The Battle of Mal Tiempo took place on 15 December 1895 as part of the war to gain
independence from Spain.  Cuban rebels, under the leadership of  Máximo Gómez
engaged Spanish troops in the sugar fields near the town of Cruces. They set fire to the
fields and charged the Spanish, armed only with machetes. The Cuban Liberation Army
reported four of their own dead and as many wounded, while claiming to have inflicted
"about 200" casualties on the enemy. More importantly the under equipped rebels
captured 150 Mauser and 60 Remington rifles, six boxes of ammunition, horses, mules,
first aid supplies, and the flags and documents of the Spanish forces.  
Whilst Rafael Freyre, in the Holguin region, was undoubtedly
my favourite mill system in Cuba,  the line at Mal Tiempo
was a very close second.  This was a 2' 6" gauge line which
was remarkable for the way in which the engines appeared  
to create a low frequency rumble that could actually be felt
long before the engine itself could be heard.  Combine this
with some spectacular scenery and some very tough
gradients and all the ingredients were there for a truly
unforgettable experience.  The line was worked by a fleet of
Baldwin 2-8-0's that were generally kept well maintained at
the small shed next to the mill.  The mill itself was one of the
few that it was possible to enter without official permission.  
It had a fascinating system of winches and steel hawsers
which were used to pull the wagons into the mill prior to
them being tipped and the cane taken away to be crushed.   
The line stretched about 15 miles to the furthest loading
point at Potrerillo and most of the line was accessible by car
although careful navigation of the dirt tracks was  
necessary.   Immediately after leaving Potrerillo the line
climbed two steep banks providing some of the best
locations on the line although the system was  very
attractive over its entire length.  The line also had several
'wyes' along its length meaning that tender first running, a
feature of many lines, was unnecessary and thus there were
even more photographic opportunities available.  No
wonder Mal Tiempo was so popular!
Mal Tiempo was exclusively worked
by 2-8-0 Balwin locomotives built
between 1903 and 1925.  Despite
their antiquity they performed
sterling service hauling heavy trains
up steep gradients.  In this 1996 shot
Nos. 1355 (built 1920) stands next
to 1322 (built 1903) in the late
afternoon sunshine at the mill shed.
Another shed view taken in
February 1997 after a hurricane
had removed part of the shed roof!  
Its often hard to get a pair of  
consecutively numbered engines
but on this occasion we managed
three - Baldwin 2-8-0's -Nos.1320,
1322 and 1321- good fortune
No.1322 heads a loaded cane train
past the school on the approach to
mill at Cruces   (3 April 1996)
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1322 near La
Theresa with a heavily loaded cane
train from Potrerillo (3 April 996)
No.1355 builds up steam prior to
departure from the mill shed at
Cruces (3 April 1996)
With the oil burner full on, No.1355
storms up the grade shortly afrter
departure from the mill yard with a
full train of empty cane wagons
(3 April 1996)
Perhaps my favourite location on the Mal Tiempo system -
No.1322 climbs the bank on the approach to La Theresa
                                       (25 March 1997)
No.1345 climbing away from the Potrerillo loading
point at the far end of the Mal Tiempo system
                            (20 February 1998)
With an afternoon thunderstorm
beginning to brew up in the distance
No.1320 (built 1909) sits simmering
in the yard at Cruces  (April 1996)
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1321 on a
heavily loaded train approaching
the mill.  On occasions the climb
up through La Theresa was too
much for the engines and the
train would be divided and  
brought up in two sections (1998)
Local children watch No.1345 as it
climbs towards La Theresa with an
afternoon train of loaded wagons.
No.1345 begins the long journey
back from the Potrerillo loading
point with yet another cane train.  
This was sometimes known as 'The
Little Long Drag' after the climb on
the Settle to Carlisle line in England
Journey over and No.1345 runs
around in the shed yard offering
footplate rides to a couple of visiting
gricers (ian and Virginia Silvester)
With the school building in the
background, Balwin 2-8-0 No.1355
approaches the mill at Cruces.  
The train also provides a local taxi
service for those along the line!           
(March 1998)
No.1345 crosses the small river bridge between La Theresa and Potrerillo (left)
The same locomotive on the return journey - the 'wye' at the loading point allowing the locomotive to turn (upper right)
No.1355 about to set off from the mill yard with empty wagons for Potrerillo (lower right)
Climbing the water tower at the
engine shed was definitely 'at your
own risk' but provided a rather good
vantage point for another shot of
Nos 1355 and 1322 in April 1996
The mill and the railway worked a three
shift system throughout the day and
night.  No.1345 climbs into the sunset
and on to towards Potrerillo with empty
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