The International Steam Pages
Sugar Mill Steam in Cuba 2004
At the beginning of the season Chris Walker suggested a short list of sugar mills which might provide real working steam during the 2004 Zafra season. The report below is courtesy of Steve Mourton who travelled there with Mike Randall, Chris Walker, and John K Williams.
ALL steam working at mill:
Other working mills with working steam locos:
Working mills with working steam solely for tourists:
Closed mill with working steam for tourists only:
Museum mills with working steam:
Tourist operations with working steam:
We did not go beyond Ciego on this trip, there are still a few steamable locos in the east.
2003 was the last year for 'real' MINAZ steam working in the Zafra campaign? Well, no actually.
2004 has seen some steam activity, despite the most pessimistic forecasts.
We visited various open, closed and demolished mills with the following results, between Thursday 19th February and Wednesday 3rd March. Many closed mills are being demolished.
Closed, shed not visited. Old BLW 0-4-0ST 21 formerly numbered 1106 is nicely plinthed in the square outside the mill office. A number of ex-Amistad locos are now at the museum at M M Prieto.
207 G A MANALICH Working
The narrow gauge is still going strong, with 4 of the 5 workable locos often in steam daily. Locos are painted blue this year. However all standard gauge activity, such as it was, has ceased, with road transport doing the work. It was noted that some hopper wagons formerly used were being cut up by Melena station. The Jicotea branch; the acopio at Ciro Redondo and the acopio at the back of the mill were all in use as last year. Future visitors should check if there is activity on the main line beyond Ciro Redondo. There is some optimism that steam will be used again next year. The 15 inch gauge Cagney numbered 1182 lives in the workshops and was steamed a couple of days. The old Manning Wardle of 1873 is slowly taking shape in the workshops, with the boiler having now been reunited with the frames. The cylinders have not yet been found and lack of money means the project may take a long time to come to fruition. The works number of this loco is still not yet confirmed, it could be either 440 or 441 of 1873. Also in the workshop stripped down is BLW 0-6-0 1181 for preservation and an OOU standard gauge diesel, 34031, ex E G Lavandero. No work has been done on it. Working locos are 1306; 1308; 1338; 1351; 1365. 1307 is stripped for overhaul. Of the standard gauge locos, 1402 and 1510 ( both painted blue) look usable, 1704 is OOU, 1403 is plinthed on the main road near the mill.
210 O SANCHEZ
Closed. One narrow gauge loco dumped, probably 1347. Two standard gauge locos could be seen dead, 1507 and 1701. There is a possibility, it seemed to us, that a loco might, just might, move here occasionally. Cane goes to Hector Molina by diesel.
211 R M VILLENA
Closed, shed not visited, at least one loco present.
212 BORIS LUIS SANTA COLOMA
Working, but all diesel. 1606 which worked at Villena last year is stripped in the shed, may - or may not - get repaired. 1711 and 1756 still dumped up at the mill.
213 MANUEL MARTINEZ PRIETO
Still in use as a sugar refinery, but the internal railway has been given over to the MINAZ museum project. Outside the mill is 0-4-4T 1205 on a ramp, loco nicely restored, but not steamable. 1309 narrow gauge 2-8-0 is plinthed inside. Baldwin 0-4-2T 1112 and Rogers 2-4-2T 1204 are both restored and steamable, with current boiler certificates. Also steamable is 2-8-0 1502, which runs short trips for tourists as required. Next in line for restoration appears to be 2-6-0 1707. Also here OOU are 1803, 1805 and 1806. 1803 and 1805 both display boiler certificate plates dated December 2002 - did anyone see them in steam in 2003?
1593 is used on a tourist train with a very home-made coach. 1620 is
spare; 1515 jacked up, needs money to be repaired; 1607 and 1716 OOU; 1 other loco
305 P R LIBRE
Mill closed, being dismantled. 0-4-0ST 3 (ex 1116) is plinthed. At the shed, 1718 was being cut up, a fate for which 1527 and 1901 seemed destined shortly.
306 CUBA LIBRE
Mill working, diesel. 1409 is plinthed. At the shed were 1612, usable; 1611 OOU; 1808 dismantled.
310 ESPANA REPUBLICANA
2-6-0 8 (ex 1521) is plinthed at this closed mill. 1120 which used to be on the roster is still at the Minaz training school near Agramonte.
311 ESTEBAN HERNANDEZ
This narrow gauge mill is the top producer in Matanzas province, and has high quality cane, which accounts for its survival when other seemingly larger mills have fallen silent. The enthusiastic management have spirited away former Humberto Alvarez loco 1243 from its resting place on a plinth in Varadero and it now steams here. Probably the only survivor of the three working locos at Alvarez, sadly there is no indication currently that 1315 and 1356 have survived, even on plinths. 1243 is basically for use on tourist trains, but there was some suggestion it has been used as required in the Zafra. As a test steaming on 23rd February, 1243 took some empty cane cars to the Centro Limpiezo Favorito, returning light engine. 2-8-0 2 (former 1616) is preserved on a plinth at the mill, it carries a BLW plate, but is a Vulcan.
314 J RABI
Working, diesel only. 1413 is for a museum; 1414 is possibly usable; 1529 OOU; 1810 OOU.
315 J S COMAS
Now a museum only, most locos well kept and steamed as required. Apparently tourist trains run Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to Cardenas. All the following looked usable: 1216; 1415; 1530; 1531; 1610; 1714; 1721. 1122 is not in use. 1410 is unrestored, which 1812 also awaits restoration. 1646 is OOU.
319 RENE FRAGA
Working AND all steam! There is no diesel loco here. Cane cars are worked from the two acopios near the mill, but due to the layout, have to be taken well past the mill and virtually to the main line connection, giving a run which must be near to a mile in length. Then the fulls are shunted back to the wagon tipplers from the storage sidings. So there is scope for pictures. Working loco is ex R Garcia 1518, looking good, with 1820 in reserve and used when 1518 is undergoing maintenance. The crews hail from Reynold Garcia and work a 15 hour shift, from 6am to 9pm. 1532 is dumped at the shed. 1119 is plinthed by the mill approach road.
320 JUAN AVILA
Working, all diesel. At the shed 1807 was usable for tourists; 1526 OOU; 1534 dumped; 1720 OOU.
403 MAL TIEMPO
Working mill. Despite some promise of standard gauge steam activity prior to the Zafra, there is no evidence that either of the two locos here , 1621 and 1848, have done any work. The usual narrow gauge locos at the shed, used as required for tourist activity only. 1320 has returned from being plinthed at Lajas.
Mill working. 1538 OOU in shed, otherwise just remains of other steam locos.
405 L A BERGNES
Mill being demolished. Appears likely that 1541 and 1823 will join the scrap pile soon. 0-6-0ST 1346 (wrongly numbered 1343) is plinthed at the main road.
406 G MONCADA
Still has 1126 preserved. Their ex 1163 0-6-0 is, as ever, preserved by the autopista at Aguada.
407 A SANTAMARIA
Still has its preserved loco 2 (ex 1129). Mill working, still uses reciprocating steam engine.
411 J M PEREZ
Mill working. 1728 does work on the patio, though not seen doing so, as it was being prepared for a tourist train. It was at Moron station on Saturday 28th February having - just about by all accounts - worked the tourist train. Also at the mill is 1622 ex Luis Arcos Bergnes, being fettled up for a steam festival appearance later in the year.
412 J P CARBO SERVIA
Shed completely empty.
Mill closed and demolished - all rather sad. But the loco shed is intact and is slated for preservation. All the locos, 1326, 1327, 1328 and 1329 are inside. There is talk of 1326 going to Manalich, but it is being resisted locally- there are lots of politics involved.
415 BRAULIO CORONEAUX
Closed, being demolished. The steam loco 1132 which was semi-preserved at the shed has apparently been cut up.
418 O MORALES
Mill working, diesel only. The steam winch used for towing cane cars in the yard, is still in operation, as is the reciprocating steam engine in the mill. Major structural work suggests modernisation is in progress here. 1334 is available to work tourist trains. 1333 and 1420 are OOU.
424 PRIMERO DE MAYO
Mill closed, but cane is still cut locally and sent elsewhere. The only steam here is 1543, OOU and basically intact in the workshops.
427 QUINTIN BANDERAS
Mill working, diesel only. 1755 ex Luis Arcos Bergnes is in the shed for overhaul. More worrying is that there was no trace of either 1547 and 1548. Perhaps they have been whisked off for some museum project, will be a great shame if these two Alcos - a 2-6-2 and 4-6-0 - have been cut up. The 3' gauge 0-4-0T is still preserved at the mill entrance.
428 MARCELO SALADO
Museum mill. 1549 was on a tourist train, came in from Caibarien, then left in the Remedios direction on 25th Febriary. 1343 was steamed to shunt some tank cars - purely for tourists. 1342 dead, used; 1429 dead; 1539 now lettered Marcelo Salado, dead; 1147 dead; 1426 used as a display.
429 J R RIQUELME
Mill being demolished. 1645 is OOU at the shed, basically intact.
430 A FINALET
Mill being demolished. Fireless - known in Cuba as 'Zeppelino' - 1151 is still plinthed outside the mill.
433 M ABREU
1239 is plinthed here.
434 P G TORO
Mill working. 1626 looks in good condition, does still shunt here from 8am to midday, BUT on our visit, it was receiving maintenance in readiness for a tourist train. It was lit up while we were there on 23rd February.
435 H AMEIJEIRAS
Mill closed. 1431 is in the shed, along with a number of the Brush diesels. The preserved 2-6-0 is still at the mill entrance.
437 C CARABALLO
1550 is at this closed mill, needs some repair, but basically OK.
440 I ALFONSO
Mill working. On Sundays 22nd and 29th February, the 2-6-2 1635 was working out on the line in the late afternoon as far as the first acopio. So it presented some decent lineside action in the afternoon light, the way it used to be. 1636 and 1637 at the shed are both near workable it seems, could certainly see use. But the 2 big 'uns, 1850 and 1910, are both crocked, 1850 needs new cylinder liners and 1910 has a 'crinkled' firebox. Oh dear. We were only present on the two Sunday afternoons, so cannot say from first-hand experience whether there is any steam working at other times. We got the impression 1635 usually shunts the patio and its main line workings may only occur when the diesels - of which there are several - are under maintenance. So worth a look. 1635 now has a new legend on the tender: 'Filial Ifrain Alfonso'.
441 DIEZ DE OCTUBRE
1639 is the working steam loco, but was being repaired. Again tourist trains take priority over 'normal' working, so probably not as steamy here as last year. 1661 needs overhaul. 1638 is dumped.
443 P TEY
Mill closed, but some tourist activity. 1357 is workable for tourists, 1236 also workable, had been used on a weed killing train up the line; 1358 being overhauled; 1165 could be put in order. 1164, 1220 and 1337 all dumped. A local initiative has a small railcar running from the mill to the main road.
448 S BOLIVAR
Mill closed. The shed - and locos - are to be kept as a museum, which is good news, as it is a 'classic' of its kind. None of the locos, basically same as last year, are currently workable.
449 G WASHINGTON
The strange little tram-type 0-4-0T steam loco is preserved by the main road.
503 O G RAMIREZ
Mill working. 1732 does shunt the patio, but was dead on shed on the 3 days we were here. 1836 and 1837 dead in shed. 1732 dismantled, as it has been for some years.
Mill working. It was a bit frustrating here, with locos in steam, but doing nothing. On 28th February, 1821 was seen towing 1904 through the mill yard, both having been to the loco fuelling point. 1821 was then due to go to the acopio at Jicotea to collect fulls, but had a minor problem, so stayed on shed. Next day, 1461 was in steam, but apart from shunting the shed, did nothing, as it was awaiting orders. So it needs patience, but 1461, 1821 and 1904 do work here, you just need time and luck. Also at the shed are 1578, said to be going on a plinth at the main road; and 1680 OOU.
Mill closed. Fireless locos 1170, 1171 and 1172 dumped.
511 BRASIL 'Zippy Zeppelins Zap Zafra'
Mill working. Line work is diesel , but shunting is done by the 'Zeppelino' fleet - fireless to you and me. It is an interesting operation, round the clock. Two fireless - 1368 and 1369 - continuously shunted wagons at the tippler, a third - 1250 - was ready to take over when one of them needed a charge, while a fourth - 1251 - was in steam as spare. The fifth - 1370 - needs a heavy overhaul, which will be started soon. Management is very pleased with the 'Zeppelinos' and there are currently no plans to replace them.
515 CIRO REDONDO
Mill working. 1826 is still in use and might be seen shunting the patio - that is when it is not working tourists trains, as it did at Moron on both 27th and 28th February. 1829 was dead near the shed at the mill. 1830, 1832 and 1834 were dumped.
517 PATRIA O MUERTE
Museum only. 1564 was working a tourist train, goes about 7kms, but a scrubby bit of line. After that, it joined 1563 at the shed in the mill, - not that there is a shed, just a pit, but it does feel 'genuine'. Fireless 1169 is preserved on site.
Mill closed. Cane being transferred to other mills - Venezuela's diesel 29003 was seen at O G Ramirez for example. But it could equally well have been 2-8-0 1742, which is in daily use - if you are lucky. On 28th February, 1742 was all set to leave shed, complete with extended tender, additional water tanker and caboose, BUT it was not required immediately, so retired to shed. Next day, it was in steam on shed, but needed minor repairs before going anywhere. So more frustration. We were told 1742 is often on the run through Jagueyal to the acopios at Hoy de Caiman, La Lilita and La Gloria. 1657 is in the shed, could not tell if it is used. A number of locos are dumped in the mill, wagons in the way prevented identification.
1517 was working the tourist train on 27th February, seen at IZNACA station, near the FNTA sugar mill. The two coaches it tows look reasonably respectable, apparently a big improvement on the ones used in the early days of the operation. No sign of any other steam loco at Trinidad station.
Rails very rusty, but due to start its seasonal operation on Saturday 6th March. 2-8-0 No. 3 is the working loco, just repainted with 'Parque Lenin' on the tender, carries BLW 43394 worksplate, this makes it ex Sandino/ ex Ameijeiras 1350. Also outside the shed was ex Sandino/ ex Ameijeiras 2-8-0 1373, looking in near-working order. Stored inside were 1, the VIW 2-6-0; 2 outside-framed 2-6-0 BLW 56920; and another BLW also numbered 3. 2'6'' Porter 2-6-0 ex 1108 is still preserved half-way round the system.
ESTACION CRISTINA, HAVANA
Steam exhibits as last year.
A law has been passed this year safeguarding various locos, machinery and sites for preservation, over 80 items in all.
Officially sanctioned [ie in the main fleet for daily(ish) use]
Mills with steam of quasi official status
Museum Only Designated
nb other mills have unofficial locos that may act as standby for diesel failures - Minaz did not specify beyond that.
Chris adds his own comments
This includes the Mal Tiempo standard gauge in quasi official status (I
This is a report of a visit to Cuba from 20th to 28th November 2003 by Chris Walker & Peter Smith with contributions from David Ibbotson
Late November is the season for the Cuba "Festival Del Vapor" [steam festival] held as a series of events at regional centres. In parallel a number of meetings and conferences considered the potential for railway heritage and tourism. The festival events are designed primarily for Cuban workers, although attempts to bring in foreign tourists resulted in a small number of hard-core enthusiasts. A larger party of US visitors did not materialise, due it is believed, to travel difficulties.
Plans to have train charters travelling between regional events did not materialise. There were five Festival sites: Matanzas, Villa Clara, Havana, Cienfuegos, and Ciego De Avila. The correspondents visited the first three, and Cienfuegos was cancelled. There were also reports of an event occurring at Santiago de Cuba. Senior representatives of MINAZ and the Ministry of Transport supported them.
Overall, it is clear from both central Minaz sources and mill people, that some working steam will be regularly used in the 2004 Zafra, where diesel motive power remains insufficient to cover all duties on a regular basis. It is anticipated that the full picture for steam operation will emerge by the end of the year but the number of operational locomotives is no less than for the 2003 Zafra. Pockets of working steam operation are likely to occur in Havana, Cienfuegos and Villa Clara provinces, with also a possibility in Ciego de Avila, although the correspondents did not visit this last area.
As well as steam locations noted in the report, the roles and locations of some of the non-museum attendees to the festivals are yet to be clarified.
Some locomotives have now moved to museums, but there appears to be reluctance at local and provincial levels to agree to a cohesive national heritage plan. It seems that some operating mills are considering tourist trains albeit without much detailed planning. The potential for steam charters at mills is unclear but has probably diminished. Most serviceable museum locos now have new liveries proclaiming their museum status although this may lessen their attractiveness for charters.
Otherwise, the MINAZ rationalisation plan is proceeding with many mills now being rapidly dismantled.
MATANZAS [CARDENAS] FESTIVAL 20-21 NOVEMBER
Held at the "UEB Turismo Azucarero" museum formerly known as CAI "Jose Smith Comas".
Locomotives in steam were:
1531, 1610,], 1721 [ex Juan Avila], all now owned by the museum and
Other museum exhibits not in steam were:
Other locomotives stored on site and unrestored were:
Some of the events over the two days had a social bias. An excursion on 20/11 behind 1721 to Cardenas station resulted in the locomotive failing with a firebox tube leak, but it was in steam the following day.
The most interesting event was on 21/11 with the locomotive speed trials. This consisted of locomotives being individually timed over a measured distance on the FC line between the adjacent station and the road crossing to the south: a distance of about half a kilometre. This was both exciting and frightening as the track was not in the best condition with an alarming wiggle at the finish, with locomotive terminal speeds in excess of 40 mph: the fastest Cuban steam I have ever seen in over twenty years!
The scariest moment was with 1807, which rolled horrendously, but it was the home engine 1531 that was the fastest against the stopwatch.
A partisan crowd of several thousand including rival girl cheerleaders with pom-poms watched this spectacle. They were spread along the trackside that had been specially cleared of scrub, and also provided with a grandstand. Another first in my Cuban experience was the presence of an ambulance near the finishing line. The results were greeted with enthusiasm and celebrated at great length in typical Cuban fashion.
A judicious range of prizes ensured all that attended were rewarded, but fittingly it was again 1531 that won the best of show award- it exhibited the highest standard of finish even amongst these cleanest of locomotives.
VILLA CLARA [REMEDIOS] FESTIVAL 23-24 NOVEMBER
Held at the "UEB Turismo Azucarero" museum formerly known as CAI "Marcelo Salado".
Locomotives in steam were:
1639 fresh from overhaul and 1848 were welcome additions to the serviceable roster.
Other museum exhibits not in steam were:
Not seen was 1148 which is reportedly transferred to another mill in this province to power a steam pump. Molasses working trains remain possible.
Another speed trial was held, although less spectacular than Cardenas with a shorter run, and better track. This was won by 1626 and all locos shared in the overall awards.
The most lethal activity was a firework display at the opening ceremony which broke all known safety precautions, and showered rockets on the audience!
HAVANA FESTIVAL 28-29 NOVEMBER
Held at the "Centro De Referencia de la Cultura Azucarera" museum formerly known as CAI "M M Prieto".
This event was always planned as an internal festival without international publicity and had strong local cultural activities.
Locomotives in steam on 28/11 were ex Osvaldo Sanchez: 1502 in immaculate condition providing trips, and the welcome return of 1204 after overhaul. It was planned on 29/11 to steam the 1878 ex R M Villena 0-4-2T No. 1112 to complete a trio of centenarians. 1205 the HK Porter 0-4-4T was on display as a cosmetic restoration to a high standard, but firebox repairs have prevented it being returned to working order. The other locomotive on display is the ex Osvaldo Sanchez plinthed narrow gauge 2-8-0. Also on site were stored 1803, 1805 and 1806 ex Amistad, and an operable 2-8-0 for works duties including weed killing whose number was not recorded - probably ex Villena.
Plans exist to acquire at least 12 locomotives in total. Earmarked are 1501 from PT Brau and at least one three-foot gauge from AC Sandino.
The miniature Cagney from G A Manalich was in steam and has now been authentically modified to its original form as a 4-4-0 with a bogie tender. The same team that are involved with the Manning Wardle operates it.
ESTEBAN HERNANDEZ [2'6" gauge]
P G TORO
DIEZ DE OCTUBRE
A new encouraging development is the presence of two standard gauge locomotives, 1848 Primero De Mayo, and 1621 from C Caracas. According to the Jefe, it is planned to use them in the 2004 Zafra to transfer cane in from Martha Abreu and possibly elsewhere.
Another plan under consideration is to use fireless Martha Abreu 1239 in the Mal Tiempo patio!
PORTA LOCOMOTIVE 1816
L A BERGNES
MUSEO ESTACION CRISTINA, HAVANA
FABRICA FERTILIZANTE, CIENFUEGOS
RAFAEL FREYRE [2'6" gauge]
PLAYA PESQUERO [GUARDELAVACA]
The Cuban photographer and journalist "Wildy" visited the final festival in Ciego province at the museum at Moron, formally CAI "Patria o Muerte" on 29-30 November.
As a postcript to our report, here is a summary of his account given to Peter Smith
covering the last of the 2003 festivals:
1549 as a long distance visitor from the museum at Remedios [Marcelo Salado]
Unfortunately 1742 derailed so was unable to participate in the activity. There were passenger excursions, but unlike Cardenas and Remedios, there was no speed trial. Activity may have been hampered on the 30th because of heavy rain.
The visitor 1549 won the two out of the three top awards, which apparently did not go down well with the local attendees!
This attendance list confirms the availability of basically THE same six steam locomotives as worked to varying degrees in 2003 Zafra in Ciego De Avila province. In view of the likely use of steam in other provinces, it seems that there is a good chance of working steam at times during the 2004 Zafra. Again the promised update from Minaz in December will hopefully clarify the position.