|TRAINS & TRAVEL|
P.O. BOX 312
PORTOLA, CALIFORNIA 96122
Chris@traintrips.biz Rail Tours Manager. For questions regarding tour itineraries and details.
1-800 359-4870 USA|
1-800 752-1836 CANADA
1-800 266-8751 FAX
We are pleased to be able to return to Cuba in 2012. For those of our clients that recall, we ran six railroad study tours to Cuba in 2002 & 2003 which were Historic educational tours approved by the US government. We would have continued to run tours to Cuba but the Bush Administration cancelled these educational tours to Cuba On December 31, 2003. We are now looking forward to getting back in Cuba.
This is a legal tour approved by the US government and run under license from the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The Travel Service Provider to Cuba is Vaya Sojourns, Inc of Walnut Creek, California.
This tour is an in depth photo and educational study of the cuban rail and transportation system and how it effects the Cuban culture. We will have two American guides on this tour and on certain days the group will be split for special itinerary programs such as the rail historians and the transportation/culture historians. On days that we have arranged charter trains all tour members will be onboard. On selective evenings we will have local Cuban railroad management and transportation experts present to the challenges they face keeping the wheels moving in this county without the help of American technology after the early 1950's.
Day 1 Saturday March 3: Depart Miami by private charter flight between 9am and 10am using an American owned airline. Arrival in Havana 45 minutes after departing Miami. Departure times can vary so you need to be flexible. Upon arrival in Havana transfer to our downtown hotel for check-in at the famous 5 star Nacional de Cuba Hotel. We will be at this hotel for the next 3 nights. Leisure free time in the afternoon to explore Havana. Once you step out of your hotel you will feel like you are in a time warp back to the 1950's with all of the American built automobiles still in operation. Perhaps you might like to catch a taxi and ride in the 1958 Chevy or Ford. The Cuban people are very proud of their American built cars. In the evening we will have a "Welcome to Cuba Dinner" and orientation on the Cuban rail and transportation system.
Day 2 Sunday March 4: In the morning we present to you a short a Havana city tour which will include a visit to the Central Train Station, with the opportunity to meet both Cuban Railroad management and employees. The station master will talk to us regarding the historical importance of the Central Train Station. You will be allowed to walk out on the station platforms and take unrestricted photos and observe the train movements. In the evening we will have a local Cuban rail historian give us important facts regarding railroads in Cuba and how it was built based on American standards and technology. He will also talk about the colorful history of the Cuban Rail System. You will also be able to ask questions. 2nd overnight Havana.
Day 3 Monday March 5: Departure by charter bus to the town of Hershey. Visit the vast electric workshops and all the installations for the Hershey Railroad. Management will give us a brief talk on how this workshop was built by the American company, Hershey, and why it was vital to the Hershey Chocolate empire. After our guided tour through the this workshop you will be turned loose on your own to explore the entire complex which takes in hundreds of acres. Unrestricted photography will be allowed. We then board our charter departing from the Hershey station with an electric pulled GE box cab. The American company General Electric built thousands of electric motors of which many were exported around the world. Cuba is one of the few remaining locations in the world where these historic electric motors still work. We will have a mixed train running on the Caraballo and Bainoa branch lines and then onto the mainline for the run to the Havana Casablanca station, with photo runby's and stops in historic towns along the route. The Havana Casablanca station is just across the Havana Bay from downtown. We then return to our hotel for a 3rd overnight in Havana
Day 4 Tuesday March 6: Transfer from downtown Havana back to the Casablancs station where we board our charter train for Hershey. The Havana Casablanca station is just across the Havana Bay from downtown. Our train will consist of two Brill electric railcars 3008 & 3009 constructed in 1920. At Hershey we board another charter with the two Brill built railcars Nos 3008 & 3009 and a GE electric locomotive for the run all the way to Matanzas at the end of the line. Photo run-bys will be made. Overnight lodging in the seaside resort city of Varadero at the 4 star Villa Cuba Hotel for two nights.
Day 5 Wednesday March 7: Transfer by charter bus to the nearby sugar mill "Jose Smith Comas", visit the old sugar mill that has a small steam museum and then board our charter train pulled by No. 1610, a baldwin 2-6-0 built in 1925, for a run over the system to the city of Cardenas. The station building is very original and classic Cuban-American. Please take note that Baldwin 1610 is undergoing some boiler repair work during the summer and fall of 2011 but is scheduled to be back in service by March 2012. Steam is still very important in keeping some of the sugar mills and plantations going and when the classic American built locomotives go down for repairs the entire sugar operations come to a halt. If it not we will spend another day on the Hershey rail network. Either way, we, return to Varadero Beach for a 2nd night.
Day 6 Thursday March 8: Free morning to relax or sleep in a bit at our beach front hotel. We depart at 10 :00AM by charter bus to Santa Clara. On the way to Santa Clara we will see some regular diesel trains along the route and will stop to photograph them. We then arrive at the sugar mill of Australia where we have another steam excursion running into the sugar plantation. After our charter we return to Santa Clara. We will have sometime to visit the city with some of the important attractions including the square of the Che, beautiful downtown plaza and some historical locations of the Cuban Revolution. We will also make a stop at the railway station and if permitted visit the dispatchers offices. Hotel Check-in at the 3 Star Hotel Los Caneyes for two nights. This hotel has managed to create its own unique Taino Village type resort nestled among the many eucalyptus, coconut and palm trees.
Day 7 Friday March 9: Just after breakfast, we depart by charter bus to the city of Caibarien and to the sugar mill of Marcelo Salado. After visiting the mill and the steam locomotives, we board yet another steam charter train pulled by No. 1549, an Alco 2-8-0 built in 1920 which will take us from Caibarien to Remedios and part way back to Santa Clara. Transfer by charter bus to our hotel in Santa Clara. In the evening we meet with local railroad officials to get a run down of running the Cuban Rail System in this part of the country.
Day 8 Saturday March 10: After, breakfast, we leave by charter bus to Moron via Ciego de Avila. we visit the Ciego de Avila Railway station, a unique station with the crossing of two mainlines right in the middle of the station platform. At Moron, the Cuban rail system has based most of the classic American built 1950's EMD's and some EMD diesels now fitted with Baldwin power plants. These engines still haul freight and passenger trains in all directions from this terminal. We hope to have the opportunity to visit the vast diesel shops where these classic American built diesels are maintained. We will spend sometime trackside photographing the Baldwins and EMD's between Ciego de Avila and Moron but also we have another steam charter out of the sugar mill of Patria . In the afternoon you will have a choice to ride the local passenger train pulled by a Baldwin diesel to Ciego de Avila or use our charter bus to follow this train for trackside photos. Then we depart for Camaguey by charter bus and check-in at the charming colonial Hotel Colon located downtown. This refined hotel was built in 1926 and boasts magnificent hand-worked precious woods and meticulous decorative design through out. Within a few blocks is one of Camagüey’s colonial-style main streets and historical center including From the hotel you have easy access to sites of tourist interest such as the Callejón Funda del Catre (Funda del Catre Alley), Cuba’s narrowest street and the Puerto Príncipe General Cemetary –founded in 1814.
Day 9 Sunday March 11: After breakfast, Morning hours to relax until 10.00 a.m. You will have part of the morning hours free to explore this very nice colonial city and the train station. We now travel to the far eastern end of Cuba at Santiago de Cuba. We will travel to Santiago de Cuba on our charter bus, but will be making a number of stops along the route to view the stations and catch some of the train traffic on the mainline. Our original plan was to ride the long distance train to Santiago de Cuba, but schedules have recently been changed and now the through train running eastbound from Havana travels at night and is known to run hours late. The westbound trains departing form Santiago de Cuba depart in the morning and early afternoon which gives us a much better opportunity to ride them. Arrival in Santiago de Cuba on our bus and check-in check-in at the 5 Star Melia Santiago Hotel for the next 3 nights.
Day 10 Monday March 12: Morning we present to you a short city tour before l visiting the station, railroad yards and workshop area and meet railroad management. After lunch we plan to travel on our charter bus to Guantanamo (Cuban side) and catch the 2 :00PM departure which should be a rare Brill Railcar for the return ride to Santiago de Cuba. Our bus will follow and you will have the option of switching off between riding the railcar and riding our bus for photos. We arrive back in Santiago de Cuba at around 6 :00PM. 2nd overnight in Santiago de Cuba.
Day 11 Tuesday March 13: We depart in the morning from Santiago de Cuba on our charter bus for the trip to the sugar mill of Barlotome Maso. Here we will have a steam pulled charter train waiting for us to board for a run into the sugar cane fields with photo run-bys. Locomotive No. 1590, an Alco 2-8-0 built in 1926 will pull our train. We then return to our hotel in Santiago de Cuba.
Day 12 Wednesday March 14: It is time to start working our way back westbound in the general direction of Havana. Our group will learn first hand today how the Cuban people deal with a long distance train journey in which many factors play a roll on the operation of such a train. You will have your choice to ride the long distance running to Camaguey or follow on our charter bus for photos. You will be able to switch between the train and bus during the course of the day. This train departs Santiago de Cuba at 8 :00AM and arrives in Camaguey at 4 :00PM. This gives you the opportunity to get to meet the local Cuban folks that depend on this train. Keep in mind that Cuban train schedules do change often and so we must be flexible. Also if this train becomes hours late we will transfer everyone to our bus to continue on to Camaguey. Check-in at the Hotel Colon.
Day 13 Thursday March 15: After breakfast, we leave Camaguey to Trinidad by charter bus. Upon arrival in Trinidad you will have time to visit this fantastic colonial city, considered one of the best in all of the Americas. Trinidad has a scheduled daily steam pulled excursion train which is used by tourist but often it is cancelled for a number of reasons including such items as no crude oil available, no engineer or worse yet a mechanical issue with the steam locomotive. This the way Cuban life is like and we must be flexible. Either way, this will give you a good experience on just how the Cuban rail system limps along from day to day. Around 5.00 p.m., we continue by charter bus to Cienfuegos and check-in check-in at 4 Star Jagua Hotel. After dinner we will check with the railroad about the Havana long distance train and will advise the group.
Day 14 Friday March 16: The twice a week train running between Cienfuegos and Havana can run any day of the week depending upon equipment availability. If it is running today the departure time is approximately 7 AM. Again, this is the way the local Cubans must live their daily lives. Some trains will run while others will not depending upon what is available. In the past this train has departed Cienfuegos on Fridays so we have a 50/50 chance of riding and photographing it. Either way, our charter bus will be available to follow this train and switch off as desired and of course head for Havana if the train is running hours late. Again, we need to be flexible as Cuban trains can run hours late. Upon arrival in Havana hotel check-in at the 5 Star Nacional de Cuba and our hosted "Farewell to Cuba Dinner" in the evening.
Day 15 Saturday March 17 : Free time in Havana to relax, shop or explore the downtown area until we head to the airport for our short flight back to Miami. Flight departure between 12 Noon and 1:00pm. Be flexible and do not schedule a tight connection in Miami. Allow yourself plenty of time. We suggest at least 5 or more hours.