The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - Cuba 5
Central Cuba Part 2

Terry Case writes about his travels for steam. Further tales will follow from time to time covering more of Australia, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Click here for the Case Notes Index.

Other Cuban tales:

Mill 443, Pepito Tey

Loaded trains for Pepito Tey drifted downhill to the mill as seen here on 6th February 1999. An everyday scene, the baby was intrigued by the steam engine..

In 1997 our tour organizers were advocates of late starts, which suited their night life. By this stage some members of the tour were leaving early to prove morning trains did run, Pepito Tey being one such location.

This was another mill with steeply graded lines, this time mostly to its LPs, great for video which was all I had left to use in 1997. Some trains would stall on the climbs leaving the crew to divide the load. In humid weather engine crews and LP workers got to some hi jinx spraying each other with water.

In 1997 a number of mills had to be closed due to equipment failures, it seemed a late season typhoon had resulted in maintenance being behind schedule and that was blamed for shut downs which affected Pepito Tey and others.

1236 pilot, (Baldwin, 1910), this was another driver only operation, 6th February 1999.

1220, 1337 & 1236 on shed, 1358 inside and a dumped locomotive, 6th February 1999

Pepito was not an easy mill to get coverage, it needed patience and planning here. On 28/2/99 we were there at 08.30 watching 1337 storm uphill into the LP with empties, a great start to the day. Next at the rear of the mill on the north line we were just in time to get another loco thundering its way into the mill on loads. Great morning action at last!

Sometimes all the action happened at once, after a very quiet afternoon watching the pilot it was not till 4.50pm that we saw 1337 leave on a train to the hillside LP; whilst this was happening a third engine worked to the Cement LP, we could certainly hear it thrashing upgrade! 

Mill 448 Simon Bolivar

In 1997 as part of a group tour I had a couple of days on the “hill section “of this line that saw trains work upgrade and through a small forest with some old growth trees before reaching the summit LP. 

The line was an unusual 2' 3˝" gauge. 1367 was in use on both visits. A pleasant walk through the forest led to the “Big Tree”, an old giant amidst its smaller companions. 

Whilst waiting for a train the forest was busy with butterflies and birds which disappeared when the sounds of a struggling steam train drew closer. I recorded a tremendous stack talk session which saw the train pitching and rolling on the uneven track . A few weeks later I was able to return again for another session in the forest and video a second train in the cleared area at the start of the grade. This was a fantastic location, sadly the hill section closed after the 1997 season.

Bolivar’s 1367 on an inter mill working to mill 418 Obdulio Morales, 2nd March 1999

Obdulio mill engine (Used to wind in the cane wagons RD) .

A 1999 visit proved the “hill” line to be abandoned. On shed 1367 was raising steam, whilst 1362 (the Vulcan), along with 1363, 1354 and 1366 were spare; the last two belonging to Obdulio’s allocation which had been pooled. 2-6-0 1138 was also seen, whilst two other locos were dumped. A lot of power for a mill that only used one engine a day.

Later that morning we photographed 1367 making heavy going as it approached Obdulio Morales, but it was a sad comparison to the 1997 action and we moved on.

Mill 449 George Washington

1823 at George Washington on 24th March 1999

Cuba often seemed to toss up new workings or engines on transfer, in 1999 we met a fellow Australian fan who told us that a newly overhauled engine from Mill 427 Quintin Banderas on the north coast was working inter mill traffic in the Villa Clara area. It took two visits to see the engine in action working to Mill 449 George Washington. All set for rare photos of a steam revival we had to scatter when a very angry bull which had torn away from its tether hurled down the dirt road towards us and the train. It had probably been used to the all diesel action on this line and objected to the newcomer, or more likely was just exercising a vicious temper!

The mill yard was more peaceful as 1823 from Mill 426 Quintin Banderas shunted its train before retiring to the shed. The engine had been built by ALS in 1920 for the FCUH (United Railways of Havana). Preserved outside the mill entrance was a diminutive 0-4-0T that looked like a tram engine. Numbered 1, no information was available on the engine’s origins in the Industrial Railway Society book on Cuban steam, which was my reference for these notes. 

Mill 446 Carlos Balino

We took the opportunity to visit this nearby mill to check out if inter mill workings were operating. The mill was not on our ‘must do” list as it did not have any steam line work, but it did have two 4-6-0 pilots. 1432, a 1920 Baldwin was busy whilst it sister loco was numbered 1555 (placing it in a different power range), but it was an identical engine. There was inter mill traffic working, but diesel hauled. Outside the Mill entrance was a recently preserved 0-4-0ST incorrectly numbered 1439, possibly 1157, a small Vulcan from mill 430?

Just to show there were other attractions, here is the Moron FCC station!

Rob Dickinson