This will probably be our last tour into a fascinating, tropical country. Steam is running on its very last leg and it is even difficult to charter authentic steam trains now. In addition, the old railcars are in a critical technical shape. It's a risk to send them on a long line in their current condition, no-one can guarantee that the last repair will stand a long ride.
Cuba is partly a return in the 1950ies. Inhale the atmosphere of old styled, American trains, American cars, world famous cigars and rum and the wonderful music.
We have organised steam charters on the state railway and sugar mill lines, a charter event on the electrified Hershey Railway and visits to state railway depots and workshops.
This tour is replacing Eritrea which had to be cancelled due to travel warnings caused by the risk of another border war with Ethiopia. The tour was originally designed for a Belgium railfan club. Now they agreed to open it to the public.
|18.03.||Morning Departure from Europe to Havana or Varadero. Arrival late afternoon in Cuba. Transfer to our (four star) Hotel Riviera.|
|19.03||If the ex TEE train from Santiago is running and not delayed, we'll watch (and photograph) it's arrival in Havana before we go by charter bus to Santa Clara. On the way to Santa Clara, we stop to visit Rene Fraga sugar mill where the last regular steam locomotive of Cuba is working. In Santa Clara, we will spend some time in the interesting railway station to photograph regular diesel trains and railcars. Santa Clara Motel Los Caneyes (three star).|
|20.03.||Departure in the morning to chase the bi-weekly passenger train Santa Clara-Santiago de Cuba hauled by a Russian diesel locomotive TE114. The railway cars are ex DB (German Railways). We will be able to take several good pictures of that train on the way to Santiago. We will probably see some other trains on the line too. Late arrival in Santiago. Hotel Melia Santiago (five star).|
|21.03.||Before we leave we'll watch the ex TEE train arriving this morning in Santiago de Cuba from La Habana. If train is running, we will take several pictures of that train close to Santiago (great countryside). Transfer by bus to Guantanamo. A special charter train with an old Brill railcar built in the 1950ties will be ready for us early afternoon in Guantanamo. A great ride with special runpasts all the way to Santiago with plenty of viaducts and high bridges. Hotel Melia Santiago (five star).|
|22.03.||In the morning we have another chance to see the ex TEE train in and around Santiago (if running). Today a steam charter is planned from the station of El Cristo (25 Km North of Santiago) to Palma Soriano. The steam locomotive will be the 2-8-0 1590 or the 2-6-0 1464. The line is beautiful with great countryside and some high viaducts. We've planned several runpasts. We'll continue by charter bus to Ciego de Avila. Hotel Ciego de Avila (three star).|
|23.03.||In the morning we'll visit the interesting station of Ciego de Avila. We'll continue by charter bus to Moron. Steam hauled charter train (locomotive from the Central "Patria o Muerte") for about two hours. Several runpasts are planned. Late morning we'll visit the Moron depot and workshop, where several Budd railcars are dumped, some are serviceable. On the way back to Ciego de Avila we'll chase an interesting passenger diesel hauled train, in the evening continue to Santa Clara. Santa Clara Motel Los Caneyes (three stars).|
|24.03.||We'll leave Santa Clara with a chartered railcar (Budd or other) to Caibarien. On the very scenic line we've planned some runpasts. In Caibarien we'll have two steam charters with two different compositions. The first charter from Caibarien station to Marcelo Salado sugar mill is with a 2-8-0 or 4-6-0 steam locomotive and the second with a 2-6-2 saddletank locomotive from Marcelo Salado to Remedios. Our Budd (or other railcar) will pick us up in Remedios for the run back to Santa Clara. Once in Santa Clara we'll go directly to our beach hotel Playa de Oro (All Inclusive four star) in Varadero.|
|25.03.||We'll leave Varadero and the beaches mid morning to Matanzas. There a 750 V Hershey electric Catalona train is waiting for our group to run to Hershey (Central Camilo Cienfuegos). Plenty of runpasts are planned. In Camilo Cienfuegos we'll visit the railway shed and workshop. After the visit we have a ride by a Brill GE electric railcar to Caraballo and return to Hershey. Our last trip to La Habana Casablanca will be with a freight train hauled by a GE Box electric built in 1920 (number 20 803 or 20 808) and two GE electric railcars (3008 and 3009). We'll make runpasts with our fright train (the railcars will be separated from the train and hidden). We expect an evening arrival in Havana Casablanca station. Transfer to our Hotel Riviera (four star).|
|26.03.||Free Day in Havana to discover the old colonial city. If the ex TEE train is arriving this morning in Havana from Santiago de Cuba we have another chance to take pictures of this historical train. If you're interested you may join us on our visit to the workshops of Cienaga. In the afternoon (17 hrs) transfer to the airport for the flight back to Europe.|
|27.03.||Late morning arrival in Europe.|
Please check our recent trip reports and galleries to get an impression of the lines (and the country). We are travelling on the lines in the best light (if sunshine but there is no guarantee of sunshine of course!). The selected lines are mostly very beautiful and offer good photographic potential. On the Hershey railway bushes often prevent a clear view, but there are plenty of lovely positions and motives to be found. If a steam charter isn't operational by any reasons we'll do everything we can to replace it by another charter train.
Cuba is a very nice holiday destination for those who want to relax or just travel around and enjoy the colonial style cities and villages. If your interest is railways, things are a bit different. The use of steam is almost over (only a single locomotive left!), the once mighty MINAZ (Ministry of Sugar) was split up into several divisions, so arranging visits to depots and workshops requires good connections and no-one can guarantee anything. All the railway equipment has had to operate with a minimum of maintenance for a long time. So it is not certain that every railcar and every steam locomotive will perform well. Improvising is a main part of the Cuban life, and you should keep cool when we have to wait for any reason.
This is a relaxed tour with good to superb hotels. Air conditioning is available nearly everywhere, but do you really want to destroy the Caribbean ambience by using such a device? As the railways are not reliable in time keeping or running trains we are using a (luxury) bus to cover long distances. Do not forget a pullover, air conditioners in restaurants could be a bit too cold.
The electricity on Cuba is 220 Volts, sometimes 110 Volts/50 Hz. Electricity is available nearly 100% of the time. Anyhow, a good torch or a candle should be packed in your luggage. There is no Malaria risk on Cuba. The health situation is good and you do not need special vaccinations or tablet. If you need to take any special medications, please bring them with you from your home.
The economic situation on Cuba is difficult. For tourist nearly everything is available, but for the local people it's difficult to survive. The monthly income is in between 8 and 15 Dollars (the latter for medical doctors). So you can imagine that people appreciate any help such as a bar of soup, a pen, and for children chewing gum. Such small presents are highly appreciated and can easily get you in contact to the very friendly people.
We can book flights and hotels for an extension if you like. Please let us know which standard of hotel you prefer, which location and the dates you want to stay there.
Later registrations will be accepted if flights and hotels are still available. If you’re not sure whether you can participate or not, please let us know your interest well in advance so that we can hold a place for you.
|Steam and Ancient Railcars on Cuba||from 5 participants||2.190 Euro|
|18. - 27.3.2006||Single Room Supplement||227 Euro|
The Belgium Group of rail fans mentioned above made a block booking in advance. We're unable to offer you their price. Instead we have included the visa ("tourist card") and the VAT.
Land only: Please reduce 610 Euro from the overall price.
Minimum number of participants: 5
Maximum number of participants: 40
The price includes:
Not included are: