A Really Disgusting Train

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – As I wrote a year ago, the main form of transport for most people working in Pinar del Rio is a very dirty and uncomfortable train. It is popularly known as the “milk train”, and it travels from the provincial capital to Los Palacios, the far-most eastern municipality in the region. Another train runs the route towards Guane, in the far-west. 

It leaves at 5:43 p.m., according to the official timetable; however, it is normally late a lot of the time, for many different reasons. Sometimes, it’s even canceled, for one reason or another.

I normally catch this train when I leave work to go home. I find it completely degrading to see myself trying to “hitch a ride” on the highway, waiting for somebody who wasn’t planning to pick me up. Although to be honest, I don’t know which is better. 

Once onboard this pile of iron, you have to deal with its dirtiness, overcrowding, delays and bad odors. As well as the black smoke that steams from the old engine and the soot that comes out, which gets into your clothes.

It’s worse during the summer. People get the train to get to the beach and on their way back, many bring back sand with them, and without shoes on, place their dirty feet on the already worse-for-wear seats. Others come half-naked, and drunk on cheap alcohol, shout as loud as they can. They try to make themselves heard over the reggaeton blasting, which is the music of young Cubans right now, generally-speaking.

I’m far from being a preacherman, but I do think that we should live with some basic level of decency and respect for public spaces.  Unfortunately, we now live in an uneducated, undignified society, and we can see this is any public space we go to. This train isn’t the exception.

Is it worth taking?

I’m thinking of not catching it anymore. Working out the cost-benefit, the balance seems to sway towards the worse. It really is a punishment.

Not to mention coming back via the same means, because the following day, it returns to Pinar del Rio city, before the crack of dawn.

I stopped getting it to work at dawn, a long time ago. It’s really distressing to travel at a turtle’s pace, surrounded by a crowd that squeezes together, in hellish heat and the dim light of one light bulb per carriage. When you get to your destination, you don’t even want the day to start.

Plus, I don’t like waking up so early, and this is in spite of having gone to a boarding school ever since I was 12 years old up until pre-university, and then I had to do my Compulsory Military Service. This to say, I spent thousands of days waking up before dawn, almost consecutively.

It might be better to take some form of transport on the highway, to enjoy the fresh air. Or, like a zen master, adopt this attitude of inner peace to keep me calm as I wait for a good Samaritan to take pity on me. 

Read more diary posts by Pedro Pablo Morejon.

2 thoughts on “A Really Disgusting Train

  • I assume you passenger train is hauled by a diesel engine since it is smoky?
    Diesel train engines are still used here in USA but mostly for freight trains.
    Seems like most passenger trains have been electrified.

    Thanks for reporting on the true conditions in Cuba.

  • Dear Pedro,
    Having stayed in Cuba many times since 1997, I can really empathise with how frustrating and tiring your journey to and from work must be, people think it’s bad here in Europe! It’s not surprising that over the years, many Cuban people give up the work they are trained for, prefering to hang around waiting for remittance or do anything that doesn’t involve those awful commutes! Hopefully for you, the beach season is over for this year!

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