The International Steam Pages

Zafra 2004

Tour report Cuba 2004 by Carsten Gussmann:

FCC state railway:

Many trains were cancelled, and railway men stated often 'not enough locomotives / coaches'. But in the depots were lots of locomotives and railcars visible, so maybe fuel shortage was an other reason. Cancelled trains are noted in the stations on blackboards, sometimes there are the dates of circulation noted, for trains which are not running on a regular base.

German railbuses becoming more and more Cuban style, with some crude colour work, changed couplings, vanished lamps (or at least their rings), open doors while driving, several damages caused by little accidents and erupting black smoke out of the exhaust. The cables between motor cars and driving trailers are mostly cut, so that the driving trailer can only be used as a normal trailer. These units must be turned over a triangle. Only one working driving trailer was observed, with the Santa Clara – Sagua la Grande train.

Havana: The loco shed near Christina station is now closed, the main shed for locomotives is the J.R. Casamayor workshop close to Cienaga station.
German railbuses working only one pair of trains per day, the Hababa 19. de Nov. to Batabano, leaving Havana at 17.00 and returning early in the morning. On 18th Feb 4214+4218 were in service. Although there were a lot of railbuses stored at Casamayor, most of them seemed to be serviceable. Some still wearing their original DB-number, but access for closer investigation was refused.

The trains to San Antonio de los Banos were performed by the grey/blue Argentine FIAT single cab railcar 4115 (leaving Hababa 19. de Nov. at 10.20, 16.20 and 20.20, returning at 7.20, 15.20 and 19.40).

A fast passenger train leaves Havana main station at 16.45 for Moron with new railcars from Spain (ex Finland), on 18th Feb 2404+2414, on 19th Feb 2403+2409. All railcars were fitted with new slide windows by FCC (no air conditioning), 2403 with grey window frames, 2404/09/14 with white window frames.

Hershey, 19th Feb: Only four of the electric locos can be used: 20808/21001/21004/21201, all other stored in the workshop. The 21202, rebuild from a B&L diesel, is out of use in cause of high energy consumption (stated by an engineer of the railway).

21001 and ex Spain 707 (two cabs) were used for a pw train from Hershey to Guanabo an back, the 707 in bad condition without pantograph. None of the original red railcars is now operable, the 3008 (with 'new' seats and a bar) for tourist trains must be hauled by a locomotive, normally the steeple cab 20808. Both are painted in bright red with grey stripes. The 3009 with stripped pantograph stood in the workshop area.

The overhead wire repair train consists of 21201 and wagon 073. Also there is a very new yellow maintenance vehicle, numbered 070 and build by Geismar, like a thing from outer space.

Matanzas, 20th/21st Feb: 71043 new painted in red and black with silver and yellow lining (great appearance), hauling a local freight to the harbour. Also in the new colour scheme was ex Canadian 51218 with a passenger train.

German railbus 4230+5163 ran a daylight train to Los Arabos, leaving at 11.00 and returning at 15.40. Arrival in Los Arabos was scheduled for 13.10, the train must there be turned over a triangle at the old station in the middle of town, and leaves the new station at 13.40 for Matanzas.

Cardenas, 21st Feb: TAINO railcar 4120 (two axles, single control end) was used for passenger service to Aguada de Pasajeros, running every second day (on that day 3 hours late).

Sagua la Grande: the trains to Concha (Isabella de Sagua) at the coast were performed by TAINO railcar 4139 (green) with trailer 5149 (blue).

Santa Clara: German railbuses (double units) were used for trains to Sagua la Grande, Alta Vega and Caibarien, but most of the daylight services were cancelled, only the early morning and late evening trains remained. All passenger trains to Cienfuegos were cancelled. At the station of Santa Clara the green painted TU7 34077 acted as station pilot.

Moron: Budd railcars 2301, 2303, 2304, 2305 and some German railbusses. Passenger trains to Camaguey via Ciego with class GM900 509xx. Palacio de Pioneros, Moron (main street to Ciego, on the right): the green TGM25 30423 on a plinth surrounded by several signals.

Ciego de Avila: railbus 4207 with trailer 5165 for the trains to Jucaro. Ciego 11.10 Jucaro 12.00-13.40 Ciego 14.30-16.35 Jucaro 17.25-18.10 Ciego 19.02-19.07 to Moron.

Non-FCC passenger trains:
At Los Arabos (old station!) little primitive railcars (003 an 014, single control end with balcony at the rear end) for local service to a town called Brufao, some 15 km northeast. The fare is 1 Peso, arrival at Los Arabos nearly at 13.15.

The red bullet nose railcar 15031 of the Central Diez de Octubre provides a passenger service between the mill and Remedios.

The closed Central Emilio Cordova provides some passenger services with railcars. A "Carahata" numbered 0005 (small, two axles, single control end, max. speed 30 kph, primitive indeed in run down condition) runs 3 km to the harbour town of Embarcadero Nazabal with its high watching tower, staffed with men in green uniforms. This railcar starts at a single track east of the mill, the other trains at a platform south of the mill.

The lines to Encruciada (at the FCC line Cifuentes - Camajuani) and El Santo are served by homemade railcars of the Central's workshop. They were assembled out of a Russian diesel motor in a bullet nose, two bogies of a class TU7 and a coach with controls only at the nose end, all together a great appearance, generating a deep motor sound. Nearly at hour 16 happens a meeting between two of them, with shunting, turning over the triangle und refueling. Seen were no. 1 (orange) and no. 003 (red), it was said that there should be a third one in yellow (no. 2).

Cifuentes – Mata - Encruciada: here is a local service provided with TAINO 6060 in bright yellow. Daily trains are Encruciada – Mata. Encruciada - Mata - Cifuentes only when the FCC train Santiago - Cifuentes - Sagua la Grande is running (mainly every second/third day).

Maximo Gomez to Moron: the Brill 1496 of 1924 is still running, two trains daily. Leaving Maximo Gomez at 4.00/12.30 and Moron at 6.30/14.45. Brill 1497 is under repair (motor), and ex FCC 4112 (FIAT Argentina) is fitted with a new control end after a head collision. Staff are extreme friendly.

Argelia Libre/Manati: in theory trains are running from Manati to Puerto Manati (Brill railcar, daily 4.00, 11.30, 17.30), but at least in February/March 2004 they were suspended due to the inoperable Brill railcar. Other trains: to San Eduardo (TAINO 026, daily 5.30, 11.30, 16.30) and Las Tunas (Brush 2706 with express goods wagon, passenger box car and American heavyweight, only Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays 6.40, 13.00, departure at Las Tunas at 8.00 and 15.00). 


ACINOX 91402 (blue/grey/white) on the mainline between Matanzas and Havana with a train of open top wagons, loaded with large white sacks.

Cemento Siguaney: here is ex MINAZ 37118 in use for local freight trains to Zaza de Medio.

Niquel Nicaro and the inclines to La Mina: a new band conveyor should be installed parallel to the inclines, but not to replace them, it is more a additional transport facility. Work is in progress, the route uphill through the vegetation is clearly visible, some lorries are involved in the track work. The transhipment station to the railway should be erected several 100 m east of the lower incline, the junction to the existing line should be near to the steel bridge ca. a half km north east of the lower incline. 

At the time of our visit (2nd March 2004) only two trains per day were running (normally 3-4), and these only early in the morning and late in the evening. At daytime track work was effected due to bad or very bad condition of the track. The reparations should last until September. In cause of this the inclines were not working at daylight. Nevertheless any photography at the stations was strictly forbidden, although staff was very friendly. Photos of the nearby bridge were no problem. For the track work train ex MINAZ 38034 was in use, for workers transport the Carahata 30. At the intermediate station between the inclines was 91003. 


Only a very few active steam locos were observed, at Manalich, Ifrain Alfonso (tourist train), Ciro Redondo (tourist train), Venezuela and Ecuador.

Several class 38 and 39 diesel seems not to be related to a specific mill and used for long distance trains over FCC lines with sugar, molasses, oil or anything else. They wear the additional character 'Ferroazuc' in different styles: 38245, 38254, 38265, 38266, 39002, 39018 and surely more. At least two locomotives of MINAZ are used by non sugar industries (37118 and 38034, see above).

202 Cdte. Manuel Fajardo, 15th Feb: Mill working, 34048 and 34058.

207 G.A. Manalich, 15th Feb: Mill working, 2ft 6in 2-8-0 1306/08 working, locos are painted blue again this year. At the road to Melena was 2-6-0 1403 on a plinth.

310 Espana Republicana, 21st Feb: Mill closed, stored were 37066, 37076, 37115, 38199 and the cab of 37124. Plinthed was 2-6-0 no. 8 (1521).

311 Esteban Hernandez, 2ft 6in, 21st Feb: Mill working, 2-8-0 1243 (lettered with the mills old name „Central Guipuzcoa“) cold in the shed, standard gauge 4wd 4112 ex Granma (dumped?), 4wd 4115 „ALAMEDA“ (Brookville, green/yellow), 6wd E4301 (CLW 1958, silver), E34015, E34016, E34020 (all TU7 are painted green/yellow). 2-8-0 2 (1616) plinthed at the mill.

315 J.S. Comas, 20th Feb: now 'Museo Turistico', mill partly demolished, will be reconstructed for tourist visitors. 2-6-0 1531 hauled a tourist train from Cardenas, in the shed visible from outside were 2-6-0 1415, 2-8-0 1714, 2-6-0 1721, unrestored 2-6-0 1410 and diesel 4wd 4117.

318 Victoria de Yaguajay, 20th Feb: Mill demolished, dumped in the former shed area 2-8-0 1514(?), 2-8-0 1519, 2-8-0 1713, 2-8-0 1811, 2-8-0 1813, an unknown 2-8-0 and TU7 34082. Pieces of these (and maybe other) engines are spread over the place. A very sad thing to see. The watering facilities are now used for washing cars, lorries and horses...

322 Sergio Gonzales, 21st Feb: Mill closed, stored were 34084 (dumped), 37075, 37168 (dumped), 37172, 38198, 38225.

401 Heriberto Duquesne, 3 ft 0in, 25th Feb: Mill working, at least with Brush 2720, 2722, 2728.

404 Ciudad Caracas, 23rd Feb: Mill working, 37088, 38217, 38272.

405 L.A. Bergnes, 22nd Feb: Mill very dead, also 2-6-0 1541 and 2-8-0 1823. 0-6-0ST 1346 (numbered 1343) plinthed at the road to Caibarien.

407 Abel Santamaria, 24th Feb: Mill working, 37019, 39006

415 Braulio Coroneux, 2ft 6in, 24th Feb: Mill demolished (no photography allowed), at the shed remains the derelict E34028.

420 Emilio Cordova, 24th Feb: Mill demolished, 37151, 37152, 38114, some local railcar services (see above). 

426 Perucho Figueredo, 24th Feb: Mill working, 34032, 37011.

427 Quintin Banderas, 22nd Feb: Mill working, 3 ft 0-4-0T 2 (1145) "CARLOTA" at the entrance, 2-8-0 1755 ex L.A. Bergnes under overhaul in the workshop. Diesel, all red/white except 38218 (usual orange): 34059, 34074, 37122, 37164, 38218, 38252.

429 J.R. Riquelme, 22nd Feb: Mill dead, also 2-8-0 1645 nearby.

432 Chiquitico Fabregat, 3 ft 0in, 25th Feb: Mill working, 34017, 34024.

435 H. Ameijeras, 3 ft 0in, 25th Feb: Mill dead, plinthed 2-6-0 1 (with strange plate BLW 53654/1887) at the street, in the shed 2-8-0 1431 and Brush diesel 2721, 2724, 2726, 2729, 2731, 2732. Staff stated, that 1431 is sold to Spain. The yard is now a vegetable garden, nearby under a roof was the very dead railcar 12 of 'Carahata' type.

439 El Vaquerito, 24th Feb: Mill working, 34010, 34027, 38118.

441 Diez de Octubre, 23rd Feb: Mill working, 2-8-0 1639, 2-8-0 1661 under repair, 34060, 37017. The red homemade railcar 15031 provides passenger service to Remedios. 

445 Melanio Hernandez, 5th Mar: Mill working, 4202, 37001, 37035, 38211.

501 E.J. Varona, 26th Feb: Mill working, 37145, 38132 (red), 38158, 38166, 39002 (Ferroazuc, red).

503 O.G. Ramirez, 4th Mar: Mill ?, 2-8-0 1806, 37146, 38008, 38159.

504 Ecuador, 28th Feb: Mill working, 2-8-0 1461 and 2-8-0 1904 cleaned up at the shed, 2-8-0 1680 dead, 2-8-0 1821 shunting the yard, nearly at noon empty to Colorado station of FCC to pick up two tank wagons. Diesel: 37025, 37065, 38013, 38078, 38099. At the 'via obras' (permanent way) depot several little railcars and draisines for track work, nearby at the bus depot TAINO railcar 4520 in bus design, but not operable at this time. 

505 C.M. de Cespedes, 28th Feb: Mill working, 2-8-0 1838 at the shed, its tender at a triangle near the FCC main line. Diesel: 38093 and 38223 ex Republica Dominicana.

508 Republica Dominicana, 28th Feb: Mill demolished, no locomotives visible. 

509 Argentina, 28th Feb: Mill working, 37130, 37131, 38033.

512 Uruguay, 4th Mar: Mill working, 37072, 38281.

513 Sierra de Cubitas, 29th Feb: Mill working, 2ft 6in 0-4-4T 5 plinthed at the mill.

515 Ciro Redondo, 27th Feb: Mill working, 2-8-0 1826 with tank wagon and caboose under steam for a tourist train from (Caibarien-) Florencia to Moron. Large fleet of diesel locos in different colours: TU7 in green, 37090 (dead), 38022, 38026 blue, 38096 green, 38161 green, 38164 red, 38254 blue (Ferroazuc) and a 38 on a plinth south of the mill, most of their needful things removed.

518 Maximo Gomez, 26th Feb: Mill dead, some local railcar services (see above).

520 Noel Fernandez, 29th Feb: Mill dead, 2ft 6in 0-4-2T 2 (Porter 543/1882) plinthed at the mill.

522 Venezuela, 27th Feb: Mill working, 2-6-0 1657 stored, 2-8-0 1742 shunting the yard, 29003 red, 38014, 38157, 38197, 38265 (Ferroazuc), FCC 52618 derelict near the shed.

622 Argelia Libre, 1st Mar: Mill demolished, most of the collection of ancient railcars from USA, Japan and Germany has disappeared (scrapped?). For passenger trains see above.

Rob Dickinson