The International Steam Pages
This is Dick Coghlan's report of a March 2004 visit, with historical help from Yamitza Hernandez. See also Keith Smith's additional notes (pictures of old friends in new situations added 21st June 2004).
213 MANUEL MARTINEZ PRIETO (Pre Revoluion name 'Toledo')
On 14th March locos present as per Chris Walker's report, but in place of 1502, was 1507, seemingly in a steamable condition, and strangely having 'Camillo Cienfuegos' painted on both sides of its tender!
207 G. A. MANALICH (Mercedita)
On 15th March, 1338 was collecting cane from the nearest copio, having been hired or commandeered by a German group, while 1308 was busy shunting the patio. 1365 was in steam on the shed. A rust covered standard gauge 2-8-0 (1704?) with the clearly discernable words 'EMP A. LINCOLN' on the tender was OOU on shed. The title of its previous Central, 'E G LAVANDERO' had almost completely worn off.
211 R. M. VILLENA (Rosario)
(Ruben Martinez Villena was born 20/12/1899. He was a poet, and one of the first members of the Cuban Communist party - well before Fidel Castro took up that cause. He was obliged to leave Cuba in March 1930, and went into exile in Russia. He suffered from tuberculosis, and eventually died back in Cuba in Jan 1939.)
Mill being demolished, on 16th March, and a desolate air surrounding the yard, and all the former workers, and their families. People I spoke to even thought that the main offices with the bell tower would be demolished! I was able to go round the shed, but without my camera. All locos most forlorn, amongst the dust of demolition. Present were 1411 and 1702 in front and 1605 inside the shed, while at the back with creepers growing up the boilers were 1311 and 1207.
314 JESUS RABI (Porfuerza)
On 25th March, I was allowed into the shed, and was most surprised to see 1420 the steam to diesel conversion from Australia there also. It is useable, and is a replacement for 'La Chiquitita' 1216 the ex Fructuoso Rodriguez 2-4-0. No-one knew where that had gone to, but the staff were confident that 1413 was to go to a museum in Canada soon.
319 RENE FRAGA (Santa Rita)
(Rene Fraga Torres was born in Feb 1931 near Rafael Freyre Mill. He joined Castro's '26th July' group, and died in July 1953 in an attack on the army barracks in Bayamo, in southern Cuba.)
On the same day, 1518 was shunting the patio, and hauled prodigious lengths of loaded cane cars from both copios, before retiring to the shed to join 1820, and dumped 1532. The cab of 1618 still exists here, but a large oil tank had recently burst, and the ground was swimming in oil around the entrance to the shed.
427 QUINTIN BANDERAS (Ramona)
(Born in 1833, in Santiago de Cuba, an illiterate mulatta member of the Mambi Cuban fighters against the North Americans. He rose to the rank of Colonel, and was killed in 1906.)
The plinthed 0-4-0T at the entrance is painted a rather gaudy shade of red, with yellow and white dome/sandboxes, and lettered for 'CENTRAL RAMONA' as no. '2 CARLOTA'.
428 MARCELO SALADO (Reforma)
(Marcelo Salado Lastra was born in the nearby town of Caibarien in 1927, and worked there as a sports teacher before moving to Havana. He joined Castro's '26th July' group, and initiated workers' strikes before the Revolution. He was killed by Batista's police in 1958 in Havana.)
All locos present, as per Chris Walker's report, with 1426 at the back of the shed, rather nicely 'sectioned', and painted in bright colours to show the workings of a steam loco.
440 IFRAIN ALFONSO (Santa Maria)
IIfrain Alfonso Liriano, also known as 'Cheche'. Born in the nearby town of Cruces in 1926, he was a local leader of the '26th July' group. He was arrested in March 1958, tortured and hospitalised, but then went missing, and his body was never found.)
On 18th March only 1635 in steam but not working. However on 22nd in the late afternoon it was used to meet a diesel hauled train, to double head up the bank, before running round and propelling the wagons into the mill. 1639, with tender lettered for '10 de Octubre', was on shed dead. Diesels were working at '10 de Octubre'.
503 O. G. RAMIREZ (Algodones)
In the late afternoon of 23rd March, 1732 brought in a short train of four full wagons, and propelled them over the weighbridge into the mill. So there was some line work here.
506 BOLIVIA (Cunagua)
The three fireless locos still existed on 23rd March, round the back of the mill, amongst all the debris of demolition.
517 PATRIA O MUERTE - Fireless 1169 preserved on site - mill partly dismantled, partly in course of conversion to museum with some bright and interesting wall murals. No.1564 on the tourist train 28 April. At the end of the run blowing the train whistle at a dollar a time seemed very popular with Canadian Tourists! Several days later the locomotive failed but was back in working order by 5 May.
448 SIMON BOLIVAR - visited 4 May 2004 - mill being dismantled but rails shiny and showed sign of recent use. At the shed some 6 or so locomotives were stored inside but access could not be gained. Outside the shed Nos.1381 and 17 were without tenders and dumped. No.1381 appeared cannibalised. Nos.1333 and 1353 were dumped but intact.
405 - LA BERGNES - 4 May 2004 - No.1346 (numbered as 1343) plinthed at the roadside between Caibarien and Santa Clara.
443 PEPITO TEY - 5 May 2004 - mill closed - access gained to loco shed by showing a download of Rob Dickinson's ZAFRA report 2003/04 !! If you could do a Spanish version who knows - the staff enjoyed the pictures of the Matanzas festival. At the shed 2 locos under repair but could not be given access to them. Outside the shed Nos.1357, 1337, 1164, 1236, 1320 and 1165. The staff indicated that instructions had been given by MINAZ that no further scrapping was to take place and all locomotives to be retained as heritage items (a welcome move).
TRINIDAD 6 May 2004 - No.1517 in steam and being made ready for the tourist trip to Iznaga up the San Luis Valley. Spoke to the driver who seemed enthusiastic but train cancelled by operators as only 5 passengers turned up! Manana!! Staff very pleasant and driver very interested to learn that in the UK heritage steam locos were all coal fired - his fireman looked puzzled though!!