Havana’s workshop for steam locomotives, an open-air curiosity that in recent years has attracted a stream of tourists and experts, will disappear in a few months after reaching its goal of restoring 40 engines, constructed between 1878 and 1925, as a tribute to the history of Cuba and its unique heritage.
Since 2007, the old-time locomotives had been filling up a plot of land at the back of the National Capitol, where a small team has worked at restoring them without publicity, so that many believed the workshop was just a railroad “cemetery” or “Jurassic park.”
“They were brought from many corners of Cuba, where there is a sentimental relationship with these trains. Their history is entwined with the history of sugar, which in turn is the history of the Cuban people,” Ariel Causa, one of the leaders of the project, told Efe.
Causa works for the Havana Historian’s Office, the agency that decided to restore, with a view to exhibiting them publicly as a tourist attraction, a total of 40 steam locomotives from among the more than 200 on the island, which have been considered a national heritage since 2004.
Now, if all goes as planned, reparations to complete this particular collection will be finished by the end of the year.
At least seven of the engines date back to the 19th century and one of them, the oldest, began operating in 1878 and kept rolling down the line for 127 years.
Two of the trains were made in Germany while the rest were built in the 19th century by American manufacturers such as Baldwin Locomotives and Rogers Locomotives Works, and were used by the sugar industry or for public transport during the railroad’s years of glory in Cuba.
In 1837, the island became the first Ibero-American country to have a railroad. EFE