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Theres People Waiting there

By Leon Carpenter,2014-06-28 19:34
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Theres People Waiting there ...

    thSaturday 25 April’98 Time for a new destination, Craig Ryan, Nigel Pearson and myself meet up at Gatwick for the Cubana

    DC10 flight to Habana, which involved a routing via Bruxelles! First mystery of the trip was the flight

    numbers, shown as CU400 from Habana to Habana, via London and Bruxelles, however the pilot

    announced us as CU401 once we departed from Bruxelles. A very long flight, aggravated by drunken

    Belgians, and being close to the smoking rows, very glad to land finally at 23:50 local time. Took about

    thirty minutes to clear the customs formalities, then a mini bus to the Hotel in town centre. Had expected

    to be met by, or have some form of contact from British Steam enthusiasts who were wanting to promote

    Diesel enthusiasts to Cuba, no sign of them or any info from them. So we were on our own!

    London Gatwick 15.30 F-ODLY CU400 15.30 London Gatwick Habana José Marti 8110km

    Habana José Marti 23.50

    thSunday 26 April’98 No time to waste, so we leave the Hotel and walk to the Central station, eventually we discover how to

    buy tickets (being tourists we had to buy ours in US $), but were still expected to sit in same basic coaches

    as everyone else. Our first train was the 09:20 to Sancti Spiritus, which finally pulled out at 12:10, we had

    MLW MX624 52442 on the front of load eight, and soon after departure we moved forward to front

    coach for the excellent loud thrash, all coaches had sliding opening windows by the seats! Our intended

    move had been to cross Matanzas by Taxi and return on the Hershey Electric line, but as we made train 2

    coming in very late, and were getting to like the Diesel’s we came back the same route. The line was very good condition track, superb green vegetation, lots of Palm trees, and numerous massive Turkey Vultures

    were seen circling above in the sky. Just after leaving Matanzas on our return (we left eleven hours late!)

    with MLW 52405 on load thirteen, we got looped for one of the Big Kolomna 62600’s to pass on train 5,

    it was really screaming in old “German DR132” style! Twenty seven kilometres short of Habana we got

    looped at Campo Florido for over two hours for train 1 to head west, another MLW on load thirteen,

    making lots of noise. We finally pulled in to Habana at about 19:45, on the booked 07:05 arrival! We

    walked back to Hotel for an excellent meal, before some sleep.

    Habana Central 09.20 FC 52442 7 09.20 Habana Central Sancti Spiritus 90km

    Matanzas 11.08 05.27 FC 52405 2 16.35 Santiago de Cuba Habana Central 90km

    Habana Central 07.05 (Actual 19.45!)

    thMonday 27 April’98 We start by going to Cristina station to check out some possible suburban services, we find a service to

    Santiago de Las Vegas, which passes the Airport en route. Firstly we ask if we can go on platform to take

    some photos of a couple of Soviet built Diesel types in station area, and are taken through barriers. Once

    through we realise we are opposite the “Revolution de Octobre” shed, with a reasonable variety of power

    on shed. We are taken inside and given a guided tour, luckily managing to leave our bags in the offices, as

    by then the temperature and humidity were soaring! We find both an M62-K and the TE114K types

    amongst others, and get a good selection of pictures. Once back at the station we take the 10:30 departure

    down the branch, hauled by one of the “Bryansk” built TGM-2K types, 71059 on four box cars, converted

    into passenger coaches, with longitudinal bench seats, for fresh air we had all windows wide open, or

    climbed on side of loco! Just after Cristina we ran parallel with the line from Central and are over taken by

    M62-K 61612 on an unidentified train (later discovered as train 15). Ran parallel to the park tourist

    Railway before the Airport, and once at the terminus, ran round and returned to Habana. We took a taxi to

    the Central station, and get tickets for Express No.1 to Santiago de Cuba, MLW 52436 is the power on

    load fourteen, we are in seats towards the rear, after departure I ask if we can move forward, and are told

    we are welcome. At Campo Florido we find our MLW has suffered with a broken window (repaired by a

    sheet of wood), this was followed shortly afterwards by a burst air pipe! At Matanzas we have a lengthy

    stop while handcuffed youths are removed from the air conditioned coach at the front, we meanwhile

    continue to swelter in the seats! No lights in any of the train, but at least we can hear the quality and loud

    power, as we storm down the quite good quality main line track.

Habana Cristina 10.30 FC 71059 539 10.30 Habana Cristina Santiago de Las Vegas 22km

    Santiago de Las Vegas 11.51 12.39 FC 71059 542 12.39 Santiago de Las Vegas Habana Cristina 22km

    Habana Cristina/Central 13.57 16.25 FC 52436 1 16.25 Habana CentralSantiago de Cuba 828km

    thTuesday 28 April’98 Managed some sleep during the long night, but we would certainly have appreciated the air conditioned

    stock that should have been on the train for our use. Managed to see the last couple of hours of the

    journey in daylight, a spectacular descent into Santiago de Cuba though a lush green area. We arrive at the

    huge new station, (which took twelve years to build), and are told by the “Caretaker” that we cannot take

    photos in the station. He then sticks to us like glue, and takes us to the old station, and then attempt to get

    to the depot, we get refused. Nigel has a close shave with some youth trying to do a runner with his wallet

    and passport, finally we have had enough, the temperatures were soaring, we took a taxi into the centre of

    town and settled down in a decent air conditioned hotel. Our next move was to be the 05:25 local train to

    Manzanillo to put us in position to head back towards Habana via a different route. We thoroughly

    enjoyed the excellent hotel, had an excellent meal, and an early night.

    Santiago de Cuba 07.05

    thWednesday 29 April’98

    Up at 04:15 to head to station for 05:25 local train to Manzanillo, the receptionist arranged transport from

    another hotel, which never appeared, ended up with a private fast car. We should have been met by the

    contact we had spoken to the previous day, but he never appeared, we had paid him to get us a timetable

    and got nothing! The local train was a G8 General Motors Bo-Bo 900hp Diesel, three heavyweight ex

    American coaches (probably dating from the 1920’s) were at the front, and two ex RENFE (Spanish)

    coaches were on the rear. The ride in the ex US coaches in the metal bucket seats was awful. The track

    past Bayamo was as bad as the suspension, which led to a terrible ride in the stock, we stayed on the track,

    somehow! The G8 returned a couple of hours after our arrival, and went back to Bayamo, by this time we

    had found out that our next train (Express No.4) did not run on this day in this direction. At Bayamo we

    find only horses and carts, but a few phone calls later we had arranged a taxi to Cacocum to pick up train

    2. This worked fine, and a new MLW on the front in the form of 52430, we had a dead Russian built

    TE114K inside, this was removed during the night. We were in second coach from front, 52430 was very

    similar to the Greek A-456 loco, with quite a fierce transition between the phases on the traction motors,

    which was good to sample, it did not match the volume of it though!

    Santiago do Cuba 05.25 FC 50911 408 05.25 Santiago de Cuba Manzanillo 185km

    Manzanillo 11.30 14.10 FC 50911 407 14.10 Manzanillo Santiago de Cuba 55km

    Bayamo / Cacocum 15.55 19.06 FC 52430 2 16.35 Santiago de Cuba Habana Central 443km

    thThursday 30 April’98 Stupidly we had decided to get off at Santa Clara to cover some of the lines radiating from there, luckily

    we arrived at about 04:15 (instead of 02:57), after studying departure info the only train of use to us was

    the 07:33 to Cienfuegos. We found out at about 06:30 that this was cancelled due to no loco being

    available! A trip to the depot was fruitless as we did not have written permission to get in. As we had a

    Motel booked, we gave up with the idea of any more rail travel, and took a taxi there. We had an excellent

    breakfast, before getting keys to our rooms, luckily I went straight for a shower, as immediately afterwards

    all water supply to the complex was lost! The complex was a series of thatch roofed buildings, and was

    fenced off in a large country park area. After an evening meal we are fascinated by the incredible “Firefly”

    insects flying around, which have an appearance of a small and powerful light bulb.

    Santa Clara 02.57

    stFriday 1 May’98 We leave the Motel (which Craig had called a “Prison Camp”, due to the surrounding metal fence, which a

    passing member of the restaurant staff had obviously fully understood!) take a taxi to the station via a very stdubious route as the normal route was closed to due the May 1 parade, we appeared to drive though the

middle a rubbish tip, (Craig says Cuba is a rubbish tip!). Get tickets issued easily for train 4 to Habana, it

    amazes us when it pulls in only six minutes late, easily swap our reservations so we can sit behind 52432 as

    we sample a further 286km of MLW power. We lost a bit of time en route, but on arrival at Compo

    Florido we get heavily delayed by a broken rail ahead. Eventually we head off, and then manage to split a

    set of points as we start to enter the suburbs of Habana, this gives us a bigger delay. We finally arrive at

    17:15, just under four hours late, after another hot humid day on the train, we have all had enough and go

    for a Hotel again, (we used the Plaza, as the Inglaterra was full). After freshening up, we take a taxi over

    to the Hershey Electric Railway station at Habana Casa Blanca. We were told the “new” ex Spanish

    EMU’s were now in use, therefore spoiling the classic old traction on this route. We took the ferry back

    across the river and returned to the hotel for a meal.

    Santa Clara 08.43 FC 52432 4 23.10 Bayamo Habana Central 286km

    Habana Central 13.20

    ndSaturday 2 May’98 We head for the Central station, to hope to find an 08:45 departure to Güines, there was no sign of it.

    Required MLW 52420 backs on train 7, so we get tickets and get in front coach, expecting a full day on

    the main line as we were determined to sample either one of the 526xx or 626xx Kolomna powered

    TE114K’s. Our plan was to head east to pick up Saturday nights train 6 which we were expecting 52639

    on. However the day was much improved when 62608 pulls in beside us at Campo Florido on Friday

    nights delayed train 6, we bailed quickly, on the ballast and scrambled on, much to the amazement of the

    locals who we had been sitting with! We walked through train to the front, the Kolomna music on load

    twelve was good, though as we had not seen silencers in them we had hoped they might have been louder.

    We were certainly pleased to get one to travel with though, and it meant our foul overnight would now no

    longer be necessary. Due to the late running (seven hours!), we went across main junction as if we were

    heading for Cristina suburban station (to avoid having to turn the stock round for its next departure), then

    a small ČKD built Bo-Bo (ex ČSD class 721) was put on rear to drag us into the Central station, via a

    curve with no passenger service, it struggled up the bridge to the station, pouring smoke into the sky! We

    then took a taxi over to Cristina station, find required TEM2-K 71062 on a local to Santiago de Las

    Vegas, take it to the Airport, and had hoped to relax there for a while. The only terminal close to us was

    closed, so we sat in the platform shelter for the return of the next service. The train got packed with

    dubious youths, a couple decide to climb onto the outside and try and grab Craig’s bag through the

    window as we leave a station, they stand no chance, and hopefully fall onto the track! This was the final

    straw, our planned over night to Pinar del Rio was caped, we decide it is just too risky to continue to do

    moves with our bags with us, and we retreat to the Hotel Inglaterra for our last two nights!

    Habana Central 09.20 FC 52420 7 09.20 Habana Central Sancti Spiritus 27km

    Campo Florido 10.00 03.50 FC 62608 6 13.50 Holguin Habana Central 25km

    Junction 11.25 11.30 FC 50704 6 13.50 Holguin Habana Central 2km

    Habana Central 04.30 13.05 FC 71062 541 13.05 Habana Cristina Santiago de Las Vegas 22km

    Santiago de Las Vegas 14.26 14.41 FC 71062 544 14.41 Santiago de Las Vegas Habana Cristina 2km

    Aeropuerto 14.46 16.46 FC 71059 546 16.41 Santiago de Las Vegas Habana Cristina 20km

    Habana Cristina 17.59

    rdSunday 3 May’98 Final full day we went down to the Central station to do the 09:20, which we had been told ran daily, we

    found this was incorrect, as it did not run. However, we found that train 15 was running, the 10:40 to

    Cienfuegos. We explained in the “Ladis” ticket office that we only wanted to go four kilometres with this

    train as we had no return train info. We were introduced to the train chief, he said there was no need for a

    ticket and would let us on. The loco was first one of the Cuban M62-K’s, 61601 - however it did not back

    on until about 12:00, we were then refused entry to platform so had to buy a $2 ticket for the short

    distance to Luyamo. We finally got away at 12:29 for the fifteen minute totter though the junction. We

    waited at Luyamo just over an hour for a local train back into Cristina station, as usual the two Bryansk

    built loco’s 71059 and 71062 are out on the locals. We take a taxi back to the hotel, for a late lunch and

    the cool of our rooms.

Habana Central 10.40 FC 61601 15 10.40 Habana Central Cienfuegos 4km

    Luyamo 10.55 13.45 FC 71059 542 12.41 Santiago de Las Vegas Habana Cristina 4km

    Habana Cristina 13.57

    thMonday 4 May’98 Certainly no moves today, just a taxi to the Cubana office to get our tickets altered for our earlier return to

    England, took a while to do, but once we got to the right desk it was quite simple. Got another taxi back

    to the hotel and put bags in a secure room at the hotel before meeting up with a friend who we had met

    earlier in the week on a train coming into Habana. We all went into the replica of the Capitol building, then

    down to the castle for some photos, kept stopping off in hotels en route to cool down from the sweltering

    sunshine. Return to the Inglaterra hotel for a sandwich and said farewell to our friend. Took a taxi direct to

    the impressive new terminal for our 20:25 departure, Craig saw an MLW go past the terminal on stock,

    had no idea what train our route it could have been on! Later we all saw another shunting the Cubana

    aviation fuel tank train in the same location. Got checked in, and then paid the rip off $20 departure tax,

    before the slow queue through customs, and thankfully onto a required DC-10 for the flight home. Once

    on the plane a distant thunderstorm decided to re-appear right on top of us, we sat in plane and viewed a

    tremendous display of thunder and lightening, and torrential rain, at one stage we even lost all the Airport

    lighting! We were given drinks, then the meal (whilst still on the ground). Then the bad news, we were told

    that a plane landing from Costa Rica had had an incident on the runway, (later discovered that despite

    being told not to land the pilot came in anyway and skidded his plane into the mud, and block runway!).

    We were all told to leave the plane, and return to the departure lounge. We find it partly flooded, and it

    suffered from power cuts, plunging us into total darkness a few times! Time marched on, and on, and on,

    finally after a mini revolt by BBC Radio DJ Andy Kershaw, arrangements were made to get things moving.

    thTuesday 5 May’98 We finally leave the departure lounge, have to queue up to get back through customs, and after loads of

    hanging around we start to disperse to local hotels in mini busses and taxi’s. Finally arrived at our hotel at

    05:05! Straight to sleep, woke about 10:30, just in time to miss breakfast. Manage a shower, but as all

    checked baggage was still on the plane, no chance of clean clothes! We get a convoy of buses back to the

    Airport at 13:00, for our new departure time of 16:00, we had to queue for new boarding cards. Then we

    take up seats in the departure lounge again, for the second time. The 16:00 departure time is suddenly

    changed to 18:00 on the TV screens, but no announcements or information were provided (as usual).

    Some of our passengers seek info, and point out that we had breakfast hours ago, it gets things moving,

    and we finally take off at 18:00, the vast majority of passengers very happy to be finally on the way, many

    now late for work!

    Habana José Marti 18.00 F-GTDG CU400 18.00 Habana José Marti London Gatwick 7493km

    thWednesday 6 May’98

    Finally make it back into the UK, landing at Gatwick just after 07:00, the three of us all make our separate

    ways as we head for home. London Gatwick 07.05

Summary

    Motive Power: Very good on the Locomotive side, the main two types on the passenger turns are the fifty MLW’s are with out a doubt the most popular and reliable in the FC fleet. Very similar body shell to the

    Greek A-501 MX636 class, but with the 12-251 ALCO engine. Second most popular with the crews are

    the TE114K 526xx and 626xx Russian built 2600hp Kolomna Locomotives, mechanically very similar to

    the German 232 family, but in a very strange body shell, full with cab at one end, and narrow body.

    The only other two types seen on passenger duties were the Russian built M62-K type, the same as the

    M62 type in Europe, and finally the small General Motors G8 type, little Bo-Bo Diesels, still going strong

    after over forty years.

    General Travel: Tourists must pay for tickets in US Dollars, therefore rail travel is by no means cheap,

    especially when compared to what the locals pay for the same journey. It would be more acceptable if you

    were to get some decent accommodation for this price. The Express’s 1 and 2 between Habana and

    Santiago de Cuba used to have some air conditioned stock, but this is not in regular use anymore. The

    stock on the main express’s is plastic seated opens, which is turned after each journey, all stock has

    opening windows, that normally close easily. The trains are well used, and reservations are issued, coach

    number one is always at the front, though if a van is on the train it is always at the front.

    Timetable: Very difficult to find out accurate information on trains, stations should have departure boards, but not all trains run daily, during the sugar cane season (usually from January - March), more

    trains are liable to cancellation. Some trains are cancelled at very short notice when there is no Loco to

    work a train, obviously this is more likely to happen to secondary trains rather than the fast trains.

    Security: The bad side of the Railways, a careful eye must be kept on your belongings, not only on trains, but basically anywhere otherwise it could be grabbed from you. On overnights the staff will tell you not to

    use luggage racks, keep bags by your feet. (There is no carriage lighting!). Try never to carry bags on the

    local trains in Habana, this is otherwise a glorified advert that you have something worth pinching!

    Hotels: It is much easier and cheaper to book hotels in advance of any visit, worth going for those used by the major tour operators.

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