The International Steam Pages

Real Steam in Cuba 2005

There are two reports on this page, the first one is from Peter Davenport covering March 2005 and the second from Paul Engelbert covering January/February 2005.

635 Rafrael Freyre. This has 3 locos (I was told) that can be used. On the first visit, at the beginning of the trip on 4th of March, 1387 was in steam, and working. 100 years old - built in 1905! No idea what it did earlier, but at 1pm it left the stabling point and up to the level crossing, then went back into the mill with 3 tanks. 1386 and 1388 were also there, but not in steam.
After this we visited Moa, Baracoa, Santiago - great salsa and beaches - then mill 620 near Bayamo, as I heard there was steam... but a wasted trip, as only No '3' there, on a plinth. A 2-6-2 with the rear wheels removed!
443 Pepito Tey - closed and all rusting quietly away. Loco in the shed that looks like it is being restored.
440 Ilfrain Alfonso is working, and so are its locos! At least 1636 is, almost daily. I visited several times, and it was usually working - taking cane empties or molasses tanks to the main line at Santa Maria, and bringing loaded trains back up the hill - superb from on the footplate!! Really friendly and co-operative crews - although getting used to asking for a few dollars from visitors. Told that steam had worked the trains out to the Pozo point, although I think its now normally diesel. 1850 looked in good condition, but not the others.
Then the highlight - 441 Diez de Octobre. 1639 seems to steam daily, and then works several times a day. However, to no fixed schedule, so its just a question of being there. In the meantime not a lot to do, except talk to/entertain the group of kids who gather - very friendly and curious, or try the raw sugar juice - pulped freshly for you! 
Loco goes to the loading point behind the mill with empties, collects full cane wagons, then storms up the bank... superb! (my friendly crew were happy to do the bank again - without me asking!) Then past the huge Che image on the shed, and either on to the loading point or down the bank, then runs back up the hill to get the wagons into the sidings. A diesel usually collects them, and takes them to Ilfrain Alfonso, but I gather it can be steam. Also, refueling needs to be done at Ilfrain, so it needs to visit frequently. (This was also my experience 2 years ago in 2003 - great going down the main line on the steam loco!) 1661 - in superb condition just 2 years ago - is now
dumped behind the shed, and missing major parts.
424 - visited, no sign of loco. Mill being dismantled
On the way back to the East we called at 504 - Ecuador, but did not see the loco - although the staff on the depot said there was a loco (1904) in steam somewhere nearby!!
We were told the next mill (Venezuela?) had steam as well...
503 Orlando - no steam, and 1702 dumped outside mill. Complete, but it will need a lot of work to get to steam.

Paul Engelbert reports (filed late as I was away in west China).....

In the last week of January the sugar harvest in Cuba had already started nearly everywhere. And also most sugar railways were already working. The situation of the individual mills in the Varadero area (between Havana and Cienfuegos) was as follows:

207 Georgio Arlee Mañalich
The closure of this mill south of Havana is no doubt the biggest loss for live steam in Cuba this season. Last year up till 5 narrow gauge and 2 standard gauge steam locos worked here. But with the mill also the narrow gauge railway closed. This year lorries bring the sugarcane to a loading point 500m south of the mill, where it is loaded in standard gauge wagons. These are brought to the FCC-station of Melena (next to the mill) by G.A. Mañalich's steam engine 1402. It has a brown livery this year. From Melena station intermills run to Hector Molina. On January 27th white/green diesel 38062 hauled an intermill (arrival G.A. Mañalich around 11:30). A caboose of Hector Molina was at the back of the train. At the depot, which is still not accessible, several steam locomotives are stored. They still have last year's light blue livery.

210 Osvaldo Sánchez
Mill closed.

212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma
Mill working. On its standard gauge network Russian diesels 38035, 38135, 39021 and 51031 are used. Steam engine 1606 is stored in the shed.

310 España Republicana
Mill closed.

311 Esteban Hernandez
Mill and 762mm gauge narrow gauge railway in use. The 3-axle Canadian diesel-mechanical locomotive E4301 (built 1955) and small Brookville mine-loco 4114 are shunting at the mill. To the loading points the larger class TU7 locomotives 34015, 016 and 020 are used. However from the TU7s only 34016 was operational. In the afternoon of January 28th it broke down as well and had to return to the depot. Steam locomotive 1242 is available for tourist trains. On January 28th it was brought under steam for a trial run on the mill's premises. Because at that time the last TU7 had just broken down, it was planned to use this
steam engine for regular cane trains to the loading point south of the tunnel. But unfortunately it did not come so far because it took still 1 hour before the boiler pressure was high enough and in the meantime one managed to repair diesel 34016. In the depot also Brookville 4115 was spotted. Dumped are the wrecks of
home-made diesel 4112 and a standard gauge TU7 diesel (probably 34050 from Julio Reyes Cairo, or at least from the Jovellanos area as the staff told).

314 Jésus Rabi
Mill working (not visited). On January 25th around 16:00 an intermill hauled by diesels 38227 and 38038 left Guireiras station due south, probably to the Jésus Rabi mill. The diesels were in MINAZ-livery but had a large inscription FERROAZUC. The caboose seems to be one of Sergio Gonzalez' (CAI 322).

315 José Smith Comas
Several steam locomotives present around the fenced-off shed of this 'Museo Turistico'. Wednesdays at 10:30 a steam hauled tourist train runs to Cardénas.

319 René Fraga
Still 100% steam! On January 25th engine 1518 (Vulcan 2566/1916) was in use and 1413 (Cooke 2114/1891) was reserve. The latter was in fact under repair
when visited. Recently this very old engine has been obtained from Jesus Rabi ('Central Jesus Rabi ' is still painted on the tender). Last year 2-8-0 1820 (Baldwin 52969/1920) was used here regularly, but now it stand out of use opposite to the depot.

406 Guillermo Moncada
This mill probably closed after the 2004-season (at least it was still working in 2003). The narrow gauge railway (762mm gauge) has already been lifted. Inside the shed at least 4 class 34000 (TU7) diesels are dumped, amongst which 34030. A steam locomotive is preserved as a monument near the chimney of the mill.

416 Catorce de Julio
Mill and 762mm railway working. This is one of the last narrow gauge railways MINAZ operates. Today there are 5 class 34000 (TU7) diesels with numbers 34003, 019, 021, 055 and 078. When visited 3 of them worked and 2 were under repair at the depot. Recently 34003 has been acquired from the nearby closed Guillermo Moncada mill.

427 Quintin Banderas
By late January the mill was not working yet.

429 Jose R. Riquelme
Mill closed and locomotive shed empty. At the mill steam locomotive 1645 is preserved as a monument.

434 Panchito Gómez Toro
A mill well worth visiting with a lively sg railway system. There are at least two loading points. One is north of the mill and one (or more?) west of the mill. These are served by large Russian diesel 37098. Small diesel 34074 (ex-Quintin Banderas) is used for shunting at the mill. On January 28th steam engine 1626 and diesel 38208 were in the depot, both apparently in working order. From what I understood steam was not used due to a lack of crude oil.

Hershey railway
Still working as usual. Brill railcar 3009 and some electric locos stood in front of the shed at Camilio Cienfuegos. Entrance and photography at the depot was however denied. Around 15:30 ex-Catalan EMU 506 left C.Cienfuegos for Jaruco.

Rob Dickinson