The International Steam Pages

More Steam in Cuba 1999

Report of a  visit - February 25 to March 9 1999 by Mike Willis, Tony Thorndike, Steve Mourton, Chris Walker. Mostly good weather throughout, with a cooling breeze.

103 E G Lavandero Feb 26

Only one active steam loco here, 1704, which arrived 17.00 from the string of acopios east towards Guanajay. We were told 1302 had gone to mill 201 Amistad (from where it had been transferred a few years ago). 1705 had gone to mill 206 Manuel Isla for repair, but would be returning here. Derelict locos not investigated. One of the acopios had a new siding with ten cane cars loaded with the 'chaff' stripped from the cane. Possibly this was going to be used elsewhere (as cattle feed?) rather than burnt at the acopio, so perhaps constitutes 'new' traffic for the line.

105 A C Sandino Feb 26

1350 worked to the end of the north line, leaving the mill around 10.00, coming back on 15 fulls from both loading points, arriving at the mill about 11.45.

1382 was also in steam. 1404 was undergoing an overhaul. 1210 and 1405 were dead on shed, with 1209 and the frame of 1424 still dumped by the main road.

107 P T Brau Feb 26

1103 was shunting, while 1703 left the mill at 13.00 for the far loading point, near San Ignacio. It came back up the street into the mill at 14.30 on fulls; then left again on empties 15 minutes later, probably for the branch off the main line, as it was back at 15.30 on 9 fulls. At the shed were 1401 and 1505 dead; 1662 in steam; 1501 oou; 1101 preserved; 1102 (presumed) frame only.

109 O Nodarse Feb 26

Mill closed, diesels in the yard.

201 Amistad Feb 27

A very brief call here found 1707 leaving at 15.25 on empties for the acopio to the north, near the autopista.

205 C Cienfuegos Feb 25

2 small steeple cab electrics , 21203 and 21004, worked a short train of full cane cars through the street at Caraballo in the late morning. A larger electric was seen nearer the mill on another train of fulls. Railcar 3022 was leaving the mill at 13.00 on a passenger train. The Brush/ Clayton 'BR 47' type was not seen - has it been moved or cut up?

206 Manuel Isla Feb 28

1603 came out of the mill at 09.00, in perfect light, to the nearby acopio, shunted and took fulls back to the mill. All over in less than 30 minutes. No sign of anything else working, but we did note 1705 (from Lavandero ) dead in the yard.

207 G A Manalich Feb 27

The steam locos seen working here were nicely repainted again this year - this time in a light blue livery.

On the std gauge, 1403 - 107 years old - was shunting hoppers, while four Russian diesels built in the 1980s (38XXX/39XXX) sat around doing nothing. 1403 was also busy, later in the morning, shunting std gauge empty cane cars - it is not clear if this mill receives cane by std gauge or whether the wagons are just repaired/stored here for use elsewhere. 1403 often ventured out alongside the FCC station at Melena. On the ng 1307 and 1308 went out to the nearest loaders on two lines and brought in trains of fulls. The MW rebuild diesel was dead in the yard.

We did not venture further out into the rest of the ng system, so do not know if it was being used.

210 O Sanchez Feb 27

Mill closed again this season but cane being cut and taken elsewhere. 1205 and 1701 were in steam at 13.00. The short ng line out of the mill (batey 1 on World Steam map ) has now been converted to std gauge and diesel 4107 brought out empties to the two acopios, going back le. Then 1205 came out to the acopios to make up a train of 19 fulls. This presumably went to mill 203 Hector Molina, but not by steam, as diesel 38258 was seen on empties heading down the line to the mill.

Paranoia still reigns here with the security guard who asked us to move to the other side of the road from the shed gates, while a local policeman tried to tell us that photography was forbidden. Thwarted in his attempts to stop us, he turned on the driver of diesel 4107 and a passing tractor driver, who were carted off to his jeep to have their papers inspected. It was obvious that locals who had gathered to witness this were less than enamoured of their local cop.

211 R M Villena Feb 25

Both 1311 and 1411 were shunting. Only the loader near the mill was being used, from which 1605 came in on 8 fulls at 10.30. The line further out to the loading point at El Fenix via Roble was said to have gone out of use following an efficiency study, so that cane is now brought by lorry to the acopio by the mill.

212 B L S Coloma Feb 27

1806 was on the north line at 15.45, at the acopio with the triangle, just off the Guines line. It brought 7 fulls and its cabooose away from there towards the flat crossing at Roble, where Hershey diesel 51005 was waiting on empties for the bagged sugar traffic. After reversing round the curve at Roble, 1806 chuffed manfully up the hill to the mill, with 51005 pushing discreetly (and luckily out of photo shot) at the rear.

1606 was also on this line, at the acopio near the mill and came in before 1806. On shed, 1510 and 1711 were dead, while Boris diesel 51031 awaited repair. Dumped locos not investigated.

302 R Garcia Feb 28

Mill closed, but cane cutting in progress. A big train of fulls was leaving behind diesels 38207 and 38209 bound for Central Mario Munoz, which is near Los Arabos, east of Colon. No steam activity seen.

303 Australia Feb 28

On shed around 11.00 were just arrived 1607 in steam, 1515 in steam, 1620 dead, 1716 overhaul, while 1593 was mill shunter. Usual derelicts still here. 37XXX diesel also present in yard. 1513 came across the autopista with a fulls train at 11.40.

304 Granma March 9

1713 and 1812 dead on shed, with 1714 having a washout. Bits of 1615 remain. 38111 shunting empties. 1519 disappeared off down to mill 318, from where it pushed some fulls back to Granma.

305 P R Libre Feb 24

Mill closed again this season, with steam locos not in use, all being in the shed, except 1409 in mill sidings waiting to be towed to mill 306 Cuba Libre for fettling up before going to the big July event. 38222 on a caboose at the mill. Cane was being cut and taken to mill 306 Cuba Libre, by diesel, 37166 was seen on a train at Union station.

306 Cuba Libre Feb 24

At 13.00 1410 shunted and then went to the loading point in the mill yard. 1612 went out tender first on empties through Navajas at 14.30.

311 Esteban Hernandez March 8

Four steam locos - 2 (1225 ); 1522;1523; 1616, still derelict here in yard, plus a couple of cabs out by the roadside, probably the mortal remains of the saddle tanks. Diesels working.

312 Fructuoso Rodriguez March 9

Mill still closed, no activity anywhere. 1216 was dead alongside the shed, while 1849 was locked inside, looking workable. Derelict 1117 was alongside the mill.

314 Jesus Rabi Feb 28

1413 was almost ready after its overhaul, good news for a loco built in 1891. 1529 was in steam, with 1414 dead, while 1810 was in the back of the shed, looking OOU. Diesel 37016 was here for repair. Diesel 37015 went out on empties and 38222 was also ready for work.

315 J S Comas Feb 24/March 8

On Feb 24, 1122 was shunting as normal, with 1530 and 1531 in steam at the shed at 11.00; 1415 dead and 1121 dismantled. The dumped tank loco was not noted in its usual place near the main road, presumed scrapped. 1406 is still dumped in its usual place. 1531 left on empties at 12.00.

On Mar 8, 1531 came in at 18.00 tender-first on 24 fulls, while 1122 was shunting, with 1530 also in steam.

318 V De Yaguajay March 9

Mill closed permanently, but still a workable engine in shed - 1811. 1514 and 1813 both dismantled.

319 R Fraga Feb 28

The mill was working here. 1313 was shunting the nearby acopios and 1532 left at 14.55 with empties to the loader beyond Guereiras. It came back through Guereiras station on 10 fulls at 17.10.

320 J Avila Feb 24

Diesel 37106 came in at 16.30 on a short train. 1807 was in steam at the fuelling point. 1526 was dead in the shed yard, with 1534 being dismantled for repair. 1721 was in steam at the shed. 1720 shunted at the mill, then went to the acopio near the shed and brought in 8 fulls at 17.15. 1535 was still dumped, with another loco, as in previous years.

321 J R Cairo Mar 9

1646 in steam at the mill, with 1520 dead, 1614 under repair, 1123 OOU and 1124 OOU (both tanks said to be going to the July event). Diesel 37172 was in the shed, said to be on loan from mill 322 Sergio Gonzalez while 1614 is out of action. 1619 is dumped near the shed. Mill 318 V DE YAGUAJAY's small 0-4-0 diesel 4208 was shunting in the yard.

405 L A Bergnes Mar 3

1622, looking quite smart, was shunting empties at 09.30 at the mill. 1539, 1541 and 1755, all looking o.k. were glimpsed at the shed, along with a Minaz 38XXX.

409 A Sanchez Mar 8

P De Mayo diesel 37121 was in the shed where 1726 was still OOU. Round by the fuelling area were 1625 and 1629 dead. 1623 was shunting and 1624 left down the street from the mill on 16 empties at 11.15. It went to the acopio which is on the outskirts of town at Aguada, arriving there just after midday. It was ready to leave at 12.30 with a short train of fulls. It turned on the wye at the acopio, so worked chimney first both ways. A shame the line is so boring and scrubby, apart from the street running into the mill.

413 Espartaco Mar 1, Mar 2

Mill back in action this year. On March 1, 1327 and 1328 arrived on fulls in poor light, late afternoon. 1131 was working inside the mill, which was having problems with a broken wagon tippler. 1329 in steam on shed, with 1326 dead. Small diesels - 4123 overhaul and 4136 being towed around, trying to start it. A 34XXX was shunting at the standard gauge connection. The following day, 1130 was also seen shunting. Mill still seemed to be having problems. 1327 and 1328 both came off shed at 15.00. 1328 pushed empties to the loader down the short branch on the Cruces side of the mill. It roared back on 20 fulls at 15.55.

418 O Morales Mar 3

A total lack of steam activity here, just diesels working. Two steam were dead outside the shed at the far end, with another dismantled inside. Further investigation thwarted by a very vigilant female of the Vigilancia force, who are more in evidence this year at various mills.

424 P de Mayo Mar 8

Mill closed. 1545 and 1848 dead alongside shed, with another steam dismantled.

427 Q Banderas Mar 8

1547 was yard shunter with 1548 dead in shed, diesels being seen on line work. The heavy overhaul of 1823 has finished and it was out and about, said to be at mill 449 George Washington at the time of our visit. Why it is there is not known, this is about 100 km away by rail, so presumably not working trains between the two mills........

428 M Salado Mar 3

1426 came through Remedios station at 12.00 on empties which it pushed up the Jinaguayabo line, returning at 12.50 on a very short fulls train. At the shed were: 1342 dead; 1343 dead; 1147 dead; 1148 dead; 1429 dead; 1549 in steam; 1816 dead, with Peter Stuyvesent on the tender... has it been used in a smoking advert? 1688 was dumped in the mill yard. Diesel 38236 left the mill on a hopper train.

433 Marta Abreu March 1

1239 was in steam but doing nothing. Some boxcars were here, being loaded with bagged sugar - wonder if the fireless ever shunts these?

440 I Alfonso Mar 1

On March 1, 1850 and 1910 were in light steam with 1636 under repair and 1637 dead. Also here were 1550 dead and diesel 37084 from Carlos Caraballo.

1635 crossed the autopista on its empties at 09.15 bound for the loader at Pozo. It came back at 10.15 on 10 fulls, picked up 8 more at the next loader, eventually arriving at the mill at 11.25. Diesel 38064 also came in on fulls, not known where it came from. 1910 left on empties at 13.00 for Pozo. It came back with 24 fulls, crossing the autopista at 15.00. When it got to the mill yard, 1635 was ready to leave on a short train of empties and 1637 had been lit up.

441 Diez de Octubre March 2

1661 was in light steam and looking very smart in its black and orange livery, with new cladding on the boiler and a smart cab internally. It was due to go to Ifrain for fuelling. In contrast 1818 has been dumped.

443 P Tey Mar 2

Excellent action in the early morning. 1358 brought empties out up the bank to the nearest acopio beyond the cement works just before 08.00. 1358 then worked the other short line before going out on the 8 km long 'back' line to the acopio 'Lajitas'. All this was somewhat spoilt by the demands of the crew who, as widely reported, are ex- Mal Tiempo. Unfortunately some gricers give in to their demands - two from an unnamed European nation told us they had given $5 to each of the six crew to produce smoke on demand - very Gouda for the crew but completely double dutch for the rest of the gricing community. 1337 was mill shunter; 1357 in steam after maintenance; 1220 dead; 1164 and 1165 dumped.

448 S Bolivar Mar 3

The mill is shut again this season - has it closed for good? -, but cane is going to 418 O Morales. We were told the line up the hill to Jobo Rosado was no longer in use following an efficiency study, only being used now as far as the Centeno area. At the shed 1138 was stored; 1360 completely dismantled for overhaul; 1361 dumped; 1354, 1362, 1363 dead and a derelict 2-6-0. 1367 was out on the line, working in from the Centeno area acopios, seen at 15.00 on 20 fulls plus caboose and it worked through to Obdulio Morales. Working steam on this gauge now seems to be concentrated at Simon Bolivar shed, which makes sense - it always seemed a bit too much of a good thing having two steam sheds so close. Despite this observation ( which could do with some official confirmation ) a diesel was being painted up in the Bolivar shed...

503 O G Ramirez Mar 7

At 12.30, 1563 was in steam on shed with 1836 dead, 1736 having an overhaul. 1837 and 1732 were in steam in the mill yard awaiting instructions. Diesel 38008 took empties to the nearby acopio and came back with the fulls. 1837 left on empties at 13.00 for Portilla. 1732 left around 14.00 for the nearest acopio on the middle line, while 38008 was seen at 14.45 heading towards Limones, so diesel on the street running this day. 1837 came back on 10 fulls, while 1732 had just 2 fulls and 6 empties for its return trip. Both were back at the mill by 16.00.

504 Ecuador Mar 6

1821 was out at Jibacoa on empties around 16.00. 1564 was yard shunter. An unexpected arrival at 17.15 was 1461 tender-first from the main line with a big train of 10 petroleum tankers and 7 boxcars. The driver was one of the men of West Indian origin here and has been working on the locos for 38 years; as he said, he has gone grey working with them! He likes 1461 because it is superheated and powerful for its size - it is dwarfed by the petroleo tankers. 1821 then arrived on 20+ fulls, again tender-first and this was followed by diesel on 38078 on more fulls. At the shed could be seen 1578 dead; 1904 dead; 1817 in the shed. 1680 has now been dumped in the yard and will not be overhauled. Bits of 1835 remain in a pile.

505 Carlos Cespedes March 6

1445 was mill shunter mid-afternoon, probably nothing else in steam. A couple of diesels working. New investment here includes the mill approach road being very well covered in tarmac, better than the main roads, new sidings - where 1445 was photted - and a new security gate, complete with Vigilancia lady, preventing close observation of the shed area.

515 Ciro Redondo Mar 7

In the shed area on March 2 could be seen 1827 and 1830 dead; 1834 in steam; all identified from numbers on the back of their tenders, so not guaranteed to be correct...

1829 (with tender of 1826 ) was waiting to come into the mill before 09.00 with 16 fulls. Diesels also working.

522 Venezuela Mar 7

A brief visit found 1902 in steam on the shed, with 1657 dead, other locos not identified. The two FCC diesels which were there last year are still present, not yet overhauled. 1739 was dumped out by the old wagon works. 1742 was out beyond Pitajones, but came back over the flat crossing there with just one wagon!

635 R Freyre March 4/5

Hardly worth commenting on. Mill not operating, just gricer specials with a very out of condition 1385 - stopping for blowups on 5 empty cane cars. The rest of the steam fleet did not look great on shed, 1388 was in steam one day. Ex Hawaii diesel 2414 trundled around. At least 3 of the 4 Russian diesels seen were in bits. The fine old railcar, fettled up so recently, is now derelict, with roof missing. According to mill staff, rumours of this mill's closure this season were rubbish, it was always going to be working.....A couple of observations in case no-one else notices:

a drive to Uvilla and a track inspection gave the impression that trains had not reached here for a long time - did anyone see trains here last year? A siding probably at Peluga on the Teche branch had 6 cane wagons containing wood, presumably loaded ready to go to the mill - to fire up the boilers?

Non MINAZ observations

FCC ballast quarry Cantera de Guaimaro March 6

This quarry supplies ballast for the FCC which runs the operation here. It is reached by a 5.1km long branch off the Camaguay - Las Tunas main line at Palo Seco, which is north of the town of Guaimaro (on the main cross - island highway ). FCC diesel 81004 was making up a train of hoppers in the sidings. In the quarry the stone crusher is powered by a stationary steam engine, similar to ( and maybe from ) those in sugar mills. It has no identifying plates, probably American? Steam for the engine is provided by two ex-Minaz ( at least one of which is also ex-FCC) steam locos. Their Minaz numbers are 1566 (4-6-0, Alco Sch 54650/1914 ) and 1839 (2-8-0, BLW XO 230/1923 ) 1839 also has a class plate so can probably be further identified. Both were in steam, working at around 90psi. These are most definitely stationary locos as all the valve gear has been removed. 1839 has no tender and is inside the engine building, at right-angles to the sidings, 1566 has a tender, marked 'Emp. Azuc. S DE CUBITAS' and sits on an isolated piece of track. Another boiler, off a superheated loco, possibly a BLW, was noted dumped in the grass. Preserved near the gate is a big Marion steam shovel, No. 5553, said to be ex-Panama Canal...

Lenin Park, Havana Feb 14 (Sunday), courtesy of Roy Smith

1 was under repair; 2 worked the trains; 3 (3' gauge) was spare; 36 was dumped/spare. The 2'6'' gauge loco was not seen.

FCC Passenger trains

A morning train was noted at Ciro Redondo mill with a G8 type GE diesel, 50909, painted green and yellow. Included as a passenger car was a non - operational stainless steel Budd RDC ( diesel railcar ). Two secondhand and recently imported (from VIA Canada ) Budd RDCs, 2303 and 2306, were seen at Moron station, looking very smart. One Budd was seen racing past Ciro Redondo a few days later.

Rob Dickinson