ZAFRA 2003 ReporT         




- The story of the 2003 Zafra

So now we know! For most mills, 2002 was the last steam powered Zafra. Only a handful of mills can be said to have been using steam at anything like 2002 levels. With the exception of Manalich and Villena, there was no regular steam line work in 2003. A number of mills used a steam pilot, which on occasions may have ventured out further than the patio, but nothing could be relied upon. In 2002 over 100 locomotives were known to have worked. In 2003 only 51 were available to perform cane or tourist duties.

A number of factors which have brought this situation to bear. The permanent closure of many of the smaller mills, with the decision not to transport cane to open mills if it was not favourable economically led to spare locos being available. More lorries are being used to bring in cane from the extremities of mill systems, often using the existing loading points to clean the cane from the fields. Other cane is being used locally for cane juice or as animal feed until the redundant canefields are ploughed-up and replanted with other crops.

Although many diesels have been cascaded from closed mills, Minaz have spent a lot of hard currency to buy spares for their ageing fleet of diesel-hydraulics. Proponents of steam within Minaz's headquarters have, at present, lost the argument that using local labour and locally fabricated parts to maintain a steam locomotive is undeniable cheaper. The battle is not totally lost and revolves around the Cuban business practice of converting Cuban pesos and US dollars in the books at 1:1 (The true rate is above 25:1).

What about steam in 2004? For the moment it will be the tourist industry (and groups of steam enthusiasts through charters) who will ensure that instead of being scrapped, locomotives are retained, prepared for duty, with trained staff and a functioning infrastructure. In 2003 'Steam In Paradise' operated 64 charters at 22 mills over 9 weeks, using 31 locos.

1816 is reported to be at Santa Clara's Planta Mecanica for overhaul. However, little is known about who will finance this or the locomotive's eventual future.

105 Augusto Cesar Sandino.
Mill and railway closed. 1210 has gone to the museum at Cristina Station. 1350 to Parque Lenin although it is reported to be too heavy for the line and consequently performs extremely slowly around the circuit.

107 Pablo de La Torriente Brau.
Mill and railway closed.

201 Amistad Con Los Pueblos.
Mill not working and cane was being moved to mill 203 by lorry. Shed fenced off. 1803/1805 moved to Manuel Martinez Prieto mid season. 1303 is at the museum at Cristina Station.

206 Manuel Isla Perez.
Mill closed. Intermills to mill 203 with diesel from Centro Limpieza LP.

207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich.
Working normally after a very late start (Feb.). Standard gauge pilot 1402 was not used every day. 1510 was working tourist trains out of Manuel Martinez Prieto, and 1806 was also moved there mid season. Work has started to restore No.2 (1181) and the remains of the Manning Wardle 0-6-0T. 1403 now plinthed near the mill. Jackshaft drive 0-6-0 diesel shunter 34037 has arrived from mill 103.


210 Osvaldo Sanchez.
Mill closed. Intermills to mill 203 with diesel. No steam used.

211 Ruben Martinez Villena.
Mill closed. The intermills were handled by Boris Luis Santa Coloma and as they did not have an available diesel, 1606 was used to take cane to Roble, where trains were exchanged with diesels. 1112 was steamed by arrangement. 1502 moved to Manuel Martinez Prieto mid season. None of 211's other locos were serviceable.                                           

212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma.
Only 1606 was available. By the end of the season the mill was expected to have 3 diesels.

213 Manuel Martinez Prieto.
Situated near to Havana Airport, this mill is intended to be the base for the museum operation in the Havana area. It has already started to build up a fleet of locomotives. Currently only 1510 is operational. 1502 in under overhaul. Narrow gauge 1309 is plinthed at the entrance.

303 Australia.
Mill closed and a late start to cutting. Intermills to Jesus Rabi by diesel, using a new line constructed from the San Ramon LP to join the FCC line south of Amarillas. Most of the track in the mill yard has been lifted for the new extension. 1593 was the only loco serviceable and this was solely for tourist duties.

304 Granma/318 Victoria de Yaguajay.
Mill and railway closed. 1714/1812 moved to 315, others dumped.

306 Cuba Libre.
All cane duties diesel.

314 Jesus Rabi.
All cane duties diesel.

315 Jose Smith Comas.
Mill closed and being dismantled. Only a museum operation remains with no cane duties. 1614/1714/1812 have been acquired but 1121 has been scrapped.

319 Rene Fraga.
Mill closed. 1820 not used. 1119 plinthed. 1524 has gone to the museum at Cristina Station.

320 Juan Avila.
All cane duties diesel.

321 Julio Reyes Cairo.
Mill closed. The dumped tank locos have been vandalised with their tubeplates cut.


403 Mal Tiempo.
Only Potrerillo LP open and serviced by lorries. The majority of cane for the mill arrived on the standard gauge behind diesel. 1321/1322/1355 available for tourist duties. The overhaul of 1221 is not to be continued, a double tragedy considering that a working loco 1320 was used for a plinth at a restaurant on the motorway north of Lajas.

404 Ciudad Caracas.
1621 was in action at the start of the season, but soon suffered a failure. No fitters were available to repair it during the Zafra. Afterwards all cane duties were diesel. The mill's boilers also failed and cane was then sent to mill 403.

405 Luis Arcos Bergnes.
Mill closed and being dismantled. All steam locos out of use.

409 Antonio Sanchez.
All cane duties diesel. All steam locos dumped.