• Cuba

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of Canada and the United States.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of Canada and the United States.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by Gilbert B Norman
Possibly addressed in the TRAINS article noted, I must wonder what series of financial transactions occurred to obviate the US trade embargo.

What an exercise in futility; what has Cuba got to shoot at us (USA) nowadays?

  by Gilbert B Norman
Today's New York Times has a non-rail article regarding possible change in Cuba now that Fidel has bid adios (and in all likelihood a soon good bye):

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/weeki ... palma.html

  • My wife, Miriam, left behind much of her family when her grandmother whisked her out of Cuba in 1962. She and I had visited over the years, but she always was afraid to bring our three children....Still, what most surprised us was how little Cubans clamored for drastic change........Of course we understood that things are not always as they seem, and that became clear when the maid in our 133-year-old hotel came to mop up the mess caused by a leaking pipe.....“Nobody says it, but everybody knows that someone new could be worse than what we have now,” she whispered. It was the kind of declaration I’ve learned to trust because it stems from neither fear nor a desire to curry favor.

    Despite having plenty of motivation to demand change — the frequent shortages, the decrepit housing, the cruelty of having one currency for tourists and another with far less buying power for Cubans — she said she feared change more than she feared the status quo.
So much for journalism, now to the rails.

If there is to be something resembling "normalized trade" between the US and Cuba, how would that impact their rail system, that apparently remains "Railroad Museum of Cuba". Would there be US investment in the system as there was in Mexico (along with the kill the passenger trains and the "don't even THINK of a MEXTRAK'), or would the investment in transportation be a highway system, recognizing that the trade would largely be agricultural products that could move by highway (no way could we be talking about the volumes that move about the US) and tourism, where of course "the product' flies in and flies out.

The US investment in Mexico rail was predicated that West Coast maritime ports are approaching saturation and that to establish maritime ports in Mexico would simply represent an attractive alternative to a sea-level Panama Canal. Cuba of course is not a Port of Entry for anything other than what is consumed on the island; the only export of consequence would be sugar - "Hav a Havana" likely would be air transport.

Possibly the only hope for a revival of intercity rail would be if somehow someway the people said and the central government listened 'we don't want highways....", but judging from the track record of developing Asian nations, that would appear a non=happen.

In short, if you want to ride behind steam locomotives in scheduled service, it appears you had best plan your trip as soon as any travel bans are modified or lifted in their entirety.

  by pennsy
There recently was a PBS show on TV with a rail trip across Cuba. Wasn't very complimentary. Seems that schedules are unheard of and derailments fairly common. Rolling stock is old and engines aren't that reliable.

  by David Benton
Was that the BBC series great railway journeys f the world , where thepresenter spent part of the time discussing bizzare cia plots to kill Castro ? such as exploding cigars etc .

  by CPRTim
I recently returned from our annual vacation in Cuba and I’m able to report I was finally able to track down a working steam locomotive: #1549 a 2-8-0 built by Alco in 1920. It’s a Tourist Train operation from near the Marcelo Sugar Mill to Remedios. The day I rode there were a number of other Canadians aboard and I believe the ride was included as part of their tour package. (I had search out the train with the help of the concierge at our resort) Also aboard were several Europeans. Riding the antique cars wasn’t much different than a steam train ride at home.


And for the aircraft afficionado......I had hoped our Cubana flight would have been on the Ilushin-96 wide-body like last year but they were now operating A-320s....... And our routing was direct: Toronto-Havana through US airspace.

  by David Benton
thanks for that Tim .
Would love to hear more about how you found Cuba in general .
such info i beleieve , is perfectably acceptable in this forum , being moregeared to the whole travel experience , than to just the railroad specifics .
  by Gilbert B Norman
....out there.

At this time who knows if the reported "Fidel sightings' are in fact "the man" or if they are simply a 'double'. If he's gone sooner or later, the Cuban government will have to own up, lest they be 'exposed" to the world on You Tube or Twitter. The "Cuba libre' South Florida constituency is dying off......their children, and especially grandchildren, are all comfortably assimilated into American society; if they even know Spanish, they have learned it as a second language.

Now there are reports that President Obama, after having relaxed both currency and travel controls imposed by the Bush administration, clearly wants to open doors with Cuban government - that they are "Communist' is notwithstanding. After all, Rush, Glen, Sean, and now again Sara, all need something about which to rant.

Prediction; if Obama is re-elected to a second term, there will be normal trade and diplomatic relations with the Cuba before he leaves office.

If one wants an excellently prepared, well photographed, article on contemporary Cuban railroading, be sure to dig out your copy of Volume 66 Number three NRHS National Railway Bulletin issued during 2003. The author went on a then-legal rail study tour. With a 700 mile line haul from Havana to Santiago and a paucity of other transportation available, such represents likely the only place in the Western Hemisphere in which Long Distance rail travel provides a meaningful transportation resource. To say the least a rail travel experience there sounds 'gritty', but to the adventuresome, I'm sure a "bumper to bumper' journey in hand me down French or Mexican Coaches (no Sleepers or Diners anymore; too bourgeois) would be quite "sport'. Local services, according to the article, are provided in Coaches made from scrapped bus bodies mounted atop Flat Cars.

However, when US investment again is made in the Cuban economy, what will happen to the railroads? Will a dictum of no passenger trains be handed down such as was by the KCS and UP in Mexico, or will there be a "Cubatrak', in recognition that it will be many, many years before domestic air transport is available to the average Cuban.

When would a system of controlled access highways (Interstates) be built? Possibly never, as someone in the Central Government, freely elected or otherwise, may look at the emerging Eastern European and Asian economies and say "we don't need this".

Maybe, just maybe, I'll set foot on Cuban soil in this lifetime.

Addendum; April 18:

  by Gilbert B Norman
Today's New York Times Travel Section has an article titled "45 Places to Go in 2012":

http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/tr ... -2012.html

Brief passage:

  • Havana, Cuba

    The Cuban capital is once again within Americans’ reach.

    The only thing that lies between Americans and the sultry streets of Havana these days is the Florida Straits, since the Obama administration has widened the kind of travel allowed. A growing list of organizations have licenses to operate trips to Cuba, including National Geographic Expeditions, Austin-Lehman and the Center for Cuban Studies. There are also more flights from more American cities: Fort Lauderdale and Tampa recently joined New York, Miami and Los Angeles on the list, and Chicago will be added this year.

    The “people-to-people” rules require Americans to interact with Cubans (sun-and-sand vacations are still prohibited) so tours involve meeting with art historians, organic farmers and others. Conveniently, new restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts, some in gorgeous colonial villas, have sprung up over the past year as the government has allowed more private enterprise. Havana is also gearing up for its 11th Biennial, from May 11 to June 11, which will draw more than 100 Cuban and international artists.
Somebody out there must be plannng rail study tours, as such would clearly be within the scope of guidelines set forth.

Thoughts anyone?
  by george matthews
No problem for Europeans. We would fly via Spain.
Here are some details on Cuban trains

I doubt if Cubans will be happy to see American "investment" back.
We’re off to Cuba next month for Spring Break and I’m wondering if anyone has current info on what to see for railroading in the Santa Clara area. Don’t think we will be taking the train into Havana but may rent a car for a day and do some railfanning.

And for the “Plane-Fan”......Our flight down is on a scheduled Cubana flight from Halifax to Santa Maria but a bit of a disappointment here......I was hoping for “Russian Metal”......Perhaps one of the new TU-204s but it looks like it will be an Airbus A320.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Soon enough the last of the "Battistites" living in "swing state" Florida will meet their maker, then we Americans will be able join you on a railroad tour.

Obviously the French has no barriers to trading with Fidel; case in point - your scheduled aricraft.

It will be interesting to learn if you are routed over US airspace. I can recall a 1967 round trip VVTS-VTBD; going was on Air Vietnam who had no issues overflying Cambodia. However for the return, Thai Airways had their "issues', Therefore the Thai flight was routed over water bypassing Cambodian airspace (aircraft on both were SudCaravelle)
Gilbert B Norman wrote:It will be interesting to learn if you are routed over US airspace.......
We’re certainly getting a bit off-topic but my flight on Cubana from Halifax: CYHZ-MUSC will be far enough east that it will not transit US airspace:

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/CUB1 ... /CYHZ/MUSC

But Cubana flights to Toronto YYZ and Montreal YUL do overfly the US….an example:

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/CUB1 ... /CYUL/MUHA

What may surprise you are the number of flights between the US and Cuba each day. Here’s the arr/dep screen at Havana (you may have to page through) but look at the arrivals just from Miami including flights on American, and American Eagle.


And the arrivals/departures screen at smaller regional Cuban Airports (here's Varadero for example)……you’d almost thing you were in Canada from the variety of Canadian cities with direct service such as Moncton, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay besides the usual Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal including a '767 from Vancouver.


......now back to trains. Does anyone have current Cuban railfan info? Thanks.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Looks like I just might see the place in this lifetime; must wonder how quickly a major US brand hotel chain will have properties on the island.
  by philipmartin
Why should Cuba change when Fidel and Raul are gone? Their minions will still be there, running the island with an iron fist. Ask the folks in the gulags there.