked for me.
Jesus Rabi: friendly wellcoming milling diesel in action steam dead. Railcar for visiting parties. I was told that in thr whole province of Matanzas there will be no steam except Smith Comas for charters. Information was confirmed 19.2 at Cuba Libre


Amistad and Osvaldo S. not milling.

Manalich good action. was kicked out after i took photos. security will not allow you to take photos on the patio opposite mill but from street it is ok.


Villena being dismantled but 1606 from Boris Luis works between the old mill and Roble (goes for oil and frequent repairs to Boris Luis)

Chris Yapp has sent some brief notes on a Cuba trip with Steam in Paradise 26 January - 9 February. In summary, there is limited scope for the individual traveller but plenty of opportunities for groups to charter trains or to arrange substitution of diesel by steam.

The only regular line working left in Cuba seems to be at Gregorio Arlee Manalich (was due to commence milling in mid-February) and at Boris Luis Santa Coloma where 1606 works intermills from Ruben Martinez Villena.

Gregorio Arlee Manalich: This year's livery is chocolate! During a late January visit 1365 was steamed for a charter.

Boris Luis Santa Coloma: 1606 on intermills from Ruben Martinez Villena. Ruben Martinez Villena: 1112 steamable but no local crew available. All other engines out of use.

Jose Smith Comas: Now a tourist mill with no sugar traffic. The working engines are 1530, 1531 and 1714 (from Granma).

Granma/Victoria de Yaguajay: Two engines gone to Jose Smith Comas. Remainder dumped.

Primero de Mayo: Mill closed. Nothing steamable at time of visit. Maybe later in the season.......

Pepito Tey: Now only a tourist operation. Steamable locomotives are 1236 and 1357.

Ifrain Alfonso: 1635 normally shunts the patio. Diesels on more, but shorter line trains. 1850 under repair and will be available later in Zafra. 1910 needs boiler work and will not be available this year.

Mal Tiempo: No regular steam working. Lorries use Potrerillo LP. Steam only works loads during charters.

Ciudad Caracas: No activity.

Orlando Gonzales Ramirez: All work done by diesels.

Bartoleme Maso: 1590 available and sometimes shunts patio and may do line work.

Rafael Freyre: Only tourist trains. Only 1386 serviceable at date of visit.

Jose Maria Perez: 1728 understood to be used regularly to shunt the patio.

Panchito Gomez Toro: 1626 normally shunts the patio.

Luis Arcos Bergnes: No steam activity. The serviceable engines are still expected to be transferred elsewhere.

Quintin Banderas: 1548 available to shunt the patio and maybe occasional line work.

Rod Smith adds to the gloom, confirming earlier repoirts:

Lenin Park

1350 working and a pleasant start to the trip

201 Amistad con los Pueblos

11th Feb
Shed now has a chain link fence across it and the yard looks unused. Four locos in the shed and the Saddle Tank now preserved in front of the offices.

207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich

10th Feb.
1402 in steam on the Standard gauge but doing nothing; 1307, 1308 and 1338 working on the narrow gauge. In the early afternoon 1307 and 1308 both went out on the "long line" away from the mill, 1308 being light engine and both returned on fulls by three o'clock.
1403 plinthed beside the road on the way to the mill.

11th Feb
1307 was out at one of the loaders on the "long line" in the mid-morning and undertook various complicated manoeuvres before returning to the mill with 27 fulls plus a van around 12.45
22nd Feb
1351 went off up the "long line" with empties and a van around 12.45 getting back to the mill around 15.15.

211 Villena

11th Feb
1606 was at the loader just outside the mill at around 16.00 and left with a load of fulls for Roble about 16.45.

12th Feb
A repeat performance with 1606 getting to Roble at around 17.00. It shunted half the fulls across the flat crossing (the other half were left in the siding) and then ran back light engine to Villena.

21st Feb
The afternoon working was in the hands of 51031 - some Americans we met said that 1606 had bent its rods.

303 Australia

20th Feb
Shed fenced off, 1593 looking like the working loco for tourists. No activity.

306 Cuba Libre

12th Feb.
No steam activity - all locos in shed "under repair".

314 Jesus Rabi

13th Feb
The two "workable" steam were outside behind a couple of diesels but were dead and rusty.

20th Feb
No change.

315 Jose Smith Comas

21st Feb
Collecting locos here with 1614, 1714 and 1812 here as well as the "usual" items. It looked as though 1714 was the working loco but I declined the $5 entry fee to see from inside - what was apparent from outside - that nothing was happening.

404 Cuidad Caracas

14th Feb
Mill looked shut - locos dead on shed.

405 Luis Arcos Bergnes

13th Feb
Shed has a chain link fence across it and the yard looked overgrown.

411 Jose Maria Perez

13th Feb
1728 dead on shed - smoke-box into the shed. I was shown where a couple of stays were leaking.

19th Feb
Mid afternoon 1728 in steam on shed, facing the other way from the previous visit. Not going anywhere but "to be fired up at 07.00 tomorrow".

20th Feb.
Just in case arrived at 08.15 in time to see 1728 come off shed. It sorted out a train of hoppers for a diesel to take out, took a couple under the loading spout and then ran them across the weigh-bridge. It then ran through the mill yard and across the main line where it collected a rake of empty hoppers which it brought back (T/F) and was putting them over the weigh-bridge when I left.

418 Obdulio Morales

19th Feb
Three steam locos in and around the shed, the tank-car train which was steam last year was present but with a diesel.

428 Marcelo Salado

19th Feb.
"Museumed". $1 to get in but nothing working.

440 Ifrain Alfonso

14th Feb.
Steam on shed, all cold "nothing until next Tuesday for Tourists".

441 Diez de Octubre

14th Feb
09.00, 1637 from Ifrain in steam in 1661's "usual position", 1661 in shed with rods off.
13.45 huge pall of smoke over Ranchuelo station marks out the arrival of 1637 with a load of fulls. These were left for onward transmission to Ifrain by a diesel and 1637 then went off T/F with a van to Esperanza. Crossed the main line at Esperanza Norte and ran to a loader called Jesus where it collected six fulls. Returned through Esperanza Norte, looking really out of place in the sidings there next to refurbished coaching stock and aviation spirit tank-cars while waiting for permission to cross the main line. Back through Esperanza around 15.30 and at Ranchuelo station at 16.00 where it left the fulls and went back to the mill L/E.

15th Feb
1637 in steam but did not repeat the previous days trip being restricted to a run up to the siding before Ranchuelo station with a load of fulls around 15.00.

16th Feb
A repeat of the day before.

448 Simon Bolivar

19th Feb
1354 looked presentable outside the shed and it was alleged that it was going to work "later".

503 Orlando Gonzalez Ramirez

17th Feb
Steam dead in shed - lots of diesels.

504 Ecuador

17th Feb
1461 in steam in the yard; 1904 shunting at the rear of the mill; 1821 came in T/F from the North with a load of fulls around 14.15

18th Feb.
Around 10.00 1821 was at the rear of the mill this time and made a huge train of empties which it then ran through the mill and shunted vigorously while 1461 "watched", 1904 was on shed.
Around 12.00 1821 went out with empties for Van Troye and Jibacoa where it arrived around 12.45. The return commenced around 13.15.

517 Patria o Muerte

18th Feb.
I didn't go in but 1564 was in steam late afternoon presumably having worked a tourist train.

522 Venezuela

17th Feb
1657 and 1742 dead on shed; bits of 1743 dumped a little distance away "round the back".

A number of retired steam locomotives have been officially preserved. A. C. Sandino 1210, Amistad 1303 and Rene Fraga 1524 plus steam crane C-2 are all at the museum at Estacion Cristina, in Havana. Chris Hart was shown around here on 30th November 2002 by someone who seems to be the boss there. He was very helpful and at the end, got bitten for U$5. Non steam exhibits are 61038, 61602 and spark FC 29. More locomotives were expected soon. Mal Tiempo's 1320 has been stuffed and mounted at the restaurant near the Caracas crossing on the autopista - at least in part advertising the Mal Tiempo steam festival noted by Chris Hart, 20th November 2002.

Final home for 1210

Alan Murray-Rust has sent an update on the situation at Hershey/Camilo Cienfuegos (effective early February): "There is no electric cane traffic haulage at all. The only acopio on the system still operating is Colorado, south of Caraballo on the through line to Roble/Boris Luis. The interesting point is that apparently the transfer to Boris Luis from this site is seeing some steam operation - I had assumed that it would be all diesel, bearing in mind the current haulage situation at Boris Luis, but my informant specifically corrected this assumption and said that there is some steam. Finally, he was able to confirm that the whole of the advertised passenger network is operating, and also that there are some electric locos operational for standby and presumably non-cane freight duties."

Rainer Schnell reports on his view of the disaster which is Zafra 2003, noting he saw no other enthusiasts:


306 Cuba Libre

1409 is on static display, Diesel 37153 was shunting, no further activity.

310 Espana Republicana

Vulcan 2439 of 1916 is on static display, without numbers. Diesels 37066 and 38199 were shunting in the mill area.


315 Jose Smith Comas

On our arrival almost no activity. Finally we managed to get access to the mill for U$10  per person. This seems to be the normal entrance fee which included in our case the steaming of 1530. The mill will completely be converted into a museum, also collecting locomotives from other mills. 1714 ex-Granma is already there.

319 Rene Frage

No signs of active steam.

207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich

In steam: 1308, 1338 for line working and shunting duties. 1402 did standard gauge shunting. This mill is still very active with fine operations. The only downside is that the mill again is rather inhospitable. Of course the shed is "off limits", but photography also is not allowed in the other mill areas. Even shooting from the adjacent public road was refused by several uniformed "security guards".

Real steam....


409 Antonio Sanchez 

Diesel 38213 was used for trip working, 1623 stands cold but complete in the mill area.

440 Ifrain Alfonso

1635 and 1637 in steam, 1850 under repair, 1910 cold but serviceable. A train with empty wagons left at noon for CAI Carlos Caraballos. Until the triangle at Santa Maria the train was headed by diesel 37 082 and banked by 1635, afterwards vice versa.

441 Diez de Octubre

A uniformed lady at the gate below the large picture of Che Guevara refused entrance. Finally we managed to get a shot of a loaded train headed by 1637 of Ifrain Alfonso, passing the mill building with the famous portrait. Locomotive staff and other persons on the wagons called ?Dollar, Dollar?, although they did nothing other than their normal duty. In the mill area we found 1818 still awaiting (?) repairs, railcar TW 15031 and diesel shunter 34067.


403 Mal Tiempo

On our arrival 1321 was due to leave with a charter train. After waiting some three hours at Portrerillo we returned to the shed. There 1345 was steamed up to rescue the other train which locomotive failed en route. Waiting for 1345 at La Esperanza was not a good idea, because this loco failed also shortly after departure. On the autopista near Santa Clara 1320 is on static display at a restaurant.


207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich

Another visit to this busy mill produced 1306, 1307 and 1351 in steam. Trains were hauled from and to LP Jicotea, where the best light is in the late afternoon.

Reinhard Fichtl had a holiday staying near Guardalavaca and sent me a message dated 17th February 2003: "I can confirm Rafael Freyre has closed and is planned to be kept as a tourist attraction, including the complete railway system. By the beginning of February, all planned steam train excursions have been cancelled because of changing reasons, amongst others, lack of fuel. As I have not been at the depot (still guarded and fenced in), I can only report what tour operators told me. But at least the eastern part of the line is served with a trolley service till the La Sierra siding. I happened to go with such a train , leaving Rafael Freyre at about 9:45. When staying in the Guardalavaca region it is a fine trip with the bicycle to go to Rafael Freyre, then take the train till the end of the line, then go back on the Banes-Guardalavaca road through a very nice landscape."

These are notes gathered by Martin Joyce 15th-29th January 2003 and translated from the Hartlepudlian by Tony Eaton (added 2nd March 2003 as I was away in China when the report arrived, RD).


Things are much worse than expected. Admittedly our trip was very early in the season but there is now very little line work on either the narrow or standard gauge. Apart from the redeployment of diesels from closed mills, in many cases sugar cultivation has ceased altogether with little of the inter-mill traffic evident in previous years. Considerable areas previously cane are now being given over to citrus fruits. Many locos are appearing stuffed and mounted roadside near mill entrances. In summary a ‘total disaster’.

201 Amistad con les Pueblos

Closed and cane to 203 by lorry.

207 Manalich

Visited 25th/27th January. Mill due to start about 3rd February. #1403 stuffed on main road to Melena del Sur. This year’s livery is chocolate brown . Narrow gauge fleet as before with #1402 and #1510 on standard gauge. On 25th January #1365 left mill with empties at 14.50 followed by #1338 about 20 minutes later. Almost certainly the last narrow gauge steam and the one bright spot in 2003.

211 Ruben Martinez Villena

Visited 27th/28th January. #1606 from Boris is here apparently covering for a failed box. Mill closed and one LP in use outside mill. #1606 ferries loaded trains to Roble for collection by 212 boxes. Very active and if all goes well (which of course it never does) there can be up to three loaded trains in daylight.

212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma 

All seems to be box.

303 Australia

3 or 4 engines in shed under repair(?).

304/318 Granma/Victoria de Yaguajay

Mills both closed - dumped steam only.

306 Cuba Libre

Closed with plenty of empties about and 38xxx picking some up.

314 Jesus Rabi

Visited 16th January. Very busy with boxes everywhere - at least 3 working in the mill area. The 3 steam locos outside the shed. 

315 Jose Smith Comas

Visited 16th January. Mill closed and no sign of cutting locally. #1530, #1531 and #1714 (ex-Granma) here in good order and #1530 left about 11.30 for Cardenas on a tourist train. No sign of rumoured trains to 310 which was not (yet) working with 5 boxes dead on shed.

319 Rene Fraga

Mill not working 16th January. #1820 present in working order - awaiting start of cutting?

320 Juan Avila

Box but only the loading point 2 miles from mill in use not the further one that involves a reversal at Juan Gualberto Gomez. Steam appears disused.

403 Mal Tiempo

Mill working but for standard gauge traffic only. Narrow gauge not in use and all the poles have been removed – there must be a pole crunch somewhere in the area! Locos on shed in good order presumably for tourist train use only.

411 Jose Maria Perez

Mill not working on 17th January. #1728 was here in good order but not in steam.

428 Marcelo Salado

No cutting going on in the area. Locos in good order on shed and one seen on 17th January on a tourist working towards a finca half way to Remedios.

440 Ifrain Alfonso

Pozo branch diesel on 17th January. #1635 in steam on patio duties.

441 Diez de Octubre

Visited Sunday/Monday 19th/20th January. Mill closed and cane from the loading point ½ mile East of mill to 440. #1661 was doing the honours with a pickup mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Generally loads were left in a loop about ½ mile short of Ranchuelo for pick up by diesel, but on one run the loco reached Ranchuelo station and added its consist to the rear of a diesel hauled cane train in the station. #1661 looking very racy with its bullet nosed smokebox. A home made lorry based railcar shuttles between the mill and Ranchuelo approximately hourly.

503 Orlando Gonzalez Ramirez

3 steam in shed on 21st January. Boxes seemed to be doing all the work.

504 Ecuador

Visited 21st January, with Zafra due to start on 26th January. #1821 propelled empties to a LP ½ mile from mill and then shunted yard. At least two boxes in the shed.

515 Ciro Redondo

Visited on Friday 24th January. #1826 in steam and shunting yard. Class 37 stuffed and mounted on main road - no number but a 1985 builders plate on it.

522 Venezuela

Visited 21st January. Mill not working nor showing much signs of doing so in the immediate future.

Yoshi Matsuo made an early visit, this is what he found:

201 Amistad con los Pueblos

31-Dec: 1707, 1803 and 1805 cold in shed, looking in working order. 1804 in shed with tender uncoupled. No action since 203 Hector Molina Riano has not started. Visitors of previous Zafra, 1302 and 1701 are gone. 1707 was in steam here (for testing?) on 2nd January.

211 Ruben Martinez Villena

2-Jan: Diesel 51031 shunting wagons in mill yard and adjacent LP. A staff said that cane trains will be handled by diesel in this Zafra. 1112 due to haul a tourist train on 8-Jan.

212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma

2-Jan: Mill will start soon (smoke is coming from mill chimney). 1606 cold in working order. 1711 out of use along with an unidentified steam deep in the yard. Same as previous Zafra, steam action may be limited.

314 Jesus Rabi

30-Dec: Mill has not started. 1216 and 1413 cold in working order. 1414 and 1529 under repair. 1810 out of use.

320 Juan Avila

2-Jan: Mill working. But only a 37-class diesel is working. 1720 and 1807 in working order. 1721 under repair.

403 Mal Tiempo

This time I did not visit this mill. But found 1320 plinthed at Autopista parking adjacent to FCC Cruces- Santo Domingo line overpass.

404 Ciudad Caracas

24-Dec. Mill working. 1621 to Nearest LP.

405 Luis Arcos Bergnes

25-Dec: Mill closed and no action. Northbound track (connecting to 407 Abel Santa Maria) looks abandoned. Again intermill to 411 Jose Maria Perez?

409 Antonio Sanchez

30-Dec: Mill has not started. 1623, 1624, 1625 and 1629 sidelined. Steam action can be hardly expected in this Zafra.

411 Jose Maria Perez

25-Dec: Mill due to start around 10-Jan. As previously reported, 1728 is actually here and shunting wagons in the yard for Zafra preparation.

1728 at its new home

428 Marcelo Salado

25-Dec: Now mill has been converted to Museum with molasses operation remaining. . All locos are lettered "Museo (Museum) Marcelo Salado". 1st floor of "Trafico" is exhibition of photos of steam. In shed, partly dismantled 1426 on display along with some loco parts. Tourist train is occasionally operated. 1147 on display at the gate. A staff claims it is operable. 1529 under repair. 1342 and 1343 cold in shed. 1429 LE to FCC Caibarien Station and returned with molasses tankers. I could not confirm the situation of intermill operation.

1429 on molasses train

30-Dec: 1342 on tourist train with an open coach and a caboose. It is organized by Cubanacan and departs Caibarien around 11:00 AM.

440 Ifrain Alfonso

24-Dec: Mill working. As previously reported, line work is primarily handled by newly arrived diesel 37084 and 38064. 1635 on patio and said to go to Santa Maria later. 1637 also in steam. Big Milados 1850 and 1910 cold along with 1636.

441 Diez de Octubre

24-Dec: Mill has not started. A diesel shunting wagons for Zafra preparation. 1661 cold, on standby. 1639 still under overhaul. No change from previous Zafra.

503 Orlando Gonzalez Ramirez

26-Dec: Mill due to start around 4-Jan. 1732 (now black painted and faces south, opposite direction) is working. Her duty is collecting wagons stored at LPs to Mill for Zafra preparation. On this day, LE to Patricio and return with wagons. 1563 and 1837 under repair. Another loco (1736?) dismantled.

504 Ecuador

27-Dec: Mill due to start around 15-Jan. 1904 in steam. 1821 cold in working order. They again got 1st and 2nd prize of Moron Festival. "Cristal" (popular Cuban beer brand) logos are on the side of these locos. Was the festival sponsored by Cristal? 1578 and 1461 under major repair/overhaul. 1680 out of use.

Mine's a cristal....

515 Ciro Redondo

27-Dec: Mill due to start around 25-Jan. 1829 shunting wagons for Zafra preparation. No other operable steam here.

517 Patria o Muerte

26-Dec: Another mill now for tourism/museum. Visitor is expected to pay 3 USD for entry plus 5 USD for photo shooting. 4 operable steam locos are here. 1169 from Bolivia, 1564 from Ecuador, 1826 from Ciro Redondo and 1836 from Orlando Gonzalez Ramirez (now painted black). Presumably they all participated in the Moron Festival held here. Currently there is no plan to return any of them to home. On this day 1564 pulled a tourist train with an open coach. The tourist train is also organized by Cubanacan and planned for MTuThFSaO but may be cancelled depending on the number of tourists. 1564 has a Cubanacan billboard on tender side.

522 Venezuela

27-Dec: Mill due to start mid-January. 1742 shunting wagons for Zafra preparation. 1657 cold in working order.

Parque Lenin

31-Dec: Train operation is SaSuO. All of the locos 1, 2 and 3 are under repair. Current regular performer is 1350 from Augusto Cesar Sandino (still lettered 1350), instead of rumored 1405.

La Habana Vieja

On 1-Jan, I found a copy of "Atlas de Cuba" in fair condition sold at 10 U$ in outdoor book market in Old Havana.

Rob Dickinson