James Waite reports on his visit from 30th August to 6th
. See my stationary steam page
also Tortsen Schneider's update (24th January
2007) and Thomas Kautzor's February 2012 visit.
Casela Bird Park
This is a public tropical garden, near Flic en Flac on the west coast of the
island, with numerous endemic and imported birds, notably the Mauritius pink
pigeon which was rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1970s by Jersey
Zoo. This 800mm gauge Orenstein &
Koppel 0-6-0T from Medine sugar mill nearby is preserved near the entrance to
the park. Medine wrote to me saying that the locomotive is still their property.
Beau Sejour Sugar Estate
A 750mm gauge Kerr Stuart Skylark class locomotive preserved at the site of
the old sugar mill at this working estate in the north of the island. The mill
closed in 1949 and the cane is now processed at the Mon Loisir mill about two
miles to the south east. Three Skylark class locomotives were supplied to Beau
Sejour, no’s. 1 and 2, works no’s. 813 and 814 of March 1903 and no. 3,
works no. 1360 of May 1915. I couldn’t find any identifying marks on the locomotive
but in all probability it must be one of these three. Beau Sejour is in the
village of Fiton, about 2 miles east of the M2 motorway near Goodlands.
The locomotive is preserved on a plinth with a cane wagon. The old square mill
chimney is in the background. At the peak of the sugar industry in Mauritius
there were around 400 sugar mills. Processing is now concentrated at just 11
mills. All the surviving chimneys on the island are now listed structures and
they form a common sight all over the island.
narrow gauge rails are still in place in the lane passing this small Hindu
temple, over the road from the old mill.
Beau Champ sugar factory
On the east coast of the island Beau
Champ is one of the most progressive sugar mills on Mauritius. It produces many
of the speciality unrefined sugars now on sale in the UK. It used to have a 3
foot gauge system. Two of its locomotives are preserved at the mill and a third
is preserved at the Aventure du Sucre at Pamplemousses (see below). The mill and
the estate are still owned by a Franco-Mauritian family. The manager commented
to us that despite a preferential tariff agreement with the EU which guarantees
a higher than market price the world price for sugar is now so low that the
outlook for Mauritius is uncertain. He blamed the Chinese who apparently eat no
sugar at all and remarked on how different the outlook would be if only each
Chinaman could be encouraged to eat one spoonful of sugar a day! This is a
private site and permission to view, and for a tour of the factory, can be
obtained from the manager Christian Marot,
a most helpful person.
Beau Champ is at Grand Riviere Sud Est, about 6 miles south of Centre du Flacq.
0-4-2T no. 210
(Lowca Engineering Co.
works no. 204 of 1889) preserved on a plinth outside the factory. The locomotive
carries a replacement boiler which is higher pitched than the original and does
not fit the curves of the side tanks.
No. 190 “Harriette” (Fletcher
Jennings works no. 190 of 1883) sits in the locomotive shed, looking for all the
world as though she is still awaiting her next trip. Her last boiler inspection
date of 1975 suggests she has been waiting for a long time!
L’Aventure du Sucre Museum, Pamplemousses
This elaborately laid out museum is housed in the old mill at the Beau Plan
sugar estate in the north of the island. It is hard to overemphasise the
all-important role which the sugar industry played in the development of
Mauritius. The island was uninhabited until the Dutch set up a colony in the
late 1600’s and a few years later they introduced the first sugar canes from
Java. In 1710 they abandoned their colony and a few years later the French took
over the island. By the time of the Napoleonic war there were about 60,000
slaves working in the sugar industry and they formed the vast majority of the
population. Britain took over the island in 1810 although they allowed the
French settlers to remain and French remains one of the principal languages to
this day. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in the 1830’s. Most of
the former slaves declined to continue to work in the sugar plantations, which
by then extended to nearly all the arable land in the island. They were replaced
by indentured labour mostly from India, and Indian Hindus today form the
majority of the population. Sugar remained the predominant industry until the
1960s when the island diversified into textile manufacture and tourism. Sugar is
still a key player in the island’s economy although centralisation of the
mills and the introduction of mechanical planting and reaping has greatly
reduced the numbers employed in it. Because of the central role which sugar took
in the development of the island the museum is devoted as much to the history of
the island as whole as it is to the sugar industry. A
2 foot gauge Orenstein & Koppel 0-6-0T from Mon Loisir (works number 12388
of 1932) is preserved in the museum and another O&K locomotive, 3 foot gauge
“Sir William” from Beau Champ (works number 12183 of 1930) is preserved
outside. The museum is open from 9.00am to 6.00pm every day and is a short
distance west of the M2 motorway at the Pamplemousses roundabout.
This barge was used to transport sugar from Mauritius to Madagascar, making its last voyage in 2000. It was the last vessel in which sugar sacks were stacked manually on board.
The port now exclusively uses a palleting and conveyor belt
system. The Mon Loisir locomotive is in the background.3rdSeptember
The Mon Loisir locomotive:
“Sir William” outside the museum.
Marine & Tar Products, M1 Motorway, Port Louis
3 foot gauge Lowca Engineering Co. works number 207 of 1890 is preserved
here. I couldn’t find out anything about its history but it is similar to the
Fletcher Jennings/Lowca locomotives at Beau Champ. This is a private site but
the owner, Mr. Michel Halbwachs, is helpful and permission to view can be sought
on fax no. +230 212 2569.The yard can only be accessed from a side road off the
northbound carriageway of the motorway. If heading south from Port Louis you
need to turn off the motorway at the junction for Pailles and then head back
towards Port Louis. Turn left off the motorway at the tall sign reading “City
Two views of the locomotive next to a banyan tree alongside the motorway.
Mapou station on the MGR line from Pamplemousses to Reviere du Rempart in the
north of the island. A noticeboard here declared that
the station is earmarked as the site for a future national railway museum. The
station is close to the Fiton turning off the M2 motorway.
Mon Tresor Mon Desert sugar factory
Another 800mm gauge Orenstein & Koppel 0-6-0T (works number11194 of 1926)
is preserved at the entrance to this sugar mill in the south east of the island
close to the international airport. The boiler is a fake and doesn’t bear
A railway bridge on the south coast near Mon Tresor Mondesert. According to
Andre Rouillard the bridge was built in 1949 when the Savannah mill closed down
and cane had to be taken by narrow gauge railway across the river to La Baraque
Bois Cheri tea factory
This tea factory and estate in the mountains north west of Mon Tresor Mon
Desert remains in use and also has an organised tourist business giving guided
tours of the factory, tea tasting at a guest house overlooking an extinct crater
and a well laid out museum. The centrepiece of the museum is this boiler from an
MGR locomotive. The accompanying notes say that the boiler was built in 1927 and
last tested in 1984 but there was no indication of the class of locomotive from
which it came. Alongside in the factory, and parked next to the museum, is a
second similar boiler which is still kept as a reserve, and so I guess it just
about counts as “working steam”! A lever passes through the museum wall to
enable visitors to work the whistle which must drive the workmen mad!
Tea in Mauritius tends to be rather tasteless. Apparently tea should
preferably be grown at higher altitude for it to develop a proper flavour. The
Mauritians usually drink it with vanilla to improve the flavour, and most
teabags come with vanilla already added. It’s a bit of an acquired taste but
once you get used to it it’s quite acceptable.
Bois Cheri is signposted from the main Curepipe to Souillac road.
Highlands sugar factory
Another 800mm gauge Orenstein & Koppel 0-6-0T (thought to be works
number11717 of 1928) is preserved outside this sugar mill. The boiler is another
fake but the locomotive is well maintained and looked to have been recently
repainted. The mill is on the central plateau , a short distance to the east of
the M1 motorway near Quatre Bornes.
We also visited Savannah and St. Felix estates in the
south of the island and Mon Loisir and St. Antoine, Goodlands in the north but
could not find any locomotives.