The International Steam Pages
Tourist Steam in Cuba 2004
Note that a fuller illustrated version of this report is available on http://www.railwaytouring.co.uk/new2004cubareport.html.
Chris Lewis reports:
I went on the Railway Touring Company trip to Cuba. We travelled on various mill lines with steam but also took standard gauge locos on to the national rail network. I will concentrate on the latter.
The first day of real interest for "main line running" was Tuesday 24th February when we went from Cienfuegos to Santa Clara via Santo Domingo, not the direct route. Engine was 1635 (2-6-2 Baldwin 1925).
On Wednesday, we went from Santa Clara to Remedios, again a roundabout route via San Diego and Encrucijada. The engine was 1626 (2-6-0 Baldwin of 1914). At Remedios 1539 (2-6-0 Baldwin 1920 I think) was added for the short trip to the Marcelo Salado Mill.
Thursday we returned to the Marcelo Salado Mill. 1342 (4-6-0 Baldwin 1911) and 1549 (2-8-0 Alco 1920) were working. 1539, 1626, 1147 (0-4-0ST 1919), 1429 (2-6-0 Baldwin 1916) and 1426 (2-8-0 Baldwin 1920) were also there. 1426 appeared to be sectioned to show its workings. 1343 (2-6-2ST Baldwin 1904) had failed the previous day but was taken to the harbour at Caibarien by 1549 for photographs. We proceeded beyond the locked gates into the harbour area. We were then double headed by 1342 and 1549 from Marcelo Salado to Remedios.
Friday we travelled from the Jose Maria Perez Mill (1622 on shed to be overhauled for running) to Florencia with 1728 (2-8-0 VIW 1920). Here 1826 (2-8-0 Alco 1921) was added for the run to Moron (two coaches, two water carriers and two cabooses).
Saturday we travelled from Moron to Ciego de Avila with 1826. This engine made lots of lovely noise. From here we went by Budd railcar to Santiago knocking some two hours off the fastest schedule.
Next morning we arrived at the station to find our engine 1590 (2-8-0 Alco 1926) derailed. However it was rerailed and we set off for Costa Rica. This was the first steam engine to have used the new station at Santiago (built 1991). It was also rumoured to be the first steam engine in Santiago for 50 years.
Monday we travelled from Palma Soriano to Bayamo with the same engine. It then returned to its base in Bartolome Maso Mill. For many of us these two days were the highlight of the trip, going along lines that have not seen steam for very many years. And, by the way we greeted by the many villagers that turned out to see us, they had not seen many, if any, Europeans.
After visiting Rafael Freyre we returned from Holguin to Cardenas with a Budd railcar reaching speeds over 80. However, we were temporary impounded by security police after visiting the diesel locomotive shed and works in Camaguey. Our final trip on the standard gauge was on the Thursday, from the Jose Smith Comas Museum to Cardenas with 1721 (2-6-0 VIW 1920 I think). Other engines at this Museum were 1610, 1531, 1812, 1530, 1714, 1415, 1216, 1122, 1410 and 1614. Most of these engines were in good external condition other then the latter two.
Overall, when combined with the many mill visits made, all the 52 participants had a good time. There were 12 women on the trip and so there were several non-train trips for those that wanted alternatives. This was my first trip to Cuba. While I know the sugar mill railways are a shadow of their former self I did enjoy the trip, especially the steam locomotives and seeing the country as a whole. As could be expected with a tour of this nature there were water problems.