The International Steam Pages

Steam in Cuba 1999

I have not been to Cuba this year and I am grateful to those people who have sent me information.

So far these include: Graham Knight, Ulrich Funke, Roland Beier, Nigel Lawrence, Günter Koch, Chris Walker, Steve Mourton, John Raby, David Thornhill, Steen Cavour Nielsen, Bernd Seiler, Frank Engel, Jakob Stilling, John S Glover, Tony Wardrobe, Ian Searle, Florian Menius, Wayne Weiss and a couple more who wish to remain anonymous but more news is always appreciated.  As often happens those who take chances get to make the most interesting discoveries.... The only separate report I have posted is from Steve Mourton who shows it is possible to have a good time in Cuba without stuffing dollars into outstretched hands.

It is intended for those readers who are familiar with the Cuban mills and if you are contemplating a first visit you should read the extended 1997 mill by mill report. and the 1998 update.  Please remember that at most mills, not all serviceable locos are steamed every day, of those reported in steam throughout the season maybe only 50% will be in steam on any given day.  (In contrast to Java where virtually all locos are steamed every day.)  I have compiled the list of active locos from the reports, I doubt it is anything like complete....

Overall Summary

More of the same....  The reports I have received have a similar tone to last year.  People speak of many pleasant experiences but there are a growing number of reports of crews demanding money in return for photographic co-operation (particularly in the Santa Clara area) .  They did not dream up the idea of payment, it is the direct result of mindless enthusiasts (and tour organisers) who are so desperate for what they feel is a master shot that they will not consider the long term consequences of their action.  The whole point about Cuba is that it represents the last opportunity in the world to see steam worked American short lines.  Why not go to the USA if you want to see circus steam?  If you have been to Cuba in recent years, examine your conscience and decide whether you are in part responsible for what is happening and maybe when you go next year you will walk away and go elsewhere when the hand comes out.....

The season seems to have been a prolonged one with visitors in April finding plenty of activity.

Parque Lenin, Habana

# 2 in use on (Sunday) February 14th and  (Saturday) 20th March, # 3 also working a schoolkids train on Friday March 12th and #1 under repair.

103 Eduardo Garcia Lavendero

Originally believed not to have worked in 1999, but one visitor found 1704 in steam (with 1302 - to Amistad or Manalich - and 1705 to  Perez transferred) and most workings diesel.

105 Augusto César Sandino

Working normally with friendly crews. 1350, 1382, 1404 and 1405 in steam.  1404 carried no identification this year!

107 Pablo de la Torriente Brau

This mill was working normally, 1103, 1401, 1662 and 1703 in steam.

108 José Marti

No reports.

109 Orlando Nordarse

One visitor reported "...all looked defunct. The n.g. diesels are dumped near the main road crossing."

201 Amistad con los Pueblos

Mil closed with cane going to mill 203 Hector Molino. 1303, 1707, 1803 and 1804 active. (1302 was not here in March). Mill still working on 21/4, 1803 arrived with a train of empties from the main line obviously from Hector Molina. There is a nice bridge shot east of the 1st LP east of the mill.

203 Hector Molino Riaño

All operations are diesel. Presumably milling cane for mill 201 Amistad con los Pueblos and mill 210 Osvaldo Sanchez

206 Manuel Isla Perez

Hostile as ever, 1603 and 1708 in steam. 1705 from Lavendero is here.

207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich

All locos had been repainted in an extremely attractive light blue livery. 1302 (ex Lavendero - One report only?), 1306, 1307, 1308, 1338, 1351, 1365 and 1402 reported in steam.  Also several visitors reported that centenarian 1403 has been seen shunting the patio. 

210 Osvaldo Sanchez

This is another mill that was reported closed for the season.  Cane was being worked again (by diesel this year) to to mill 203 Hector Molino. 1205 Forney 0-4-4T appears to work all the LPs (converted from ng to sg) for this transfer.   What will happen to their collection of ng locos? 1681 reported working here (ex-Antonio Maceo)

211 Rubén Martínez Villena

Working in the same manner as 1998. 1207, 1311, 1411 and 1605 in steam. 1112 steamed for group(s). 1502 is also said to be in use (with the tender off 1602).

212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma

The locos have been returned to black.  At least one group found steam on the north line and a diesel on the south line, but it is not clear if this was a regular feature. 1606, 1711 and 1806 in steam although one visitor reported that often there was so little rail traffic that the diesel could handle it all if it was in one piece.

302 Reynold Garcia

Mill not working, 1517 under repair with 1518 seen by one visitor shunting hoppers at Rene Fraga.

303 Australia

Working normally and as always popular with visitors. 1513, 1515, 1593, 1607 and 1620 in steam although there was a diesel her again this year.

304 Granma

Working with steam in the mill area. 1519, 1713 and 1714 in steam, 1812 also thought to be serviceable.

305 Puerto Rico Libre

Thought to be closed again this year.

306 Cuba Libre

Working normally. 1410, 1611, 1612, 1808 in steam although one visitor found a diesel here covering normally steam duties, possibly between inter-mill workings. Wandering 1594 was here this year as was 1409 from Puerto Rico LIbre although I have not seen a report of them working.. Regular performer 1610 was dismantled.  One visitor found a diesel working to Pedroso, unusual as cane trains are usually 100% steam.

312 Fructuoso Rodriguez

Mill is still out of use but 1849 is in excellent condition and appears ready to run.

314 Jesus Rabi

Working, 1414 and 1529 in steam, progress on 1413 being described as 'almost ready' although some shed wag said it was for static preservation (sounds crazy after all the work they have done!). Latest report says that 1413 will run 'next year'.

315 Jose Smith Comas

Working normally, 1122, 1415, 1530 and 1531 in steam

319 Rene Fraga

Is milling and has no diesel, so line work steam once again. 1313 regular pilot, 1532 and 1820 in use and 1518 from Reynold Garcia working here too. One of the delights of 1999 despite originally being on the 'not operating list'.

320 Juan Avila

Working normally. 1721 and 1807 in steam

321 J.Reyes Cairo

Still probably the least pleasant mill to visit in Cuba. One group found a train out at the loading point but when they refused to hand over money the crews walked all the way back to the mill in front of the loco to obstruct photography.... 1520 and 1646 in steam.

403 Mal Tiempo

Widely reported to be closed for the season with their mercenary crews farmed out to other mills in the area and taking there nasty bad habits with them.

404 Ciudad Caracas

One visitor reported the mill not working but 1538 and 1725 were in steam here on 16th March, the latter being seen to work a transfer train to Marta Abreu! (However, another report suggests that this was the result of a mill breakdown and the mill was later seen working)  Another visitor found it at a LP 3km north of the Autopista so there was some very interesting workings here!  1724 also active.

405 Luis Arcos Bergnes

The mill is working. 1539,  1622 and 1755 in steam.

408 Mariana Grajales

No reports.

409 Antonio Sánchez

The mill was working normally. 1623, 1624 and 1629 in steam (an initial report that 1537 was in steam was an error).

412 Juan Pedro Carbó Serviá

Mill working, 1727 in steam and 1728 spare and used recently.

413 Espartaco

Working this year and both fireless locos (1130/1131) reported active as well as all the 2-8-0s 1326, 1327, 1328  and 1329.

418 Obdulio Morales

This mill is only using diesels. 1354 seen in steam here, presumably having worked in from Simon Bolivar.

424 Primero de Mayo

The mill had been reported to be expected to work but was not working on 15th March.

427 Quintín Banderas

1823 which was under repair here is reported to have been sent to Mill 449 George Washington. 1547 shunting and 1548 was in use when a tour group visited (special arrangement?).

428 Marcelo Salado

Security was reported to be tight here with 1816 being reserved normally for those with money to spare.... 1342 (good news!), 1343, 1426 and 1549 in steam. Apparently new arrival 1550 was working trains here in late March.  Also here now are the chassis and tender from 1422. The picture of 1816 is from John Raby that of 1342 from 'AYank'.

429 José R Riquelme

1645 is thought tobe serviceable but no one has seen it working.

433 Marta Abreu

Fireless 1239 reported active again.

434 Panchito Gómez Toro

1626 thought to be used about once a week and was working on 19th April.

435 Hermanos Ameijeiras

Believed to be working normally although most visitors found even the pilot diesel. 1667 thought to be in occasional patio use. 

437 Carlos Caraballo

1550 seen working to mill 440 Ifrain Alfonso.

438 Ramón Ponciana Romana

A Minaz permitted visit found immaculate 1552 on mill shunts.  An afternoon visit to the bridge outside the south west corner of the mill compound comes highly recommended and the staff seemed very friendly.(A tourist reported seeing 1551 active at Trinidad not far away)

440 Ifrain Alfonso

Working normally. 1635, 1637, 1850, 1910 in steam. 1550 seen visiting from Carlos Caraballo.

441 Diez de Octubre

The mill was working with 1661 in use.  Unfortunately it had been painted in Minaz diesel orange.....

443 Pepito Tey

Working normally although at least one report stated that some of the Mal Tiempo crews were here and had imported their bad habits with them. 1220, 1236, 1337, 1357, 1358 in steam (Good to see 1220 ex-Mal Tiempo at work....)

446 Carlos Baliño

1432 reported 'in steam'

448 Simón Bolivar

Mill closed, no reports of trains on the bank which one report states is unlikely to see further use (I was so lucky to bash it hard in 1997).  Just one loco a day steamed to work to Mill 418. 1354,1362 and 1367 seen active.

449 George Washington

The mill has acquired 1823 from 427 Quintín Banderas and was using it to the nearest LP on 31st March although apprently it normally does full linework.

503 Orlando Gonzáles Ramires

Working normally. 1563, 1732, 1836 and 1837 in steam.

504 Ecuador

Working normally. 1461, 1564, 1578, 1821 and 1904 in steam. Photograph of 1461 and 1564 by Steve Mourton.

Later news:

"Mill had stopped working around 10/4. However on 13/4 some cane was still left. All Ecuador wagons were stabled but wagons from Venezuela were in use on some LP’s. Surprisingly 1837 from mill 503 had arrived in the morning with empties. These were loaded and then taken to the yard by a diesel. Around 14.30 1837 left the mill tender first with its train to meet the main line at Baragua station (at Colorado village). Here the loco turned on the wye and then continued on the main line to Guayacranes. There was just one short stop at Ciego de Avila yard. It was a fine sight seeing a 70 year old steam loco with a loaded cane train going through Ciego station as well as seeing it roar along the Santiago - Habana main line. This must have been one of the best main line steam workings in 1999 but it was not clear whether this was just a one off or may have happened more often after shutting down Ecuador mill."

505 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes

Working normally, 1838 in steam with 1445 also said to be serviceable.

506 Bolivia

Not working butcane being shipped to Primero de Enero (see below!)

511 Brasil

Two reports of brief visits. 1250 and 1369 'in steam', 1368 under repair and 1251 and 1370 apparently serviceable.

515 Ciro Redondo

Working normally. 1827, 1829, 1830, 1834 in steam. One report also said 1826 but another says it is derelict and 1829 has 1826's tender.  Probably (??) 1832 is also active here as staff said 5 working locos.

520 Noel Fernández

Working and the super firelesses 1658 and 1664 in use alternately. #2 now on display at mill, fireless operation is photographable from the city square without hassle.

521 Siboney

1175 (attempted compressed air conversion) condemned by boiler inspector which saved 2 Cuban lives.

522 Venezuela

Working normally. 1657, 1741, 1742, 1743 and 1902 in steam, 1739 scrapped according to one report, another says it is dumped south of the mill.

524 Primero de Enero

This mill does not normally appear on the 'steam list' but 1169 (Bolivia 0-4-0F) was in the shed here.  Not clear what it was doing here....

601 Salvador Rosales

1592 and a diesel share the duties here. Because of the south to north gradient, the loco faces south and is always at the south end of the train,pushing orpulling as appropriate to the LPs 1km north and 3km south west.

608 Cristino Naranjo

1591 still stored ,  1 0-6-4T preserved

615 Bartolome Maso

1590 had been working about a week before a March visit but needed repairs. 1589/1757 dumped alongside the shed looking unserviceable.

622 Argelia Libre

This is an absolute must for Brill motor car lovers, 3 Model 55s alternate in service, at least one on ACF Motorailer trucks with another set in the yard. Between 10.15 and 13.00 expect 2 arrivals and 3 departures (2 simultaneous at 1 pm) . Also in yard derelict are Motorailer #157 (ex Norfolk Southern), a Brill Model 75 and a big Brill gas electric (possibly ex. Baltimore and Ohio ) and an Erie Stillwell trailer along with many GE diesels including a 44 toner "from the Congo".

627 Jose Figueredo

No active steam here in 1999. 1676 had apparently worked in 1998 and 1746 has been transferred from Mill 505, Cespedes.

635 Rafael Freyre

As has been widely reported this mill did not start until mid-March which screwed up those parties which had planned to visit in early March.  Lots of charters here with empty cane cars!!!. Expected to be very busy as a result once it started. 1385, 1386, 1387, 1388, 1389, 1390  and 1391 all in use.

637 Ranulfo Leyva

Last two steam locos apparently transferred to Mill 620 A.Colina.

640 Frank Pais

The lovely 3'0" gauge 4-6-0s, 1458 and 1459, reported scrapped on direct orders from an official higher than the mill itself.  Asmy correspondent says, "may he rot in HELL".

Finally the most interesting snippet of the year from Chris Walker.

He followed up a report from Chris West "of a Marion steam shovel and two steam locos acting as stationary boilers at Cantera (quarry) de Guaimaro, reported near Noel Fernandez." Another visitor didn't find anything there but suggested "Guaimaro is a large town on the Camaguay - Las Tunas road and the mineral map on page 29 shows a gold mine right here."

Chris takes up the tale:

"I acquired an FCC employees timetable at Remedios in exchange for bar of soap, and Steve Mourton  identified that Cantera Guaimaro is 2 kms west of Palo Seco station [ex Cuba RR] which is about 10kms north of Guaimaro town - on the Playa Santa Lucia road..[Drive into town and turn down dirt road next to tracks] . The cantera is the ballast quarry for the FCC and probably MINAZ, - allegedly supplying all Cuba, and established in the 1930s? We were warmly welcomed by the boss who gave us a personal tour after twigging what our interests were! The crushing plant is driven by a steam stationary engine similar to big sugar mill jobs and has corliss valves. It is supplied by one or both of their two locos without any motion, running on petroleo kept in one tender which they share. The plant discharges into hopper wagons which are shunted by the line FCC loco which brings empties & returns with fulls [Alcoski mk-2]. The fireman alleged the locos are 40 years old, but the data shows that the surving kit is much later installed so could be second generation. The locos appear in good shape - clean and steam tight, although the corliss was blowing a bit.

1. Numbered MINAZ 1566, has Alco 54650/14 plate, 4-6-0. Has tender lettered EMP AZUC SRA DE CUBITAS. This is ex Cuba RR last noted at [?] Noel Fernandez.

2. Numbered MINAZ 1839, has BLW e/o 230 April 1929 plate on boiler and is Baldwin 53725/1920 built for Central Estrella as their #9 (Now Central Republica Dominica) .   It has no tender but is under cover and looks good.

3. Dumped nearby is another boiler with a front support bracket so was probably a predecesor - it is a very large BLW with a distinctive dome. [Having looked at my spec cards it may be off a big Cuba RR 2-8-0??]

4. The Marion steam shovel has been on display since at least 1972 according to a worker . It allegedly came from the Panama Canal and looks the part, although it has a builders plate with patents up to 1919 and may be a bit late. Works number is 5553."

Rob Dickinson