B & R Video

A Cuban Steam Holiday (B&R 179)

Code: BR179
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The Ron Davies Collection

And now for something completely different from B & R: steam in Cuba in the 1990s!

Cuba, in the Caribbean, was one of the few countries in the world where large numbers of industrial steam locomotives could been seen in daily use into the late 1990s, well after steam traction had been eliminated in other parts of the world. The 1959 revolution resulted in the island spending little on the railways and they became a 'time warp' until further investment was available.

There are three gauges in use in Cuba: standard gauge, 3’ gauge and 2’6” gauge. Although steam power was eliminated from the main lines in the 1950s, it remained in use for many years on the sugar mill railways. These are used to transport cane from the collection points in the fields to the mills. In fact steam power can still be seen in parts of Cuba today, especially in the Spring during the sugar cane harvesting season.

Ron Davies visited the island on a number of occasions between 1995 and 1999 to record all this steam activity amid the breath taking tropical scenery. He used Super- 8mm cameras with the ability to record sound.

Some of the locomotives featured in this film were built at the beginning of the 20th. Century (some even earlier) from builders such as Alco, Baldwin, and Rogers. There are a variety of engines including 2-6-0s and 2-8-0s moving cane from the fields, whilst 0-4-0T, 2-4-2T, and other tank engines shunt cane wagons to the crusher. There is even footage of some very large fireless locos.

We see street running, shed scenes, multiple gauge railway level crossings and many trains passing by at speed both loaded and empty. But witness the extremely poor state of the track; it’s a wonder they don’t derail! A very interesting film and a complete contrast to the UK scene.

The archive film used is in colour with its original sound track. An extensively researched commentary has been added.

Produced by - B & R Video Productions
Running time - 60 Minutes
DVD only
Released - 2013 

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