The International Steam Pages

Steam in Cuba 2006

There are a number of reports available, you need to read all of them to get an overall picture, but Chris Walker's summary will probably be pretty close to your conclusions...

Chris Walker says:

“Real” working steam survives, just, where two mills offer a reasonable chance of daily steam:

Gregorio Manalich
Seen on 05 March was their 2-6-0 No. 1402 in service on the standard gauge transfers from the sole remaining Acopio to the Melena station yard where the cane is picked up several times a day by a diesel from CAI Hector Molina. This was the only engine serviceable where 1510 requires some work. 1402 has not been repainted since at least 2004 and the big ends clank to a degree not acceptable in the past. A very reliable source indicated this would be the last year of steam here. A quiet if clanky end to a noble heritage.

Ciro Redondo
On 09 March 2-8-0 No. 1826 was working in the extensive patio area in the afternoon, and the crew and the despatchers office reported that it works most days a week. It is very clean and sounds in good shape working vigorously with big loads.
As one of only two mills with a high probability of daily working steam this was at least a fitting finale.

Rene Fraga
2-6-0 1518 remains in use to a degree, but only in a secondary role to a diesel, which Minaz in Havana were not aware of! On 13 March it appears to have worked the previous night shift and was warm and had an allocated crew. They offered to steam it “immediately” for 35 convertible pesos.

Ifrain Alfonso
1636 is potentially serviceable but did not operate on 13 March and does so only “un poco” – a little, so this is not a daily occurrence. 1635 and 1850 were inside the mill for tender tank welding, so presumably may have an operational future to some degree, and the rest of the steam roster is on site. Sister mill Diez de Octubre has no serviceable steam.

Quintin Banderas
Regrettably 1755 is not being used this year.

Esteban Hernandez
Former Espartaco 2-8-0 no. 1329 will steam for tourists at a cost of 300 convertible pesos. It may be difficult for them to attract a lot of tourists to this area, and the mill is closed this year. The plinthed 2-8-0 No. 2 is in fact a Vulcan Ironworks product with a Baldwin plate!

Museum activity:

4-6-0 No.1432 was operating the daily service. It has replaced 1517 which is at CAI FNTA awaiting maintenance /repairs.

Cristina Museum Havana
The 1873 Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST was moved here in late 2005 and is plinthed on a platform. It is now much more complete with its original tank and refurbished cab and bunkers. More work is planned by the ARPA society. Minaz appear to be intending to transfer responsibility for remaining steam locomotives to other organisations and 20 additional locomotives from provinces extending eastwards to Cienfuegos are now earmarked for Cristina. In view of previous initiatives that have not yet been fulfilled, it remains to be seen if these locomotives are actually moved.

Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana
This Havana museum may establish another railway museum in the city and is believed to be considering acquiring 43 locomotives from Minaz, which are currently located all over the country, some of which are plinthed. Again how this will work out in practice remains to be seen.

Bejucal Museum [Part of the Cristina]
The 1836 turntable built by Brown Lenox of London & Pontypridd has been removed for conservation by the ARPA society on behalf of the Cristina, and will then be returned to its original location. It is probably the oldest locomotive turntable in the world. The British National Railway Museum has no information on the manufacturer and apparently no interest in this remarkable survivor.

Minaz 1333 repainted in a former identity as Central Narcisa 17 has been plinthed at the monument to Camilo Cienfuegos.

Cienfuegos Province
There is a proposal to collect some narrow gauge engines from Pepito Tey and Mal Tiempo to join others at Espartaco and refurbish the engine shed, where the rest of the site has been cleared and tidied. Pepito Tey have one potentially serviceable loco No. 1357, which is now stored in the yard. Two others have been removed but could not be traced.

Peter Smith reports:

"I saw only 2 working steam locos;1636 at Ranchuelo in wonderful grimy condition working loaded cane cars from C 10 de Octubre to C Ifrain Alfonso and one of the locos at C Jose Smith Comas Museum."

Yoshi Matsuo reports:

207 Gregorio Alree Manalich
Visited on 6/3, 9/3 and 11/3. Same as last year, mill not working and only standard gauge system is used. 1402 was used. 1510 is also in working condition. 1507 also in shed. NG locos are still stored. STG 1714 (ex-Granma) is dumped.

212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma
Visited on 11/3. Mill working. No steam action. 1606 and 1711 out of use.

311 Esteban Hernandes
Visited on 7/3. Mill not working (probably permanently). 1329 (ex-Espartaco) cold in working order for tourist operation. 1242 needs repair. A Baldwin 2-8-0 (lettered 2, builders plate # 42479) is plinthed.

319 Rene Fraga
Visited on 7/3. Mill working. Diesel 37106 is on the duty. No steam action! 1413 and 1518 cold look in working order. 1820 looks out of use.

404 Ciudad Caracas
Visited on 9/3. Mill working. Totally dieselized.

427 Quintin Banderas
Visited on 7/3. Mill working. 1755 looks out of use.

428 Marcelo Salado
Visited on 7/3. 1342 in steam for tourist operation. 1823 (ex-Luis Arcos Bergnes) joined here as previously reported. 

434 Panchito Gomes Toro
Visited on 7/3. Mill working. 1626 cold, looks in working order.

440 Ifrain Alfonso
Visited on 9/3. Mill working. No steam action. All of steam fleet cold at the shed.

441 Diez de Octubre
Visited on 9/3. Mill not working. Intermill to 440 behind diesel. No steam action. 1639 and 1661 cold. Rail car operates between the mill and Ranchuelo station. 

503 Orlando Gonzalez Ramirez
Visited on 8/3. Mill not working (probably permanently). Intermill to 504 via newly constructed line behind diesel. Steam locos are stored in the shed.

504 Ecuador
Visited on 8/3. Mill working. Two 37 Class and three 38 class are on the roster. No steam action. 1821 out of shed with some parts stripped. 2 steam locos (1904 and 1578?) are deep in shed.

515 Ciro Redondo
Visited on 8/3 and 9/3. Mill working. 1826 is the only operable steam, on patio duty.

522 Venezuela
Visited on 8/3. Mill not working (probably permanently). Intermill (to 515 or 504?) behind diesel. 1657 cold. Shed staff says 1742 is stores in shed.

Parque Lenin
Visited on 11/3. No train operation. 1373 (Ex-Augusto Cesar Sandino, new comer as reported previously) suffered second drive axle journal damage and needs repair. 1350 also needs some repair. 1, 2 and 3 are stored in shed.

Allan Murray-Rust reports:

Camilo Cienfuegos Division (Hershey Electric Railway)

The situation on the Hershey Railway in late February/early March 2006 was as follows:

All sections of the network still retain passenger service with electric traction. This includes the main line between Casablanca (Havana) and Matanzas, and the branches to Playas del Este, Jaruco, Caraballo and Santa Cruz. The current timetables are broadly those shown in the Supplement No.1 (dated 1 December 2003) to Itinerario 14. However, there have been some further changes which are not included in official timetables or posted at Hershey Station. The late evening trains on the main line, previously reported as operating Fridays and Sundays only, no longer operate, leaving 4 journeys each way daily. The late afternoon working of the Santa Cruz branch train has been revised to include an extension beyond Canasi to San Antonio.
The current levels of service are:
Main line – 4 trains each way daily.
Jaruco - 8 trains each way daily.
Caraballo – 6 trains each way daily, two of which extend to Playas del Este (1 morning, 1 afternoon).
Santa Cruz – 5 trains each way daily. These operate variously to or from Hershey, Canasi or San Antonio on the main line.

The condition of track and overhead is particularly poor, resulting in frequent instances of the overhead being pulled down. The resulting stoppages to services, together with equally frequent rolling stock failures, means that the service is very erratic. During a 2 week visit there were only one or two days on which a full timetable was actually operated, and even then with delays. Speed restrictions between Hershey and Matanzas mean that timekeeping is essentially impossible over this section. 

The rolling stock for these services is as follows:
Main line – two 3-car ex-Catalunya sets, plus one reserve set.
Jaruco – one 3-car ex-Catalunya set which has had half its motors removed to enable the other sets to remain operational.
Caraballo – converted ex-Catalunya motor car 707.
Santa Cruz – normally single Brill motor car since the branch does not have any high level platforms. At the time of the visit this was 3009. 3006 was out of service awaiting repairs, but it appears that currently the lack of serviceable electrical equipment for these cars means that only one of the pair can be in service at any one time.
In the event of rolling stock failures resulting in there being insufficient units to cover all requirements, a not uncommon occurrence, the Santa Cruz workings are cancelled. Caraballo workings can be covered by a Brill car to release 707 for main line duties if necessary.
There are also two 3-car ex-Catalunya sets from which motors and equipment have been removed which can be diesel hauled. The remaining ex-Catalunya stock, other than cars undergoing repairs, has had all electrical equipment removed as well as many interior fittings and seats to keep the operational stock in service.

There is still significant tourist-charter traffic, normally provided by de-equipped Brill 3008 towed by loco 20808. The spare Brill can be added to provide additional capacity if required. There is also an open-sided car with canopy roof built in the last year on a cane-car underframe.

The only freight on the division is a gypsum train working approximately twice a week serving a quarry loading point at San Antonio. In practice this train works empty from Cuadra junction (near Havana) to San Antonio, continuing loaded to Matanzas, with the remainder of the working (loaded and empty) to Artemisa being via other FCC lines.

Non-passenger operational electric stock includes two locomotives – 20803 and 20808. The former is used for general shunting duties or with line-car 072 (see below), the latter for the tourist train. Other electric locomotives are stored in various states of cannibalisation and none have been scrapped since December 2004. All stored locomotives were seen personally.

There are also 3 line cars, 2 of Brill design, although modified, (particularly 073). 072 is no longer self-mobile and has been cannibalised for traction spares. Haulage is either with 20803 or a diesel locomotive, with or without a living van. 072 was seen early in the trip with no tower platform, apparently out of use, but was then out doing overhead repairs on 8 March, having been fitted that day with a new platform. The third line car (071) is modern and of French origin but appears to see little use, possibly because it does not have as full a range of equipment.

Lenin Park (Havana)

This was visited on Sunday 26 February 2006 but the 3-foot gauge railway had clearly been unused for a considerable time. No information is available as to whether this is a permanent or temporary situation; however, the main children’s amusement park was closed and dismantled with substantial construction work in the area.

Gregorio A. Mañalich Mill

A visit on the morning of Sunday 26 February 2006 found 1402 working a train of 8 full cane cars from the Acopio near the mill to the Patio. This was the only movement observed as there was insufficient cane being processed for further trips. The cane is processed at Hector Molina Mill with haulage over the FCC line by Minaz diesels. A 38-class arrived with a load of empties during our visit.

This is Tim Murray's report dating from early March which was first posted on the Continental Railway Circle Newsgroup:

Real working steam in Cuba during Zafra (2006):

Loco (2-8-0) on patio at Ciro Redondo works 05.00 to 20.00.

One loco working at Rene Fraga, choice of two, one of which is the Cooke loco. Trips to nearest LP.

Standard gauge loco working at Gregoria Manalich, choice of two. Trips to nearest LP.

All of the above are daily.

In addition:

The 4-6-0 at Ifrain Alfonso often works an inter-mill to/from 10de Octobre, takes empties there and then brings fulls back. Nearly always an afternoon train.

The 4-6-0 at Marcelo Salado has been working track recovery trains for the branch from Remedios. It had recovered up to about half a kilometre from the station at Remedios, so not much left to recover.

Non real:

The tourist train at Trinidad is working daily - dep 09.30 and returns about 2.30pm. The climb back up to Trinidad is astonishing and the 4-6-0 is currently working the train.

Most days there is a tourist train at Patre o Morte, deps at about 11.00 and is a one way trip.

Rob Dickinson