Perhaps the simplest and in many ways most poignant of the mill renamings - originally called Cuba this mill was renamed
Cuba Libre (Free Cuba) to mark the newfound status of the country and its people.  It was also the mill where I was first
hijacked in Cuba!  However since my 'hijackers' wanted me to do nothing more than drive their locomotive up and down the
mill yard for the afternoon I was prepared to surrender myself gracefully.   It was still possible to drive locomotives in Cuba in
the late 1990's although the expected 'gratuity' to the crews had slowly risen somewhat from the original price of a couple of
ball point pens (unattainable in Cuba) and a pack of cigarettes.  Cuba Libra was an extensive system although motive power
shortages often led to the use of diesel workings.  This is another system which suffered at the hands of Hurricane Michelle
with damage to the very attractive station at Navajas and to the trees on the mill approach.
The main interest at Cuba Libre was the line which ran from the mill to the FCC at Navajas.  From Navijas one cane line led to
the Pedroso loading point where locomotives could be turned on a triangle for their return journey to the mill.  The other line
continued south-west from Navajas to San Miguel and then to Güira de Macurijes.  Workings at this mill tended to be
predictable due to the need to pass through Navajas without interfering with FCC workings resulting in loaded cane trains
mainly arriving at the mill itself in the late afternoon.
Vulcan 2-6-0 No.1520 and Baldwin
2-6-0 No.1610 stand in the shed
yard at Cuba Libre in April 1996.  
By this time the two locomotives
had a combined service of just
under 150 years - a considerable
achievement.  No.1610 is now to
be found in the museum at Jose
Smith Comas where it continues to
be operational and provides steam
hauled tourist rides.
Another Vulcan 2-6-0 No.1410 stands
in front of the large mill building with
a single hopper wagon being loaded
with sugar.  Hopper trains were quite
common between the mill and the
FCC station at Navajas where the
wagons were collected by FCC trains
It was the crew of Baldwin 2-6-0
No.1808 (built 1927) that insisted
that David Eatwell and I joined
them on the footplate as they
shunted loaded wagons around in
the mill yard at Cuba Libre.  It
wasn't long before we were taking
turns in the driver's seat and in
control of proceeedings, pausing
only to jump off and take
Another view of No.1808 as it stands
in the shed yard at Cuba Libre
My 1997 visit to Cuba Libre
coincided with some less than
exciting weather conditions as
evidenced by this shot of No.1808
approaching the FCC station at
Navajas with empty wagons from
the mill.
Almost exactly a year later and in
much improved weather Baldwin
2-6-0 No.1610 rolls into Navajas
station with a train of empty wagons
bound for Pedroso.
Trains to Pedroso had to enter
Navajas station and then set back
along the FCC line before resuming
their southward journey along the
cane line.  No.1610 has performed
this manoeuvre and is seen en route
between Navajas and Pedroso.
Having reached Pedroso, No.1610 is
turned on the triangle prior to
returning to the mill with a loaded
train later in the afternoon.  The palm
trees make a particularly interesting
backdrop to the locomotive.
Baldwin 2-6-0 No.1808 enters
Navajas station with a train of
empty wagons in the early evening
A glorious rear three-quarter view
of No.1808 as it rolls through the
FCC (Ferrocarriles de Cuba - the
national railway company) station
at Navajas
No.1610 on its return journey from
Pedroso to the mill with loaded
cane wagons approaches Navajas.  
Notice the vintage American car by
the roadside - a familiar sight in
Baldwin 2-6-0 No.1612 shunt the
mill yard at Cuba Libre.  The
distinctive crossing sign reminds car
drivers that they are expected to
stop and check that it is safe to
cross - trains having priority over
road users
Another shot of No.1808 at
Navajas on the following day -
train workings were reasonably
predictable allowing visits to other
mills in the area before heading for
Cuba Libre in the late afternoon.
No.1808 shunting hopper wagons
at Navajas station.  These
contained refined sugar most of
which was destined for export.  
Collapsing sugar prices and the
loss of trade with the former Soviet
bloc led to a drastic reduction in
output and the closure of
numerous mills in the early part of
the 21st century
The gift that keeps on giving -
No.1808 catches the late evening
light as it heads towards Pedroso
with a train of empty wagons.
With the sun almost on the horizon
and with the shadows rapidly
lengthening No.1808 plods on
through the late golden light
towards Pedroso.  Cube Libre is no
longer a working mill and I have no
information as to the fate of
China - Land Of Dragons
Java - Sweet Dreams
Home Page
Adventures In Foreign Lands - Personal trip reports - 1999 - 2008
Zimbabwe - Garrett Heaven
Germany - Narrow Gauge
Poland - Coal and Capitalism