Boris Luis Santa Coloma or 'The Mill On The Hill' was one of Cuba's most active standard gauge mills
with spectacular climbs up to the mill from both the north and the south.  Originally called San Antonio
it was renamed after one of the founding members of Revolutionary Movement which was dedicated
to fighting the Batista regime in 1953.  Boris Luis Santa Coloma was one of those who together with
Fidel Castro stormed the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba on 26 July 1953.  The attack failed
and following a retreat, Santa Coloma was captured at the Civil Hospital, tortured and then executed.

The mill intersected with the Ruben Martinez Villena system by means of a flat crossing at Roble, the
crossing being controlled by a wooden signal box on stilts.  Near the mill itself there was a road
overbridge which made an interesting photographic location.  The locomotive fleet comprised of five  
2-6-0 and one 2-8-0 tender engines which were generally well kept and attractively turned out.
The chase was certainly worth
while in order to capture the
power and the glory of Boris Luis
Santa Coloma.  No.1711 (built
1920) continues to heads its train
of loaded wagons on the long  
climb up to the 'mill on the hill'.  
Cuban locomotives were almost all
oil burners and so when additional
power was needed the fireman
turned up the oil burner and vast
amounts of black smoke issued
forth from the chimney.  It can't
have been a lot of fun hanging out
the clean washing just before one
of these trains passed by.
Immediately beyond the flat
crossing with the Ruben Martinez
Villena system was a water tank
and ALCO 2-8-0 No.1711 is just
setting off having replenished its
tender.  I was completely
absorbed in the scene and
forgetful of the fact that my
companions wished to chase the
train to the mill until I became
aware of David Eatwell thrashing
our hire car across a recently
ploughed field in order to collect
me and then head for the next
photographic spot a little closer
to the mill.  
No.1711 sweeps onwards towards
Boris mill which can be seen to the
right of the picture.  The casual
way in which shunters and other
footplate staff rode on the tenders
of these locomotives on trackwork
which was frequently uneven and
buckled never ceased to amaze
me. One can only assume that the
European obsessions with Health
And Safety legislation had not yet
spread across the Atlantic or
washed up onto Caribbean shores.
Generally speaking there was very
little in the way of signalling on the
sugar lines with most trains
returning to the mill when ready
and pausing at relevant points to
make telephone contact with the
control office at the mill.  However
at Roble there was a flat crossing
where the lines of Ruben Martinez
Villena mill crossed those of Boris
Luis Santa Coloma.  To control
traffic there was a primitive
wooden signal box and two signal
arms on the same post.  The
buildings at the foot of the signal
box was almost certainly home to
the signalman and his family.
Whilst waiting for the train on the
Boris system, Baldwin 2-8-0 No.1602
appeared on the Ruben Martinez
Villena line with a train of loaded
wagons heading for the mill.  This
called for a very rapid shift in
photographic position to try to
capture the unexpected arrival.
A side on view of the same
locomotive as it heads towards
Ruben Martinez Villena mill.  Note
once again the fantastic balancing
act of the member of the footplate
crew balanced on the tender.
Given the generally poor state of
the trackwork on the mill lines it
was not altogether uncommon to
come across derailments of
wagons and locomotives.  In this
case the bogie tender of Baldwin
2-6-0 No.1604 has come to grief
and the shed crew can be seen in
the background arriving by rail
trolley with jacks and packing to
re-rail the tender and get the show
back on the road.
Despite the best endeavours of the
shed crew the tender refused to be
re-railed. So Vulcan 2-6-0 No.1606
was sent to lend a helping hand.  
Using steel cables the locomotive
was attached to the tender and
the whole set up was dragged
across the pointwork resulting in
the tender regaining the rails.  
Simple, crude and effective - a
motto for most repairs in Cuba
during this era.  However with
steel cables under high tension it
seemed prudent to remain at a
distance and use a telephoto lens!
Appearances are fortunately
deceptive!  Fortunately No.1711
has come to a stand on the bridge
and is about to set back into the
engine shed rather than continuing
forward and into the front end of
No.1606 which was still assisting
the derailed tender of No,1604
Mill line map showing Boris Luis Santa Coloma and Ruben Martinez Villena
By the time of my second visit to
Boris, a new locomotive had
arrived in the shape of Baldwin
2-8-0 No.1701 which had been
transferred from Jose Marti mill.  
Here it is seen at the loading point
at the far end of the line which ran
south-east from the mill.
A rather nice 'train in the
landscape' shot of No.1701 as it
brings a short train of loaded
wagons back towards the mill.  
The decapitated palm tree is a
testament to the frequent
hurricanes which sweep over Cuba
each year causing considerable
damage and loss of life.
ALCO No.1510 was in its 90th year
of operational service during my
1997 visit to the mill.  Once again
the bridge over the road provides a
useful photographic position for
taking portraits of the engines
Scrambling down to get another
shot of No.1510 on the bridge led
me into a Cuban 'booby-trap'.  I
didn't realise there was a ditch
running alongside the road until I
put my foot in it!  Normally this
wouldn't have been much of a
disaster had not the watercourse
been totally contaminated by fuel
oil from the nearby engine shed.  
Therefore I finished up with a black
sock, a black trainer and a black
foot.  Sadly only the foot was ever
returned to its pre-immersion state
Not all of the locomotives at Boris
were in full working order.  Dumped
out of use some miles from the mill
was this ALCO 2-6-0 No.1612
My third (and final) visit to Boris
Luis Santa Coloma in 1998 brought
yet another locomotive which had
been transferred to the mill - this
time Vulcan 2-8-0 No.1806 which
had previously been noted at
Eduardo Garcia Lavandero mill.  In
this shot it is seen backing light
engine from the mill towards the
loading point on the southern
No.1806 crossing a small river
bridge shortly after leaving the far
loading point to head back to the
mill with a train of loaded cane
wagons.  Sadly the light dropped
as the engine approached spoiling
what could have been a
memorable picture
Whilst almost all railway equipment
in Cuba came from the United
States or from Germany there was
one piece of British manufacture at
Boris Luis Santa Coloma.  Tucked
away on the line leading into the
mill was this Stothert & Pitt steam
crane bearing a builders plate
proclaiming that it was built in
Bath, Inglaterra.   I
In 1998 it appeared that the shed had run out of black paint and so No.1510 had been painted in grey undercoat and then
lined out and lettered using bufferbeam red paint.  The end result was actually very attractive and it shows off to great affect
in this late afternoon shot on the shed at Boris.  This was actually the last photograph of steam in Cuba that I took and it
also happens to be one of my favourites.  The liberalisation that Castro allowed in the late 1990's made it legal for Cubans to
hold US dollars and crews quickly realised that one way to make easy money was to demand payment from lineside
photographers.  Failure to accede to their demands frequently resulted in locomotives decorated with tree branches, trains
that stopped when the crew saw photographers or a total lack of exhaust.  It was clear that the good times were coming to
an end and by sheer chance, having taken this shot we stopped at a small rum bar close to the mill.  Pinned to the back wall
was a picture, obviously donated by other photographers, showing a pair of QJ's exiting Tunnel No.4 on the JingPeng line in
China.  The stage was set to abandon Cuba and seek steam in far colder climates!
Once again the sun dropped at the
critical moment as No.1806
powers up the last few hundred
yards of the climb into the mill yard
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