RAFAEL FREYRE
PORT BRANCH
One can only speculate on the
conversation between the cyclist and
the train crew - probably something
like 'What are you doing here on a
Sunday morning?" - "Running an empty
train for a bunch of crazy English guys
of course!"

Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1386 about to begin
its journey with Rafael Freyre mill in
the background
Although we were touring the island in
redently built Japanese cars, there
were very few private cars on the
roads of Cuba.  Whilst one
occasionally saw somewhat shaby old
American cars from the 1950's most
traffic was horse drawn with
occasional ox carts - disconcerting to
come across at night on the wrong
side of the motorway.   
 
My habit of trying to create attractive
frames around pictures using the trees
led to me getting considerable teasing
about my "branch line" shots - but
here it certainly works as No.1386
brings its train through a patch of
woodland
By the time that railway enthusiasts were able to freely visit and travel independently in Cuba, the decline of the sugar mill
railways had already begun with many lines having already abandoned steam, closed branches and abandoned loading points.  
By 1997 the line to the port at Puerto Villa saw almost no traffic although the occasional train of molasses was rumoured to
use the line from time to time.  Therefore it was necessary to enter into financial negotiations with the mill to arrange for a
special train to operate on the line purely for photographic purposes.   It might be argued that therefore these pictures
should not be on a site dedicated to working steam - but it's my site so I'll include what I want!
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1386 makes its
way through the lush vegetation
which was a feature of the eastern
end of the island
Only a solitary cow seems to be
taking any notice as our charter train
passes along the port branch towards
Puerto Villa
The consist of the train was designed
to replicate the occasional service
trai9n which used this line with a
couple of open wagons for general
transfer of materials, a couple of
molasses tankers and a caboose
bringing up the rear of the train -
useful as there was no run-round
facility and the train eventually had
to reverse back to Rafael Freyre
No.1386 making its way through the
rolling hills of Rafael Freyre
Journey's end - in the middle of
nowhere.  We had used up our
available time and come some
distance from the mill so it was time
to say goodbye to the crew and head
off for lunch (see below)
Whilst photographing at Barjay we had met a young lady and her brother who had walked out from the nearest village with
bottles of cold beer to sell to the hot and thirsty gringos - a typical example of the entrepreneurial spirit of the younger Cubans.  
She had worked in the tourist industry in Guardalavaca, spoke reasonably fluent English and suggested we visit her village the
following day where (for a price) she would provide us with lunch.  Thus after our morning on the port branch we set off - more
in hope than expectation.   When we arrived in the village she was waiting for us and welcomed us to her home.  The long table
we sat around was created from a number of smaller tables no doubt borrowed (or probably hired) from other villagers and the
chairs were an equal mismatch.  More beer was produced and various dishes of fried rice, beans, plantain and other vegetables
brought from the kitchen.   Our hostess then invited us to go round to the back of the house where her brother and several of
his friends had been carefully roasting a small pig over an open fire - probably for many hours.  This was eventually brought to
the table - still on the spit - where it was chopped up using a verty sharp came machete.   We were then invited to get stuck in -
which we did with gusto.  It was one of those occasions that one never forgets - a total and delightful surprise.  We ensured that
we didn't overeat - leaving plenty for the family and their friends to enjoy later and eventually - and somewhat reluctantly - left.  
We were culturally enriched and they were financially enriched - a mutually satisfactory arrangement.  It was a one-off and
although our two leaders, Andy and Ron, tried to repeat the adventure in subsequent years it was never possible.  Did someone
tip off the authorities - who knows - but I will always remember that afternoon with great affection.