Originally known as Soledad, this mill was renamed in honour of Julio Reyes Cairo who was born on
17 May 1930 in Jagüey Grande in the province of Matanzas. He enrolled in 1953 at the University of
Havana to study an administrative career and whilst at university he became influenced by the
growing movement against the Batista regime. He participated in the assault on the Moncada
Barracks in Santiago de Cuba on 26 July 26 1953 , led by Fidel Castro . There he was taken prisoner
together with twenty companions and then murdered by the henchmen of the Batista dictatorship.
Originally known as Porfuerze the mill was renamed after Jesus Rabi Moreno Sablon (25.05.1845 –
5.12.1915) - known to the Cuban people as the General of the Lowly – who was one of leaders in the
struggle for the independence of Cuba. He participated in the war of 1868 against Spanish colonial rule
under the command of General Máximo Gómez and later commanded the escort of Carlos Manuel de
Céspedes. He participated with distinction in the second war against the Spanish from 1895 and was
promoted to Major General. After the Spanish-American War of 1898 he refused to hold military office
and became the Inspector of Forestry and Mines. He eventually retired to his mansion where he died on
5 December 1915, surrounded by his children and his people.
Central Juan Avila, was originally known as Santo Domingo and was renamed in honour of Juan Acosta Ávila. Juan Avila
joined the Movement 26 July or M-26-7 which was formed by Fidel Castro following the failed assault on the Moncada Barracks
in Santiago de Cuba. He took responsibility for the organisation of the Orthodox Party in his village and the surrounding area.
Under increasing surveillance he moved to Havana where he was arrested by the government and taken to Matanzas.
Following a period of imprisonment and torture, his dead body was discovered on 5 April 1958 by the side of the road in
Another mill renamed was Limones, which became Fructuroso Rodriguez. Rodriguez was born in
Santo Domingo in 1933 and who, in 1952, led protests against the Baptista coup whilst at the
University Of Havana. With others he travelled to Costa Rica in 1955 to fight against the
Nicaraguans. He also travelled to Mexico to meet with those who were about to start the Cuban
revolutionary. Back in Cuba he took part in an audacious and ultimately unsuccessful attack on the
Presidential Palace on 13 March 1957. Along with four comrades he escaped from the subsequent
gun battle and went into hiding in an apartment at Humboldt 7 in Havava. The revolutionaries
were subsequently informed against before being ambushed and murdered by government forces
on 20 April 1957
The mill had a number of interesting engines including another locomotive with over 100 years of
service - the delightful 2-4-0 Rogers No.1216 with its improbable tender
JULIO REYES CAIRO
In the late 1990's at least twelve mills in the Matanzas region had active steam working. The following mills were visited with
varying degrees of success depending on weather, availability of cane and general levels of activity. None could really be
considered to be major steam mills but all were of interest and often it was possible to find a range of interesting and varied
locomotives both in use or tucked away in or behind the engine sheds.
During my visit Julio Reyes Cairo was closed but in the mid to late 1990's it had some interesting
locomotives in store including Borsig 0-6-0T No.1123 and Henschel 2-4-0T No.1124. This was
possibly my least favourite steam location on the island. Set in an area of economic disadvantage -
even by Cuban standards - the locals there had a reputation for trying to sell you anything - their
own grandmothers included (or their sisters!!) Sometimes things could get a little hostile and
thefts from visiting enthusiasts were not unknown.
Borsig 0-6-0T No.1123 stand out
of use in the yard at Julio Reyes
Cairo. Built in 1910 this is believed
to be the only Borsig to have been
used on Cuban sugar lines.
Also out of use during my 1996
visit but subsequently reported to
have been in steam and working
was Henschel 2-4-0T No.1124
(built in 1913) All locomotives
were devoid of worksplates which
had been sold to previous visiting
The only locomotive in steam was
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1646 (built 1920).
This was positioned under the water
tower and was being used as a
temporary steam boiler.
Juan Avila Mill also remained active well into the 21st century and in 2002 claimed to have one of its best harvests for many
years although it is now no longer operational. My two visits to this mill (in 1996 and 1997) were both bedevilled by poor
weather and so photographic coverage was severely limited as a result.
Looking somewhat forlorn, Vulcan
2-6-0 No.1721 stands outside of
the shed at Juan Avila. Sharp eyed
viewers may notice that the
smokebox number is No,1720 but
worksplate details showed that
this was not the case.
Meanwhile the 'real' No.1720 -
also a Vulcan 2-6-0 of 1920 - was
in steam and was about to take a
train of empty cane wagons to one
of the loading points
In serviceable condition but not in
steam on the day of our visit was
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1807
Originally built in 1894, this Rogers
2-4-0 No.1216 had acquired an
interesting and almost certainly
homemade tender with its sharply
cut down rear to improve sighting.
The locomotive was used for
shunting the cane yard at the mill
and thus water capacity was not a
Out of use in 1996 but subsequently
restored to running order was this
ALCO 2-6-2T No.1313.
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1849 (built
1920) climbs the hill towards
Fructuroso Rodriguez mill with a
short train of loaded cane wagons
This mill was originally known as Santa Rita and was renamed in honour of Rene Fraga Moreno.
Brought up near Matanzas he trained to be a teacher but refused a government job under the Batista
dictatorship. He enrolled at the University of Havana where he met activists such as Jose Antonio
Echevarria, Fructuoso Rodríguez and Marcelo Salado. He joined the 26 July Movement and planned to
join the rebels in the Sierra Maestra mountains but was stopped by soldiers en route and was tortured
for three days. He refused to give any information and was shot at noon on 24 July 1957.
I only made one visit to Rene Fraga mill - in 1998 - and after a morning of fine weather the rain set in
for the afternoon. This was the only occasion during my three visits to security conscious Cuba when I
was actually escorted from the engine shed area at gunpoint!
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1820 stands in
the shed yard at Rene Fraga. This
locomotive appears to have been
transferred here from George
Washington mill where it was
reported to be in use in 1994.
Such movements of locomotives
was not uncommon.
Also to be found out of use in the
yard at Rene Fraga in 1998 were
Baldwin 2-6-0 No.1532 and also
ALCO 2-6-2T No.1313 which had
been moved here from Fructuoso
Rodriguez (see above for picture at
that mill taken in 1996)
Heavy thunderstorms interupted
our visit to Rene Fraga and made
photographing Baldwin 2-8-0
No.1618 somewhat difficult as it
passed the mill buildings
Vulcan 2-8-0 No.1810 (built 1920)
stands in the mill yard at Jesus
Rabi in April 1997
The sun is rapidly descending as
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1529 (built
1912) crosses the road just outside
of the mill yard at Jesus Rabi
Another view of No.1529 (taken a
year earlier) as it stands in the
yard at the mill
A goucho sits on his horse and
watches as Vulcan 2-8-0 No.1811
brings a long cane train across the
fields heading for Jesus Rabi mill
Vulcan 2-8-0 No.1811 bears the
name of nearby Yaguajay mill as it
heads its train towards Jesus Rabi
mill. The locomotive was
presumably on loan from the
Yaguajay as that mill was not in
operation in 1987
Journey's end as No.1811 arrives
at Jesus Rabi mill with a long cane
train brought from the loading
point at Cirinio
Formerly known as Carolina, this mill was renamed in honour of a boat!
Granma is the yacht that was used to transport 82 fighters of the Cuban
Revolution, including Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, from Mexico to Cuba in
November 1956 for the purpose of overthrowing the regime of Fulgencio
Batista. The 60-foot cabin cruiser was designed to accommodate 12 people
and took over a week to travel the 1200 miles to Cuba. Shortly after
landing the group were attacked by government forces and only about 20
escaped to the Sierra Maestra mountains. After the revolutionary forces
triumphed on 1 January 1959, the cabin cruiser was transferred to Havana
Bay and since 1976 has been on permanent display in a glass enclosure at the
Granma Memorial adjacent to the Museum of the Revolution in Havana.
The arched gateway into Granma
mill also included a small image of
the boat above the letter 'R'
ALCO 2-8-0 No.1519 stands in the
shed yard with the mill building in
Baldwin -2-8-0 No.1713 in the shed
yard at Granma
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1714 at Granma.
Despite being consecutively
numbered the two engines were not
of the same vintage - No.1714 being
built in 1920, some 5 years before
In addition to the mills illustrated above and on other pages within the Matanzas section of the web site, steam was still
occasionally operational at Victoria de Yaguajay and Puerto Rico Libre during the late 1990's