The International Steam Pages

The Distilleries of Martinique 2014

Thomas Kautzor has been to several Caribbean islands to check out what is left of their railways and industrial heritage.

For the full general index, see Railway Relics (and more) in the Caribbean, Other report for the eastern islands in this series comprise:

Mainly or exclusively railways

Railways and Sugar Mills

Sugar Mills and Distilleries

In 2013, Thomas Kautzor reported on the distilleries of Martinique (see links above). This is a 2014 update and if you are not familiar with the subject it would be sensible to read the earlier reports before proceeding. As before the island is separated into north and south.

Martinique has one modern sugar factory which produces both sugar and industrial rum from molasses, as well as seven distilleries producing a total of 14 brands of rum which benefit from the “Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)” label (Protected Designations of Origin). Most of the distilleries are open to the public, including inside the mills, mostly no admission is charged (except where noted below), and free samplings of rum are on offer inside the shops. A total of 3,600 hectares are planted with sugar cane. The cane cutting season runs from February to June and due to the hilly nature a high proportion of the cane is still cut by hand. The mills in five of the seven active distilleries are powered by stationary steam engines.


Distillerie La Favorite, Le Lamentin : this mill, my favorite, warranted a repeat visit. The owners have no intention of replacing the steam engines. Aside from the main engine powering the mill train (Henri Marriol, Saint-Quentin), which was acquired used in 1924, there are two small steam engines in use during the milling season, a Burton bump and a vertical Tangye. The distillery produces 600,000 liters of rum per year. There are many more pictures in the earlier report

Distillerie Saint James & Musée du Rhum Saint James, Sainte-Marie : the 'Watt' beam engine dates from 1813 and was taken from a steam ship and adapted for use in the sugar mill.

Distillerie J.M. Crassous de Médeuil: this mill was “modernized” since my visit last October, the steam engine has been disconnected and replaced by electric turbines. The visitor’s pathway goes through and atop the mill up to the cane chute.

Distillerie Neisson, Le Carbet: the steam engine is a Mariolle Fives-Lille.


Habitation Clément, Le François : the Crépelle steam engine moved by an electric engine is a Corliss type of 220 h.p. / 60 rpm. It was in use until the factory closed.

Maison de la Canne, Les Trois Ilets: Habitation Vatable was founded prior to 1834 and became a distillery in 1916, which operated until 1962.

Distillerie La Mauny, Rivière-Pilote: the old mill operated until 1967.

Further Research

When I visited last October with a few exceptions I almost only went those distilleries which were still active or where the name was still active, with the rum distilled at other locations. There are however many more old distilleries around which were abandoned a long time ago, but where there might be the remains of stationary steam engines. One of these is Habitation Anse Latouche at Le Carbet (just 1 km south of Saint-Pierre). It was founded in 1643 as a sugar mill, which operated until 1902. In 1887 the property hosted French painter Paul Gauguin on his return from Panama. A distillery was built in 1889 and operated until 1940. It has now become the site of the Martinique Zoo (, with the ruins of the mill incorporated into it. The waterwheel, in use until 1967, as well as the stationary are still in place next to the milling equipment (J.J. Gilain, Saint-Ouen, France), as is Burton steam pump No. 8163.

On my last day in Martinique I finally decided to buy the heavy 473-page “Le Patrimoine des Communes de la Martinique”, which tries to list Martinique’s historical buildings and sites by municipality. It was published by the Fondation Clément in December 2013 as a second edition, the first came out in 1998. All of the steam locos and some of the diesel locos are listed. Some of the distilleries are listed as a whole, while a few of the individual stationary steam engines are listed as well. The entries regarding those engines which I did not visit are listed below (I have only included one of the scans Thomas sent me, I believe using just one picture would make this a 'review' of the book... RD)

Distillerie Viviès, Habitation Ajoupa, Ajoupa-Bouillon (North-Atlantic): the boiler is said to have come from a 1920 steam loco. The distillery closed in the 1950s and was turned into a flower plantation in the 1960s. It belongs to the Hayot family.

Habitation La Sucrerie, Les Anses-d’Arlets (South): in use as a sugar factory from 1788, the property is later acquired by the Hayot family, who open a distillery from 1918 into 1950. A wagon bogie can also be seen in the picture.

Usine du François, Le François (South): this was the first central factory opened in Martinique in 1865 by Emil Bougenot, an agent for Cail. It was bought by the Hayot family in the 1920s and closed in 1965. The Mariolle steam engine from the 1930s survives to this day.

Usine du Simon, Le François (South): when I enquired last year, I was told that the mill was powered by an electric engine, however according to the book this 1934 Fives-Lille engine is still in use. It was delivered new to Usine Vivé in Le Lorrain (North Atlantic), but was quickly sent to Usine du Comté de Lohéac in Guadeloupe. In 1965 it came back to Martinique and replaced the 1900 Fives-Lille engine which I found dismantled outside the mill in 10/2013.

These are only the entries showing a photo of the steam machines, other former locations with possible remains include:

Usine Centrale du Marin, Le Marin (South): in operation 1869-1969, now in use as a wood and paint shop;

Distillerie Ladour, Sainte-Luce (South): sugar factory founded in the 19th century, distillery in the 20th century, closed prior to 1960.

Rob and Yuehong  Dickinson