ZAFRA 2004 ReporT         

STEAM IN PARADISE CUBA NEWS

STEAM IN PARADISE CUBA

CUBA MAP                  

STEAM TRAINS and CANE TRAINS

- The story of 2004

After the decimation of the Cuban sugar industry in 2003, when for the most part the normal working steam scene imploded, 2004 was a welcome maintenance of the status quo. While activity in the sugar industry itself showed no improvement, the overall number of steam locomotives working matched 2003 and there was even a slight increase in steam-hauled line work operating regularly. Not that this is likely to herald the return of many independent gricers, but steam is most definitely not finished in Cuba and for tour groups there is a wealth of charter opportunities.

Manalich was again the premier attraction with the narrow gauge operation as in previous years and late season visitors also found the standard gauge sugar hoppers shunt back in the hands of a 2-6-0. Standard gauge line work could also be regularly found at Ifrain Alfonso, Rene Fraga, Ciro Redondo, Venezuela and Ecuador. Diez de Octubre and Orlando Gonzales also boasted some line work when a loco was serviceable. Steam  could also be found on pilot duties at P.G.Toro, Ciro Redondo and the firelesses of Brasil. If you were lucky, there was also steam at Jose Maria Perez, Quintin Banderas and Marcelo Salado. There was even a new destination for 2004. Working steam returned to 2'6" gauge Esteban Hernandez after more than 25 years absence. Disappointments were Boris Luis Santa Coloma/Villena and Caracas, where there were no available locos for regular steam work in 2004 and Mal Tiempo where despite receiving two std. gauge locos, they were not utilised.

In addition to the cane traffic, regular tourist trains run at Trinidad, Jose Smith Comas, Mal Tiempo, Patria and Rafael Freyre. Trains can also run at Australia, Marcelo Salado and Pepito Tey. Parque Lenin should also be running.

In general terms, even more lorries are being used throughout the industry with many more mills transporting their finished sugar by road rather than rail. The lack of diesel hauled hopper trains was most noticeable on the Santa Clara - Cienfuegos line. After spending a lot of hard currency to buy spares for their ageing fleet of diesel-hydraulics are Minaz still short of motive power?

What about steam in 2005? We cannot be complacent. Cuba may not now be the number 2 country in the world behind China for working steam, it does however, remain to be a good destination for steam. The Cubans now see steam tourism purely through economic terms. Charter trains in Cuba are still in their infancy, but they can recreate much of the magic of steam-hauled cane trains returning to the mills, providing excellent photography. If we all look away to other countries, when we look back in years to come, many of the locomotives will have been scrapped and the functioning infrastructure gone.

For information on the status of other mills refer to the 2003 zafra report.

207 Gregorio Arlee Manalich.
Manalich was again the star of the zafra, working normally with steam. Early visitors found that lorries had replaced the standard gauge for taking out the sugar, but by late March, 1402 and 1510 were again shunting hoppers as in previous years. On the narrow gauge 1307 was under going an overhaul but all the other locos were working. The loco livery was a return to the blue previously used a few years ago.

211 Ruben Martinez Villena.
Mill closed. The intermills this year were handled by Boris Luis Santa Coloma diesels. 1112 has moved to the museum at Manuel Martinez Prieto.

212 Boris Luis Santa Coloma.
1606 was unavailable this year, so there was no steam action here or at Villena. Let's hope it is overhauled for 2005.

213 Manuel Martinez Prieto.
The Havana museum operation situated near to Havana Airport. the mill is still used but only as a refinery. The current museum fleet includes 1112, 1204, 1205 and 1309 in restored condition. 1507 is operational and some reports also mention 1502 although this was not present when visited in March. 1707 is the next loco to be restored. 1803, 1805 and 1806 are in dumped condition. 1510 has returned to Manalich.

303 Australia.
1593 was available for tourist duties. 1620 is standby.

304 Granma/318 Victoria de Yaguajay.
Cutting has commenced on the dumped locos 1514, 1594 and 1811.

306 Cuba Libre.
1410 and 1610 have moved to the museum at Jose Smith Comas. 1612 was available for tourist duties.

311 Esteban Hernandez.
'Steam In Paradise' was largely responsible in April 2003 for convincing the management of the mill to acquire ex-Humberto Alvarez 2'6" gauge 2-8-0 No.1242. The loco had been seen the previous year plinthed in the park of a restaurant in Varadero. After some initial operating problems, the mill enlisted retired staff to crew the loco and after testing the loco on the patio, ran their first charter on March 14 for our group. The return of working steam to this mill was the first time in 17 years.

314 Jesus Rabi.
1216 has moved to the museum at Jose Smith Comas.

315 Jose Smith Comas.
The museum continues to acquire locomotives. 1216, 1410, 1610 and 1721 have all arrived.

319 Rene Fraga.
Real steam cane duties! The operation from the two LP's just outside the mill was handled by 1518 with 1820 used as standby. 1119 is plinthed near the mill.

320 Juan Avila.
All cane duties diesel. 1807 was available for tourist duties. 1721 has gone to Jose Smith Comas.

403 Mal Tiempo.
Although standard gauge 1621 and 1848 have arrived at the mill, they were not used on the cane trains from Marta Abreu. On the narrow gauge, 1321 was used for tourist duties, but the other 2-8-0's were available. After pressure on the mill's managers, 1320 has returned to the mill from the plinth at the restaurant on the motorway north of Lajas.

404 Ciudad Caracas.
The mill was back in action, but all cane duties and shunting was diesel.

405 Luis Arcos Bergnes.
The mill's steam locos have started to be dispersed. 1539, 1622 and 1755 have moved to other Villa Clara mills. 1541, 1823 and the plinthed loco remain.

411 Jose Maria Perez.
1622 has arrived from Luis Arcos Bergnes. 1728 was available for pilot duties but was usually only used on tourist duties.

413 Espartaco.
The mill is being dismantled, but all locos remain dumped or dismantled in the shed. Local politics are governing their eventual destination.

418 Obdulio Morales/448 Simon Bolivar.
1334 was available for tourist duties. It is hoped that the Bolivar shed with all it's locos can be retained as a base for a museum operation.

424 Primero de Mayo.
1848 has moved to Mal Tiempo, but the future of stored 1543 is uncertain.

427 Quintin Banderas.
1755 has arrived from Luis Arcos Bergnes for pilot duties, but the whereabouts of 1547 & 1548 are unknown.

STEAM IN PARADISE 2004 ZAFRA REPORT part 2

STEAM IN PARADISE 2003 ZAFRA REPORT

STEAM IN PARADISE CUBA NEWS

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