Three sugar mills using steam locomotives were located a relatively short distance west of Havana.   

Augusto Cesar Sandino mill was originally known as Mercedita but like many others in Cuba, was
re-named by the government in the early 1960's after a revolutionary hero -  in this case the so-called
'Messiah of Light And Truth' who was born in Nicaragua in 1895 and was the leader of a rebellion
between 1927 and 1933 against the U.S. military occupation of Nicaragua.  He was executed by the
government of that country in 1934 and became a hero to the new revolutionaries such as Fidel
Castro and Che Guevara who copied his methods of guerrilla warfare.

The line itself was hardly less interesting, being the only sugar mill still operating on 3' 0" gauge
although the tourist railway which is still operational in Lenin Park, Havana uses the same gauge and
operates with locomotives originally from this mill.  At the end of the 1993 season the line was largely
lifted and most enthusiasts assumed that the mill was finished.   Amazingly it rose phoenix-like again
in 1996 and continued to operate for a further six years.  Two or three locomotives were usually to
be found in steam, including the only working narrow gauge Henschel in Cuba  - No.1405 of 1913.   
Augusto Cesar Sandino was also the scene of a major boiler explosion in March 2000 (see below)
ALCO 2-8-0 No.1404 on loaded cane train about to cross
the main road from Havana.  This was the first photograph
which I took of steam in Cuba and the first I took overseas.  I
immediately knew I was hooked and life would never quite
be the same again.
Cuba is one of the last socialist countries in the world with a
faltering economy and considerable uncertainty as to the
future. The Cuban way of life was perhaps best summed up
in this priceless the quote ... "The government pretends that
it pays us and we pretend that we work!"
With little available information
about the sugar lines, it was left to
steam enthusiasts to map the
railways and indicate the various
roads, access points and features
of interest.  Most of these were
drawn by Allan Faulkner published
in the late 1990's in Dave
Thornhill's magazine 'World
Steam'.  Without this shared
information it would have been
very difficult to obtain many of the
photographs of trains at work.

When revising this website I
discovered that most if not all of
these maps were unavailable on
the internet and were in danger of
being lost to future historians and
so with kind permission I have
reproduced as many as I could find
on the relevant pages of the site.
Another view of ALCO No.1404 on
the road crossing just before the
junction.  The crew have stopped
to await permission to bring their
loaded train into the mill.  In
general there was little or no
signalling on most systems and
traffic control was largely carried
out by use of telephones
Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1350 had been
at work on the southern branch
and was clearly the train that
No.1404 was waiting for.  The
small hill just before the mill
provided an excellent vantage
point for watching the passing
train of loaded cane wagons.
A rear three-quarters view of the
same engine as it heads across the
main road and into the mill at
Augusto Cesar Sandino.  The CAI
in front of the mill name stands for
Complejo Agro Industrial and
reflects the fact that the railway
was only a part of a more
comprehensive farming system
involving road vehicles, sugar mills
and of course the workers
A total of five potentially working
locomotives could be found at the
mill although it was unlikely that all
five would be fully functional in any
one particular year.  Baldwin 2-6-0
No.1210 shunts on the patio at the
mill  - at the time of this photograph
the engine was 85 years old and still
going reasonably strong.
The overwhelming majority of
locomotives on the Cuban sugar
lines were of American origin with
large numbers of engines built by
Baldwin, ALCO and Vulcan.  
However there were a very small
number of locomotives from other
manufacturers including Henschel
2-6-0 No.1405 - another engine
which was in its 85th year.  Here it
is seen at the far loading point on
the northern branch of the system
Henschel 2-6-0 No.1405 is heading
back to the mill with its train of
loaded cane wagons and has to pass
over this rather attractive river and
bridge.  Thick clouds of black
exhaust were a common sight as all
of the Cuban locomotives had been
fitted for oil burning.
Looking incredibly work stained
and with no visible means of
identification, 1916 built Baldwin
2-8-0 No.1350 shunts the mill
yard.  The chimney in the
background bears the name of the
mill - A C Sandino - often the
easiest way of knowing that you
had turned up at the right place!
2-8-0 No.1350 and 2-6-0 No.1210
stand outside of the shed at
Augusto Cesar Sandino in March
1998.  Within four years the mill
and its locomotives were consigned
to the pages of history
At almost every mill there was a
friendly welcome from shed staff and
locomotive crews - although there
were times when security staff could
bring an end to an enjoyable session
of photography and banter
The railways operated seasonally
from around about early February
through to May depending on where
abouts they were located.  
Locomotives were thrashed during
those months and then subject to
overhaul in workshops eqipped with
only the most rudimentary tools.  
The Cubans were however masters of
invention and fabrication and
locomotives that appeared to be
derelict and abandoned could be
seen steaming a few years later.  
However this was not the case for
Baldwin 2-6-0 No.1209 which was
dumped part of a 'loco dump' a few
miles from the main shed and was
canibalised for spare parts
In March 2000 there was a major
incident at A C Sandino when the
boiler of Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1382
exploded while the locomotive was in
service.  This was an incredibly
destructive accident as can be seen
from these two pictures.  The two
crew members were gravely injured
and I believe they subsequently died.

Pictures courtesy of Jim Gunning
To quote from Jim Gunning's account

".... The tubes are still in the remains
of the boiler. They are hanging out,
bent in all directions. Some are
wrapped around the shell and
pointing toward the rear of the loco.
All had pulled cleanly out of the front
tube sheet. The smokebox shell is still
in place, due no doubt to the
strength of the cylinder saddle
attachment, and two large frame
braces on the exterior. The force of
the explosion has shattered the
smokebox door. Two small pieces
remain attached to the hinges. The
rest is missing. The stack was also
sheared off and broken
approximately in half. .... "
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