The International Steam Pages
Steam in Cuba 2007
Going, going... Real steam is almost gone.
Regular visitor Yoshi Matsuo was here in May 2007:
207 Gregorio Alree Manalich, visited on 6-May
Mill is being converted to museum. Although the museum has not been completed yet, you may visit inside of the mill and shed with paying admission fee (around 5
CUC, I forgot the exact price).
Roland Beier adds the following notes to what has been said before based on his April 2007 visit:
I found only one active steam loco apart from museum operations. This was 1402 at G. A. Manalich. The loco worked from the patio at Melena de Sur to the nearby loading point. It seems quite obvious that this is the only surviving steam loco in the category of real working steam in Cuba. On one hand there are now enough diesel locos available to handle the remaining trains of the sugar industry, some MINAZ diesels are even surplus and are used by FCC on other duties. On the other hand the line at Manalich has a narrow curve that cannot be used by diesel locos, 2 years ago a trial resulted in a derailment. As long as this loading point is being served by rail a steam loco will therefore be required.
The number of museum exhibits in the park adjacent to the north side of Est. Central at Habana is growing. In addition to the narrow gauge 0-6-0 wreck from Manalich I saw locos 1308, 1403, 1413 and 1112. During my visit two more exhibits arrived by road: 1311 and 1205. According to staff more locos will arrive and will be plinthed on short sections of rail, at present they are just sitting on the pavement.
On the other hand the museum project at M. M. Prieto (south of Marianao) has been completely abandoned. I found only the wrecks of 1803, 1805, 1806 and 1707, whilst 1309 was still plinthed in front of the building and 1502 in externally good condition was present as well. There is some engineering work going on south of the plant and all the tracks leading to El Rincon have been lifted. Thus M. M. Prieto can no longer be reached by rail.
Tim Murray reported to the CRC news group (noted here, 1st March 2007) that there seems to have been no real steam at all during the 2007 Zafra, certainly there was only diesel activity at Ifrain Alfonso, Dieze de Octobre, Gregoria Manalich, Rene Fraga and Ciro Redondo. The tourist operations still continued as previously reported at Australia, Marcelo Saledo, Trinidad, Patria o Morte and Jose Smith Comas (to which Reinhard Fichtl adds Rafael Freyre with 1180). Other locos that could possibly be steamed for specials exist at Mal Tiempo (ng and 1 sg), Perez (1 sg), Simon Bolivar (1ng), Equador (1sg?).
Not strictly true that there was none, but pretty close to the mark. Chris Walker was on the island at the beginning of March 2007 with David Ibbotson a bit later primarily working on some historical railway research and adds:
A reliable Minaz source advises that this former sugar industry museum still refines sugar, and uses a remaining exhibit: 1204, the standard gauge Rogers 2-4-2T to shunt their yard “occasionally”.
1590 [Alco 2-8-0 standard gauge] operated recently for a week in the mill patio – probably as a precursor to operating in the Camaguey area this week on an enthusiasts special.
Now operating two class 37 diesels and all steam laid up.
No steam is in operable condition this Zafra.
Jose Smith Comas [Cardenas]: has relocated all motive power into part of the old mill buildings and they are now impressively lined up in a single row. Tourist trains to Cardenas run on Wednesdays plus charters, and tickets can be bought through Gaviota tourist agencies or on site. The place is looking markedly improved and 1242 [2 ft 6 in gauge 2-8-0] has been transferred from Esteban Hernandez and plinthed on the entrance road.
Esteban Hernandez [Marti] has 1329 serviceable for tourist trains and although sadly the mill is being dismantled, they have retained the line to the tunnel.
Marcelo Salado [Remedios] remains largely unchanged with regular steam operations. 1823 has been painted and exhibited. Despite its quality, this museum badly needs better publicity and more structured links with the tourist industry where Cayo Santa Maria to the north is a growth area as are visitors to the restored colonial town of Remedios.
Ranulfo Leyva. [Sofia, Granma] A closed mill now intended to be a museum for surviving steam locomotives in the Province including Bartolome Maso and Jose Figueredo.
Rafael Freyre is unchanged with mediocre services on the flat towards the north, and occasional charters into the hills. Tickets have to be pre-paid at hotels – who do not necessarily know this - and visitors who arrive without tickets are turned away!! Two 2-8-0s are potentially serviceable and the remaining 0-6-0 operated currently.