The International Steam Pages

Steam (?) in Cuba 2005

This is a pre-Zafra 2005 report from Cuba. Peter Smith spent 2 weeks in Cuba ( 22 Nov-6 Dec 2004) and reports:

Museum visits

25 Nov Moron/Patria. Admission was refused but 1563, 1564 could be seen. They did not seem to want individual visitors as they had no way of accounting for the dollars!

Incidentally the new currency arrangements have great advantages for UK visitors, pounds exchanged at the full rate of exchange against the dollar for convertible currency with no charges, at any bank.

27 Nov Caibarien/Marcelo Salado. Full 2004 Zafra complement present - 1147, 1342, 1343, 1426, 1429, 1539, 1549 but no additions.1342/3 seemed to have recent use. Informed a steam festival with no visiting locos on 6 Dec – the day of my return. However, another contact was told festival 11/12 Dec; will be interested to know if either materialised.

29 Nov Havana/Cristina. This museum is making admirable progress with additional exhibits and an art exhibition. Highlight for me was Brissoneau and Lodz Bo-Bo 50801; I thought the class may be extinct.TEM-4 51018 also new. The Cagney steam loco from Manalich-Vulcano -  is here with portable track between the sg rails and is steamed monthly. The Manning Wardle ex 0007,5 diesel is being rebuilt as a steam loco and will become an exhibit at the museum. They would like more ex “main line” steam locos but MINAZ are not cooperative.

It was said that unauthorised scrapping of category 1 heritage steam locos had already occurred causing anger at the highest levels, but specific locos not identified.

30 Nov Havana/Prieto A brief visit to the workshop revealed only 1502 present separated from tender.1205 on a raised track section in the street and 1112, 1204, 1309 could be seen in the mill/museum; progress here is disappointingly slow

6 Dec Cardenas/Smith Comas. Full 2004 Zafra complement present 1122, 1216, 1410, 1415, 1530, 1531, 1610, 1614, 1714, 1721, 1812. 1812 was in the shed and was said to be for the mill museum next door (seemingly a separate enterprise} possibly sectioned. 1122 being prepared for patio shunting.

Asked about additional locos they said their provincial museum status made this unlikely. Provincial and local politics continues to bedevil preservation efforts.

Mill visits - not a happy experience so only one or two.

4 Dec 10 de Octubre Only 1661 present sadly on the siding adjacent to the through line looking dumped; all wrecks gone.

15031 the railbus was in the shed with rear end damage-? Collision but the windscreen previously missing was replaced. Locals I took to Ranchuelo shrugged and said the little train hardly ever ran.

4 Dec Ifrain Afonso. I had been told 1816 here but it was not, 1850 and 1910 unchanged no sign of repairs, 1637 also present and 1535 under repair for Zafra use.

Asked where 1639 and 1636 were I was told they were at Carlos Balino and would be in steam manyana but I could not confirm. I was told there could be steam working on the main line between 10 de Octubre and Esperanza during the Zafra but its status not known.

Other. Although I did not visit Manalich reliable contacts confirmed no Zafra narrow gauge steam but a loco may be steamed for shunting and charters. The standard gauge will be steam with 1402 and 1510.

My general impression is that there will be little genuine steam in the Zafra but charters will run. I was told MINAZ are in a parlous state and have “had it” with steam and want out asap (so what's new).

My visit was primarily personal museum business and main line train watching so the following may be of interest (I have left this in as many Cuban visitors enjoy such things...) :

25 Nov Moron reason for visit to see if the Maximo Gomez Brill service still running; it was with a very healthy sounding 1497 on the 2.30 pm service. This much rebuilt Brill class 55 is a wonderful survivor. Another,1496 is believed to be available 81005,8 in green and yellow switching and as the security desk was now virtually on the shed turntable it was possible to see most shed and some works occupants. The works does the EMD power with various G8 and GMD-1 present. At least 5 GMD-1 including 51214 stripped and apparently dumped.2 Canadian RDC and the switcher GE 25 ton 022.Anumber of ex Finnish railcars and ex DB rail buses; the latter are everywhere, mostly out of use. RDC 2304 seems to have become a victim of the high attrition rate and was in the station bay platform stripped of interior and windows. The older RDC coach conversions seem to go on for ever complete with Cuba Railroad markings. Finnish railcars 2406,10 working the Moron-Havana service.

Various dates, Havana. Visited Central and Coubre stations Enlace Gas, Cienaga and Luyano but not into the works. A walk to the Tulipan terminus drew the conclusion it was closed but we were confounded as an ex DB railbus without trailer came in and unloaded its passengers These seem to haul most of the local services but some Guerrillero railbuses were in the railcar shed at Cienaga including 4105, 4107, 4115. At Luyano Fiat cars 2115,2125 and another noted.

Services were sparse with mostly 524xx which still handle nearly all the main passenger workings and 512xx on local and pilot duties. The single SW1200RS was working in Havana and a solitary 526xx was noted. A class 37 was yard switching and a class 38 was switching Luyano. Add a 71xxx and that was it. The main works  – Casamayor - handles the 524xx and 53xxx GEs, noted were 52404, 6, 10, 21 and 53014, 16, 17. The Cagney is still at the works entrance.

Various dates Santa Clara. Classes seen included 509xx 53xxx 52642 71xxx 34077 and ex DB and Finnish railcars. Just as I had concluded all the 53xxx were mid blue and light blue 53008 arrived with an intermodal freight on 4 Dec in dark navy blue with light blue cab and lining. After switching it left for Havana and was immediately replaced by 53011 on a tanker train. The afternoon Cienfuegos train was handled by 50944. This had been the last train worked by the Russian 616xx M62 until their demise in 2003. The station pilot was green painted Russian Tu7 34077.52642 appeared to be used to turn passenger trains on the wye.

6 December Cardenas. The yard was deserted ,the nearby wagon works had a few cars and the railcar shed had Taino Ligero railcars 4120 and trailer and the more usual 4122.Frequency of the railcar service to Aguada de Pasajeros was unclear.

6 December Hershey Brill car 3008 was attached to steeple cab 20808 in the mow yard presumably for charter work and other steeple cabs and ex Spanish railcars in the shed/works area where I did not go. The conclusion that the days of independent Brill working were gone forever was again confounded when on return to the autopista a careworn 3006 stood at the platform at Santa Cruz del Norte; it soon left under its own line power with a load of passengers. So on 6 December 2004 Brill service in the way God and Milton Hershey intended still clings on in Cuba. A fitting end to my visit.

Rob Dickinson