Rafael Freyre (Mill 635)


This sugar mill and railroad was built by the Sanchez family around 1882. Incorporated in 1917 as the Santa Lucia Co., S.A. and known as the Central Santa Lucia. Operated in Santa Lucia, Oriente, Cuba with up to 148 km of track. This scenic line is known as the Rio Grande Southern of Cuba.

The eastern branch has been used the whole year round four public passenger traffic whilst the western line only saw freight trains during the zafra. There also used to be a branch to the northeast, connecting the mill to the port of Puerto Vita. But it closed a long time ago.

635 Rafael Freyre Index

Rafael Freyre ranks among the remaining gems of the world today. This is a traditional narrow gauge (2’6") industrial railway operating a delightful fleet of classic American 2-8-0s in an extremely photogenic area. Additional pluses are the occurrence of non-mechanised Lps (cuchos) in many places and ‘real’ cowboys. Although it is remote from all other major steam mills, few visitors resist the temptation to make the trek down the island. Indeed some have been known to spend an entire 2 week vacation on this system. The only downside are that the roads in the area are poor and that it seems to occupy its own little ecosystem which produces more cloud and rain than elsewhere during the sugar season.

There are 3 principal lines in use and locos are usually turned so as to be smokebox first to the mill. One runs north to the port on the coast. The only regular traffic on it seems to be oil tankers (and enthusiasts’ specials with 1). The second line runs past a LP just west of the mill to the north of the village of Fray Benito to Potrerillo to the LP at Purial (with a recently restored southerly branchnear the end). Traditionally this line sees 2 morning trains (hopefully at least one of them steam) when the light is at its best for this part of the system. The climb up the bank from Purial is such that the trains usually come up in 2 parts and there are good photo spots on this climb.

The object of most people’s attention though is the east line into the hills. There are several branches to the south and such are the roads that locos can seemingly vanish into black holes for hours on end. To complicate matters in 1997, new LPs have been built at Barjay village and between Altuna and Progresso. At the far end of the system (Uvila and Latour LPs) there are attractive climbs and hills from which to view them. The LP near Progresso (Princesa) is less photogenic but the nearby Hondura branch from La Vega contains some photographic gems (locos propel in and haul out here giving double the photo opportunities). The climb on from La Vega to Altuna is steeper than it appears and again locos often split their trains in two. There is a branch from here to Jobal. There is a further LP at Luciano and a long branch to Teche LP before the line reaches Barjay - the view from the top of the nearby hill to the west of the village is probably the best on the island. Conventional wisdom says that you should find your train and stick with it - sitting waiting for the ‘Barjay curve’ shot can give you nothing more than a sun tan as 1997 saw at least an average amount of long waits, derailments and breakdowns although unlike 1996 there were few reports of diesels penetrating far on the east line. There is a map in WS 96/6.

1385, 1386, 1388, 1389, 1390 in use
1387 spare
1 (1180) spare for enthusiast specials

In 2004 the mill was being dismantled. Steam engines 1388 and 1180 were workable and could be hired for charter trains (100 USD minimum incl. 10km, add. km +20 USD). Apart from the tourist steam trains, the public passenger trains on the eastern line ran again. For these services TU7 34058 with two tourist-style coaches and railcar 43 were used.

Old Santa Lucia now called Rafael Freyre Sugar Mill, closed but an embryonic museum project. (2008)

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No. 1180 (La Mambista)
Builder: Baldwin Locomotive Company, Philadelphia, USA. 6456 1882
Whyte: 0-6-0 2ft 6in
User: 635 Rafael Freyre Sugar Mill
Location: old park next to main railway terminus, Havana, Cuba
Status: Display
Date: 10/2007



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im Dezember 2008 immer noch bei Rafael Freyre
1180 0-6-0 Baldwin, 1882, CN 6456 760mm

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1388 2-6-0 Baldwin


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Rafael Freyre (Mill 635)

    Zustand des Werkes im Dezember 2008 
Bilder aufgenommen von Marcel Brunner

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