The International Steam Pages
A Keyhole to the Future? - The Story of the 1999 Zafra
Ron Lingley of Steam In Paradise reports:
Although outwardly, it could be said that the '99 Zafra displayed little overall change in operations from the past two seasons. The influence of the new Minaz regime is beginning to show and one is left to ponder that this could be the calm before the storm. It is hardly surprising that the tonnage's harvested exceeded the mediocre targets and for the sake of both the country and the industry, these must increase significantly. New canefields are being planted and this could be central to steam's future if targets require all the available resources to be used and not just greater efficiency.
The use of lorry/trailers is now almost ubiquitous and up to three trailers behind one lorry was witnessed. Gone also are the days when cane traffic was routed to avoid town centres. These 'road trains' can now be seen passing loading points and driving through towns direct to the mill or its adjacent LP. It is this use of lorries and the story of Mal Tiempo that show just how perilous the use of railway systems in their current configuration is in the forthcoming years.
A similar number of mills were shut for the season as in '98. There were distinct signs of a drive for greater efficiency at the tail end of the harvest with greater use of intermill workings if insufficient cane was being cut to warrant the mill remaining open. Also witnessed was a loading point that had serviced rail traffic during the season, loading a lorry/trailer in the final days.
Cane in many areas had been affected by the failure of the '98 summer rains. Reduced tonnage's were forecasted, particularly in the east of the island. The weather for the Zafra was almost perfect with almost no cutting affected by rain at any mill before the start of May. The arrival of summer storms should boost the crop for the 2000 Zafra. At the mills, working tank locos are becoming rare. Many of the locos previously reported as derelict or remains have been cut-up, including Class 47 No.52504 from mill 205. Blue liveried Acinox scrap trains can be regularly seen heading towards Havana.
107 Pablo de La Torriente Brau
1662 in excellent condition hauling 13 up the bank.
201 Amistad Con Los Pueblos
The mill was on standby in the event of a failure at Hector Molina, which was where cane was sent behind steam. The difference from last year's operation was that loads and empties were exchanged with a diesel at Molina's junction with the FCC.
207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich
The 'Thomas The Tank Engine' blue turned out to be not as bad as it sounded. The n.g. was working to a reported 5 LP's, but the majority of trips were to the 2 nearest the mill. The s.g. pilot was far more active than in previous years, shunting cane cars, which it normally did pulling rather than propelling, which is the norm with the hoppers.
210 Osvaldo Sanchez
Serious problems are reported here with the mill's boilers. It is not expected that the mill will reopen. The narrow gauge line to the east has been converted to standard gauge. 1205 from Manuel Isla Perez was the surprise motive power to service the mills two s.g. LP's. Some visitors unfortunately found security only a shade more lenient than at 206, while others found the crews basking in the extra interest. The n.g. line to the south of the mill is still in situ although unused. It must be doubted if the narrow gauge locos will ever again see use at the mill. Intermill turns to Hector Molina were diesel.
211 Ruben Martinez Villena
The usual pilots this year were 1311 & 1411, but often only 1411 was in use. In addition to the cane coming in by lorry to the large LP adjacent to the mill, there were some longer distance workings behind 1605 into Hershey territory. The LP north of Roble was not in use. Some trips from the adjacent LP were propelled and not pulled.
212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma
A disappointing year with the mill appearing to have overcome the problems and its dislike of 51031. The diesel covered most line turns. There were some workings on the north line during February behind steam to the 1st LP west of Roble. The 2nd, end LP was not used. 1512 has been removed from Roble.
302 Reynold Garcia
Mill closed and cane sent to Colon/Perico area behind Seis de Augusto (also closed) diesels. 1518 drafted to Rene Fraga.
Some of the best locomotive performances this year were produced here. 1513/1515/1607 all showed sparkling form with no sign, when faced with a heavy load, of the fatigue of previous years. The credit for this is not new staff, but better workshop equipment. A 37 diesel was present again to compensate for the unavailability of 1716. The track from Murga to the mill has been considerably upgraded and trains can now really thrash along here.
304 Granma/318 Victoria de Yaguajay
Steam returned to the Carlos Rojas turn when 38111 was not available. The mill manager believes that the use of steam is more economical than diesel. VdeY's LP at the mill was back in use, although loads were usually propelled into Granma from this and Granma's own adjacent LP's. 1615 presumed scrapped. 1594/1811 at mill 306.
306 Cuba Libre
Line working this year was disappointing. The Pedrosa working was often diesel and the Tarafa working not happening until much later in the afternoon than in previous years. One could be forgiven for not knowing which shed you were visiting at times. 1409 was present from 305, 1594 and later 1811 arrived from 318. 1610 and 1410 were being overhauled for the to-be-cancelled Havana festival.
312 Fructroso Rodriguez
Mill closed again with 1216 stored in good condition and 1849 stored in ex-works condition.
314 Jesus Rabi
Little or no steam action this year. Only 1414 seen in steam (although not actually working). Staff claim that the overhaul of 1413 is complete and it is in working condition.
315 Jose Smith Comas
319 Rene Fraga
The saving grace for this area with steam line work through Guareiras again. 1518 drafted in from 302. Neither of the tank locos working.
320 Juan Avila
Little steam action and only 1721 seen in steam. 37106 from closed 305 on pilot duty, and one of the area diesels 37167 was also a visitor.
321 Julio Reyes Cairo
Another mill with only 1 loco in steam and little action.
403 Mal Tiempo
Although the mill was closed for the season to upgrade its facilities to produce 'white sugar'(of higher value), 2 of the 3 loading points were in full operation. With only minor adjustments necessary to the loading chute, lorries and trailers were being loaded for direct shipment to Ciudad Caracas and Marta Abreu. One can only hope that the 'powers-that-be' don't realise just how easy it is to exist without the railway. Loco crews were drafted into Ifrain Alfonso, Espartaco and Pepito Tey. In the year since the end of the '98 Zafra, 3 trains ran through to Potrerillo. All of these were with 1322 for the benefit of 'Steam In Paradise' photographers. 1238 is reported scrapped.
404 Ciudad Caracas
Some steam line action if you were lucky, but mainly only shunting. Some crews were unhelpful.
Back in action with a busy year. The mill was often hard pushed to keep pace with a constant flow of lorries and the influx of standard gauge cane wagons from other systems. The yard was often choked full with n.g. cane waiting to be emptied. 34064 was drafted in from Mal Tiempo to handle the s.g. traffic, which it did without incident until almost the last day of the zafra. When at the head of a runaway string of wagons, it collided with a wall at the n.g. crossing before smashing into the mill. Fortunately, no one was injured. Mal Tiempo believe the loco can be repaired before next year.
412 J.P.Carbo Servia
Steam pilot with trips to the 1st LP.
418 Obdulio Morales
The biggest overall loss of 1999 with no steam working. 1420 was on overhaul & 1333/1334 dumped. 1354 & 1366 were transferred to Simon Bolivar, who were to provide standby power if required.
424 Primero de Mayo
Mill not working and all steam out of use or under overhaul. Diesels
handling all cane traffic. Staff say that the mill and steam will be operational next
433 Marta Abreu
Fatty was back in action. The crew were happy to give driving lessons when work was slack!
435 Hermanos Ameijeiras
Sometimes pilot was 1667 but was often diesel. Why are 1373 & 1431 stored in the shed in ex-works condition? No.1 is now preserved in its own little plot at the end of the yard.
437 Carlos Carraballo
Mill closed with locos sub-shedded at Ifrain. 1550 later appeared at 428.
440 Ifrain Alfonso
The dollar syndrome was firmly in place, making matters difficult if you were not prepared to act accordingly. This said, the crews were prepared to work precisely to whatever instructions were agreed, so excellent photos and videos were achieved. 1635 and 1910 were the regular locos with 1850 relegated to use as pilot, with an occasional run to Pelayo. It is not totally clear why its performance was so restricted. 1637 was sparingly used especially after it became totally derailed in the yard. Carlos Carraballo's diesels 37084 & 38064 were sub-shedded here during the season and occasionally a Diez de Octubre loco would appear. But the only time diesels were seen on Ifrain cane was when 1637 completely blocked the shed yard.
441 Diez de Octubre
1661 appeared in an attractive orange/black livery and did move, although this was not witnessed happening!
443 Pepito Tey
Action for the patient. Dollar tricks were being taught to the local crews by visiting Mal Tiempo staff!
446 Carlos Balino
Mill closed with Balino diesel working the intermills, but steam used on the shunt. The 0-4-0ST preserved at the mill entrance is 1157 not 1439 as painted.
448 Simon Bolivar
The mill was not working. One loco was kept in steam to work the cane through to Obdulio Morales from the 2 working LP's.
449 George Washington
The greatest surprise of the year was 1823's arrival from Quintin Banderas sporting an orange/black livery. However it only appeared to service the 1st LP. Diesels working the longer trips. Staff say that it will remain here. Washington's other three locos are dumped. The tram loco is now preserved at the mill entrance west of the railway crossing. No.2 & 1168 reported scrapped. Mill still working May 24th!
Ciego de Avila
The notified greater use of rail transport for sugar in the Ciego area can only be from the diesel mills as activity at the usual four with steam power showed little significant change from last years diminished levels.
503 Orlando Gonzales Ramirez
On some days the Limones and Las Trozas LP's were serviced by separate trains and on other days, additional runs were made to the LP between the Venezuela and Las Trozas branches. Shades of the old days with trains returning to the mill in convoy. The main interest here happened late season with 1837 collecting Ecuador cane and running down the mainline through Ciego de Avila.
Steam mainly used for the nearer LP's and often with very light loads. On one occasion steam did work to 4 LP's on the far eastern branches and then arrived back with only seven loads. The mill closed early with cane still being cut. Strangely, the intermills were worked with the receiving mill (503 & 515) providing the loco, cane cars and caboose.
505 Carlos Manuel de Cespedes
Steam only on pilot. Cane coming in from R. Dominicana. A new fence now blocks the crossing at the shed entrance. Security staff were not happy about allowing photography of the pilot even in the yard. Mill still working on 20th May!
515 Ciro Redondo
Steam activity here was reduced with pilot work often diesel. The usual shorter runs were more likely to have steam power. End of season intermills from Ecuador with 1832 on Ciro trains and from Venezuela through Ciego de Avila with Venezuela steam.
520 Noel Fernandez
The mill was operational again this year with one of the unique 2-8-0F in use on the shunt. Another was seen in the shed area. No.2 is now preserved at the mill entrance.
The mill could only muster three working steam locos this year. Traffic appeared light and the mill closed with cane still being cut. Venezuela steam did undertake the duties to Ciro Redondo up the mainline through Ciego de Avila. The FCC Palo Alto line was again excellent for thrash from the jct. for La Suzanna. 1739 derelict SW of mill. 2 clerestory carriages derelict at top end of yard. 71017/71063 dismantled for overhaul.
635 Rafael Freyre
The very late start to the season caused by the drought in Eastern Cuba was further delayed by mechanical problems at the mill. By early March little preparation seemed to have taken place. 1385 was soon dumped following steaming problems on pre-season charters. The zafra started with just one serviceable line diesel. Later a second was active. Contrary to earlier rumours, the mill has NEVER remained closed for a season in its history. But the Mal Tiempo scenario shows that one should not be too complacent. This year new improved roads allowed cane to be brought into Princessa from the closed Nicaragua mill. Because of this, the siding was always crammed to overflowing with cane cars. Often there appeared to be insufficient empties for Luciano and as late as mid April, no cutting had taken place in the Purial area (it is not known if cane was arriving from Mangos, but thought unlikely).
Teche & Peluda were both providing reasonable quantities and cane was often brought over the summit (N. of Peluda) from each LP separately, with loads combined at a siding of an old LP 2km from Peluda. The branch's existence is reported to be assured for the foreseeable future. No cane, only wood (for firing up the mill) was coming off the Jobal branch. Jobal, Palmarito and Altuna LP's were not in use.
Trains were only seen to go through to Uvilla in the afternoons. Later
departures and extra traffic meant that even with the extra hour of summer time, trains
were not returning to Barjay until sunset or later and the best chance of the classic palm
trees shot was with a late running morning train (mid afternoon!).
No.5 2-6-0 reported scrapped.
Ferrocarriles de Cuba
A new working timetable (No.13) came into effect on 24/2/99. Many of the train numbers and some timings have changed, e.g. the old train 1/2 is now 13/14. The new premier train (11/12) is the air-conditioned Havana-Santiago de Cuba (Blue Train) express running every 3rd day. In practice many trains still do not run and the timetable represents what the FCC would like to run if it had the stock. Blue liveried 'Kronos' badged MLW Class 524's now handle most expresses from Havana. Some are also labelled 'Traccion Oeste'. Some of the recently acquired Budd railcars are already active.
Havana has a new station, La Coubre, on the other side of the freight yard from the Central Station. It serves the Pinar del Rio, Guines, Union de Reyes and Cienfuegos trains if they run. Central Station still does not see that many trains so the new station can only be to accommodate more passengers waiting for a train!
The Trinidad charter has been working with 1551.
Detailed observations taken day by day (this will make sense only to the dedicated bashers):
WEDNESDAY 24th FEBRUARY
Havana. 52436 on train 13. 50707/52414/52422/71044/71064.
FRIDAY 26th FEBRUARY
211 R.M.Villena. 1605 CF on loads from adjacent LP. 1311 & 1411 on
SATURDAY 27th FEBRUARY
207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich. 1308 on shunt and CF on loads from LP behind
mill. 1307 CF on loads from LP south of mill. 1403 on s.g. shunt of hoppers and also cane
cars. 38035/38231/38255/39019 present.
SUNDAY 28th FEBRUARY
440 Ifrain Alfonso. 1635 CF on loads from
Pozo. 38154 departed mill with
loaded cane to 10 de Octubre. 1850/1910 in steam. 1637 dead. 1636 overhaul. 1550 reps.
MONDAY 1st MARCH
428 Marcelo Salado. 1426 CF on loads from LP adjacent to mill. 1343 pilot.
1342 TF on m/t's to Jinaguayabo, returning with just 1 load CF to mill. Other locos dead
or under repair including 1816.
TUESDAY 2nd MARCH
Ciego de Avila. 50921 on Cda-Moron local.
WEDNESDAY 3rd MARCH
504 Ecuador. 1564 pilot. 38078. 1817/1680 dumped.
THURSDAY 4th MARCH
Ciego de Avila. 52667 (0160/82) on
Moron-Stgo. 50921 pilot.
FRIDAY 5th MARCH
635 Rafael Freyre. 1388 to Purial with
m/t's for LP.
SATURDAY 6th MARCH
635 Rafael Freyre. 1388 to Altuna(2 trips) on Steam In Paradise special
with l2 m/t's and ordinary caboose. A further 5 cars full of wood were collected and added
to the train for the 2nd return run to the mill.
SUNDAY 7th MARCH
635 Rafael Freyre. 1388 to Purial/Barjay on Steam In Paradise special with 7 m/t's and ordinary caboose.
MONDAY 8th MARCH
Minaz. 52676 on northbound freight. 81005 on Camaguey-Nuevitas local.
TUESDAY 9th MARCH
Cruces. 38261 northbound hoppers.
WEDNESDAY 10th MARCH
403 Mal Tiempo. 1322 on Steam In Paradise special to Potrerillo and return.
THURSDAY 11th MARCH
Havana. 52602 on freight.
FRIDAY 12th MARCH
Havana. 50710 on scrap/brakedown train. 71065.
SATURDAY 13th MARCH
207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich. 1402/1306 pilots. 38035/38225.
SUNDAY 14th MARCH
303 Australia. Diesel on 7am departure. 1515 TF on
m/t's to La Juanita LP,
returning CF on loads. 1593 pilot.
MONDAY 15th MARCH
Cruces. 61605 on SC-Cienfuegos local. 38217 on route to
TUESDAY 16th MARCH
440 Ifrain Alfonso. 1635 CF on loads from
Pozo, assisted into the mill by
WEDNESDAY 17th MARCH
428 Marcelo Salado. 1426 on Jinaguayabo turn, CF on loads to mill.
1549/1343 in steam.
THURSDAY 18th MARCH
Ciego de Avila. 50931 shunt.
FRIDAY 19th MARCH
504 Ecuador. 1821 LE on from Sagua, collected 2 loads from San Francisco
(Guisa). CF to mill. 1564 pilot. 1904 shunting hoppers/boxcars.
SATURDAY 20th MARCH
440 Ifrain Alfonso. 1637 derailed blocking yard. 1850 in steam.
SUNDAY 21st MARCH
446 Carlos Balino. 37162 arrived on
m/t's from Santa Domingo. 1432 pilot.
1555 dead. 1157 preserved.
MONDAY 22nd MARCH
315 Jose Smith Comas. 1530 CF on
m/t's to 1st LP. TF on loads to mill.
1530 CF on m/t's to Delirio.
TUESDAY 23rd MARCH
315 Jose Smith Comas. 1530 CF on
m/t's to 1st LP. 52440 on northbound oil.
1530 CF on m/t's to Delirio. Railcar 4125. 1415 CF on m/t's to 1st LP.
WEDNESDAY 24th MARCH
211 R.M.Villena. 1502 CF on 2 trips from adjacent LP. No shunt.
THURSDAY 25th MARCH
107 Pablo de La Torriente Brau. 1103 pilot. 1662 TF on
m/t's to end LP, CF
on loads to mill. 2nd run up bank with 13 cars.
FRIDAY 26th MARCH
207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich. 1338/1402 pilots. 1351 in steam. 38225.
SATURDAY 27th MARCH
440 Ifrain Alfonso. 1635 CF on loads from
Pozo. 1910 CF on loads from Pozo. 1850 pilot. 38064 on loads to 440 from 441.
SUNDAY 28th MARCH. (Summer time)
413 Espartaco. 1328 CF on loads from LP on short NW line. 1327/1329 on
shed. 1130/1131 pilots.
MONDAY 29th MARCH
405 Luis Arcos Bergnes. 1539 shunting hoppers.
TUESDAY 30th MARCH
522 Venezuela. 38252 on hoppers. 1742/1902 in steam. 1741 to
Alecrin, Jiguey, Graciela LP's. CF on loads to mill.
WEDNESDAY 31st MARCH
Violeta. 52650 EB oil. 52609 WBF.
THURSDAY 1st APRIL
635 Rafael Freyre. Morning. Chased 1388 to
Latour. 1386 on Teche.
Afternoon. Followed 1390 to Uvilla. Silhouette at Barjay of 1386 on Teche.
SATURDAY 3rd APRIL
635 Rafael Freyre. Morning. 1390 to
Latour. 1386 to Teche. Afternoon.
Chased 1387 to Uvilla. Lost brakevan on climb from Latour. 1386 to Teche. 1386 & 1387
passed palms at sunset.
SUNDAY 4th APRIL
MONDAY 5th APRIL
522 Venezuela. Mill washout. 1741 pilot. 38157. 38233+caboose. 38269 NB
TUESDAY 6th APRIL
412 J.P.Carbo Servia. 1727 dead. 37123/38245. 1728 pilot,
m/t's to 1st LP.
WEDNESDAY 7th APRIL
440 Ifrain Alfonso. 1635 CF on loads from
THURSDAY 8th APRIL
Havana. 50720 on shunt.
FRIDAY 9th APRIL
Havana. 52639. 52437 arrived on train 12, 3hr30min late.
SATURDAY 10th APRIL
303 Australia. 1607 found CF on loads at autopista. 1515 CF on m/t's from mill. 1593 pilot.
SUNDAY 11th APRIL
303 Australia. 1513 TF on m/t's to La Juanita. CF return on loads.
MONDAY 12th APRIL
413 Espartaco. 1329 TF on loads from LP on short SW line. Last train of
the zafra. Whistle-blowing all the way to the mill!
TUESDAY 13th APRIL
635 Rafael Freyre. p.m. 1388 on Uvilla. 1386 on Teche at Barjay before sunset.
WEDNESDAY 14th APRIL.
635 Rafael Freyre. Morning. 1388 failed. Diesel on Progresso. 1386 on Teche. Afternoon. 1390 on Uvilla. 1386 on Teche. 1385/1391 dumped. 1387 dead.
THURSDAY 15th APRIL
635 Rafael Freyre. Morning. Uvilla loco failed on route, returned LE. 1390
at 1st LP on Jobal branch to collect flat car. 34058 on m/t's to Princessa. 1386 on
Afternoon. 1388 on Uvilla. 1386 on Teche. Both trains running late.
FRIDAY 16th APRIL
105 A.C.Sandino. Zafra finished 6 days previously. 1404 in steam.
1210/1405 dead. 1350/1382 reps. 1209 dumped. 1424 remains.
SATURDAY 17th APRIL
207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich. 1338/1403 pilots. 1307 CF on loads from 1st
LP. 1307 CF on loads from LP behind mill.
SUNDAY 18th APRIL
212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma. 1711 pilot. 1806 dead. 51031 on south line.
MONDAY 19th APRIL
TUESDAY 20th APRIL
449 George Washington. 1823 CF on
m/t's to 1st LP (2 trips, 3rd possible
FRIDAY 23rd APRIL
Santa Clara. 50908/50942. 50914 on Univ. shuttle. Railcar 2305 on train 22.
WEDNESDAY 28th APRIL
Ciego de Avila. 39004 on WB hoppers.
SATURDAY 1st MAY. (It is worth noting that although this is a major national public holiday, some mills were still working.)
203 Hector Molina. Mill working. LP near autopista loading lorry/trailer,
previously this was loading railway wagons.
WEDNESDAY 5th MAY
201 Amistad Con Los Pueblos. 1303 pilot. Last day of Zafra 2nd May.
FRIDAY 7th MAY
THURSDAY 20th MAY
MONDAY 24th MAY
Santa Clara. 52602. 38245 arrived on Los Arabos local. 52408 on train 12.
Diesel shunter seen in the yard of Planta Mecanica, Santa Clara.