Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from September, 2013

Cheerful Cuban car show

If you expect to be in Santa Cruz del Norte on the last Sunday in October – and yes, that's probably unlikely, unless you live in Santa Cruz del Norte, but hey, you never know – you'll want to take in the Fifth Annual Cuba Car Show.    This exhibition and cruise is organized by the Rusty Nuts car clubs of Canada and Cuba. As we can see from organizer Ian Rome's video from 2012, below (you may need to click through to YouTube to watch it), the cheerful event attracts a nifty selection of Tri-5 Chevies and other 1950s iron, plus well-tended veterans such as a Model A Ford Woodie Wagon and rare sights like a Brazilian-made Gurgel.
   Santa Cruz del Norte, by the way, is midway between Havana and Varadero. Easy to get to, should you find yourself seeking something to do on Oct. 27.




See also:

Gearhead Country/Rusty Nuts official site

Photos from the first Cuba Car Show




The Hershey train, postscript

A quick search will yield numerous warnings about the unreliability of the Hershey train. What's interesting is that few if any of those issuing these warnings seem to have first-hand experience of delays or breakdowns on the route. Still, given the age and condition of the railroad's equipment, it's safe to conclude that problems can be frequent.
   But if you're even a little adventurous, a ride on the Hershey train is a remarkable way to mix with Cubans as they live their everyday lives. At 2.80 CUC for the full, 3.5-hour trip between Matanzas and Havana, it's ridiculously cheap. If you're a train buff, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience rail travel of an earlier era, rattles and all.
   And as I mentioned on the onset, if you did find yourself stranded, you won't be far from alternate transportation.

Learn more:

www.tramz.com/cu
Allen Morrison, who has written extensively on tramways around the globe, offers an authoritative histor…

The Hershey train V

Later that same day I return to Casablanca Station (the ferry across the harbour can be a story for another time). I take a seat on the first car and notice a fellow passenger looking around and taking photos – guess I won't be the only non-Cuban on this trip.
   I glance over at the station and see a woman pointing at me from inside. A man in a purple shirt and blue jeans comes into the car – I find out later he's the conductor – and tells me I must buy a ticket at the office. Here I can't simply pay the conductor.
   I'm North American, I want to say. What do I know about train travel?
   Inside the station, I hand the woman 1.40 CUC and now, properly paid up, am rewarded with a smile. The train is filling but my seat is still free. We leave on schedule.
   The conductor is busy. The electric door to the car isn't working and he needs to hold it open at each stop. Between stations we chat, and I learn he is also a train driver and a mechanic. The employees rotate …

The Hershey train IV

We're between stations when the train stops. I see the engineer descend the stairs from the driver's compartment that are the only easy way off the train between platforms. The conductor and other men come forward and follow him down to the tracks. The passengers continue talking, sleeping, whatever they had been doing before our halt.
   I use the moment to take a closer look at the driver's operating station. One front window is starred by a crack. Tight against the glass is a battered control panel with big levers I imagine are for throttle and brakes. Above the levers are lines of metal-collared buttons that make me think of the old lathes we used in high school machine shop.
   The men climb back up and we resume our trip. As we come into Havana, the views change. We pass structures that could be factories or military installations, or both. At a table next to the track, an outdoor butcher wraps portions. Farther along, garbage overflows from metal drums.
   Then we&#…