• 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
At present, there is no regional topic thread here at the site covering Latin America, so here goes. Should any other Moderator visit here and believe this belongs at his Forum, you are welcome to arrange with the webmaster to move this material.

To topic:

Anyone having seen the NRHS Bulletin Vol 68 #3 will note the thoroughly professional article regarding contemporary rail travel in Cuba. I've never been there (I was 18 when Fidel came to town).

Obviously, it is not a case of whether the USA and Cuba will again enjoy normal trade relations, but when. A read of this article (the author apparently went on a sanctioned "Study Tour") will make many want to go. The island is a "paradise" of vintage US rail (automotive as well) equipment, that they have somehow kept running with a little "Yanqui" ingenuity.

When trade resumes (lest we forget, tourism constitutes trade - an import for the visitors, an export for the hosts), I can only hope that efforts will be made for proper preservation of the unique equipment described in detail in the NRHS Bulletin article.

A worthwhile read. :)

  by David Benton
Whilst i once contemplated a side trip to cuba , on the way from Mexico to South america , the paperwork etc , even for a non USA citizen was too daunting .
However recently , i did see on Tv , an episode of a BBc program , Great railway journeys of the world , set in Cuba .
Whilst fascinating , most of the trips he tried to make either arrived horrendously late , or didnt make it due to equipment failure .
Gilberts description above , of antiquated trains and cars certainly looked accurate , and it would be fascinating to anyone who wanted a trip back down memory lane .

  by CarterB
I would be interested in knowing if VIA #6109 Budd RDC-1 to Regor (Cuba), 1998 which was originally the one and only RDC on the C&EI still exists and/or running in Cuba?
  by Gilbert B Norman
The second installment appearing in issue #4 of the NRHS Bulletin should be in Member's hands by now.

Apparently, "the window' for travel to Cuba has been shut (gotta get that "swing state" Florida vote); I still believe it is a case of "when, not whether" (the Battistites in South Fla sooner or later will be "six feet under"), and I can only hope that aggressive efforts will be made to preserve this collection of equipment that has been held together long after its economic life has expired with "chewing gum, bailing wire, and maybe duct tape".

Mr. Morris' avatar above of Illinois Terminal equipment (guess what, that even predates me) is representative of what Cubans are paying fares on which to ride today.

  by fglk
The Trains did a nice bit on the railways in Cuba I have that copy some where not sure where it is but will bt the month and year for everyone if I can find it.
  by Gilbert B Norman
January 1959 TRAINS contains a feature length article on the Hershey Cuban Railway (FCdeH), an interurban line owned back then by "guess who"?

Of interest is the disclaimer appearing therewith:

  • "Much as we like to promote world-wide appreciation of all things railroad, we would advise double-checking the rebel situation in Cuba before taking off to explore the exotic Hershey Cuban operations..."
Often we have heard about the "TRAINS jinx" best exemplified by the "We have no intention of getting out of the passenger business" statement in a November 1967 TRAINS that hit the newsstands when Kansas City Southern had petitioned to do just that. As I recall, Fidel Castro came to power on New Years Day 1959, and the 45 year and counting "silly charade" instigated by THE US started.

But as noted earlier, Florida IS a swing state....again!!!!
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Fri Jan 14, 2005 7:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  by Noel Weaver
This is a little bit of a tender subject with me.
I believe the blockcade is ridiculous and accomplishes nothing. It simply is a way of taking away our supposedly "freedom to travel".
Unfortunately, if Fidel Castro goes out of power in our lifetime, our ability
to see and photograph some of the vintage trains will go away too.
Cuba has enough common sense to build up their railroad system as best
they can with what they have to work with. I'll bet they would love to buy
equipment, supplies etc from us if it were possible and if they did, it could
help keep Americans working too.
If they had access to equipment and supplies, I would bet that you would
see fast, frequent and on time passenger trains all over the place.
The NRHS Bulletin that covers the present day operations is a gem to
read and worth the price of membership alone.
Unfortunately, with or without Castro, steam is nearing the end so far as
the sugar cane mills are concerned. I think they will keep some of them
as tourist attractions.
We have a lot of Cubans around here and I know a few of them. Many of
them do not even support the blockcade of their homeland.
Noel Weaver

  by Rich T
RDC 6109 is now 2302 and was at the Moron shops on 14Mar02.
  by CPRTim
We’re going to Cuba next month on vacation. My wife plans to spend her time on the beach but I would like to get some railfanning in!

Does anyone have any information on current rail operations? I found this link but there’s nothing about any steam operations that may still exist.


From the article it looks like they have an xSNCF (France) stainless steel consist in service. A long overnight run but no sleeping cars. Also xVIA Rail RDCs. And I’ve heard there are MLW (Alco) locomotives operating.

We are staying at a resort near Holguin. A couple of friends were in Cienfuegos last year and mentioned to the Hotel concierge they liked trains. Well he knew someone.......who knew someone......and they ended up at the local rail yard. The trainmaster couldn’t do enough for them, even spotted equipment so they could get better photos!.

Any information would be appreciated. Thanks.
  by Gilbert B Norman
The continuing trade embargo initiated by the US against Cuba is simply absurd. Unfortunately, so long as there is a coalition of conservative Cuban-Americans who have "done well'and have integrated themselves into the political structure of a "swing state"(anyone wanna' bet FL will be same in '08???), I'm afraid that (pre-9/11 lest we forget) horrid image of a "Federal Agent" pointing a six shooter at a scared little kid is going to signify relations where "people to people' there is little animosity at all.

Enjoy your trip, Mr. CPTim.

I know a US Citizen who was able to go on a (not rail related) "study tour" about two years ago, but I understand even that "gate" is now closed. He reported to me that the people could not have been more warm and friendly.

  by Rich T
My March 02 trip was licensed by the OFAC as a history and study tour, and departed Miami directly to Jose Marte airport aboard American Eagle.
Other than a small amount of propaganda early on our guides couldn't have been more accomodating, as was the general population.
A friend and I stopped by Cienfuegos station on our own and we also were allowed access to the platforms and engine terminal.
As usual with political actions the local people suffer, and it was difficult to have people ask for items such as soap or a pen for a grandchild in school.

  by David Benton
there is a bit of discussion in the worldwide forum on Cuba as well , which may be of use .

  by Gilbert B Norman
Interesting, Mr. RichT.

That a US Flagged carrier, American Eagle, was even permitted to carry "approach plates" for UHA astounds me. But then, perhaps all hope is not lost for a someday "normalization".

But, nonsense still prevails in the sky. Having "been there done that", to fly MIA-MBJ on JM (translate; Miami-Montego Bay on Air Jamacia), that flight is routed directly over Cuba, no doubt utilizing their NAVAIDS. However, I understand that American Eagle, apparently the predominant US carrier in the region, flying that same route, must file a flight plan completely away from Cuban air space, and cannot use, absent emergency, any of their NAVAIDS.

I'm of course a US citizen, and proud to be one. But really, children, must we continue these schoolyard games (even though I don't think the Elian Gonzales matter was any Game; it was a nearly violent example of bureauracy run amok), and in the process loose a great opportunity to view a "time warp" in railroad history????

  by Ken W2KB
That's very interesting, particularly concerning not using the navaids. Would that also apply to US general aviation as well? Have to check to see if there are any notams or regs on that. I suspect, as you say, carrying the approach plates might be for emergency use. May be all carriers operating in the Carribean carry the info just in case?

  by Gilbert B Norman
Oh well, Mr. Ken, hopefully Mr Benton will allow this off topic diversion. After all, if any of our other than US-National Members are contemplating a visit to Cuba, the only reasonable and practical way they will get there is by air transport.

The only thing I positively know is that I have been on a JM MIA-MBJ that flew over Cuba, such was announced by an FO. Anything else is "spec" on my part, but it would be interesting to learn if Cuba exists in FAA issued NOTAMS for the region, and that the frequencies of their NAVAIDS, such as VOR and ADF are public knowledge.

Related, I have learned that in an emergency, US yachtsmen have put ashore there in the past without incident. However, once the emergency had been addressed, it was "vamanos amigo".

Oh, hugs and kisses to Jeff; my now-deceased Newfoundland knew how to drive - have a photo of him so doing.