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Railroad Log
Chihuahua to Los Mochis

Copyright 2006 by Doug Rhodes

To use the road log, one must carefully watch for the kilometer posts on the north side of the track.  The numbers appearing on each post represent the distance from Ojinaga in kilometers.  Each tunnel is also numbered on a small plaque on the right side as you enter.

268—Leaving Chihuahua, the railroad runs southwesterly for about 50 kilometers to General Trias.  From there it goes northwesterly about 30 kms to San Andres.  From here to La Junta, for the next 100 kms the railroad travels westward.  From La Junta to Creel, 120 kms, it goes generally southward.  From Creel to Los Mochis, 360 km, the railroad travels generally southwesterly.  Volcanic rocks, probably rhyolitic tuffs, may be seen on low hills to the right of the western outskirts of the city.

275—Rodeo arena on left, various corrals on right.

283—El Fresno on the right was originally established as a hacienda in 1712.

284—Rio Chuviscar, the main drainage of  this valley, flows thrugh Chihuahua and eventually joins the Rio Conchos.

287—Pipeline on right carries natural gas to Anahuac and Cuauhtemoc.

293—Entering an intensively cultivated high plateau or altiplano.

294—The principal crops cultivated in this valley are wheat, barley, corn, rye, and beans.

303—Granaries on the right.  Also to the right is a quarry in a low, rounded hill.  This easily quarried tuff, known as cantera, was used for constructing many of the buildings in Chihuahua.

319—Across highway, to the left is the village of General Trias.  This village was founded by the Franciscan missionaries in 1668 and named Santa Isabel de Tarahumaras.  In 1932, the village was renamed in honor of General Angel Trias, vice commander of the Mexican force defeated by the First Missouri Volunteers, commanded by Col. Alexander W. Doniphan, at the Battle of Sacramento (north of Chihuahua) on February 28, 1847.  In 1862-1863 Trias and his men fought with greater success against the forces of Maximilian.

322—Santa Isabel Railroad Station.

329—Picturesque village with a small blue and white church on the left.  At this point the railroad climbs somewhat.  The vegetation changes to oak and cedar. 

339—Chavarrian, a railroad siding.

345.7—Tunnel No. 1, 400 feet.

346.3—Tunnel No. 2, 367 feet.

349—San Andres Station.  This village was founded in 1696 by the Franciscan missionaries and named San Andres de Osaguiqui.  In 1932 the name changed to Riva Palacio in honor of General Vicente Palacios, a writer and hero of the war against the French.  Birthplace of Luz Corral who married Doroteo Arango, better known as Pancho Villa, in 1911 in the white church. 

356—At this point you begin seeing more trees, mostly oak.

369—A few scattered pines.  The railroad ascends for quite some distance to the Continental Divide.  The high peaks to the north read 8800 feet above sea level.  Coming to Colonias on the left, there is an apple orchard; at about 2:00 is Laguna Bustillos, occupying the lowest spot in the valley. 

382—Anahuac.  This town was first named Charco Largo; it is now an important industrial center with cellulose, plywood, and vicose plants.  On the left are company homes; on the right (at about 384) the tepee-like structures are granaries.  The lake once teemed with fish, and was a wintering spot for geese and ducks.  Acid water from the plant has killed most of the fish, and the ducks and geese do not come as they used to.  The plant makes paper products and is largely owned by Italian and Mexican interests. 

400—Cuauhtemoc, 7200 feet above sea level, was originally named San Antonio de Arenales.  The village grew with the arrival of the railroad in 1900, but the major growth took place with the arrival of the Mennonites in 1921-1922.  There are about 50,000 Mennonites living in 150 Ocampos in this area.  In 1927 the name was changed in honor of the last Aztec emperor (Cuauhtemoc) who was killed by Cortes in 1525.  Most of the cheese consumed in the State of Chihuahua comes from this area. 

422—Leaving the valley, apple orchard on the left.  The nets are for protection against the severe spring and summer hail storms.  Cross a ridge and into another valley; this is where you cross the Continental Divide the first time.

426—Pedernales, a village with about 1000 inhabitants.  Small mercury deposits were discovered nearby in 1914 and worked briefly.  Malpaso,” the canyon we are passing, was used by Pancho Villa as a camp in the beginning of the revolution.  From here, he stopped trains and hid out with his people.  From the top of one of the tall pine trees, a lookout could see the entire valley.  Villa’s tactic was to hit and run.  At Pedernales he fought and won several battles, constantly moving his hiding places. 

451—La Junta Railroad Station, 6775 feet above sea level, is a major repair depot and rebuild facility and a railroad junction.  The Madera line branches north from here to Ciudad Juarez.  The train leaves for the 14-hour trip to Juarez at 8:00 AM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  It returns from Juarez on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  We stop in La Junta usually for 10-15 minutes while the train is inspected and serviced prior to entering the mountains.  Homemade pies sold here make a great snack.  We will soon cross a tributary to the Rio Papigochic which joins the Rio Aros in Sonora and empties into the Gulf of California.

461—Minaca, a small settlement originally named Munaca, a corruption of the Tarahumara “muguyaca,” which means mountain lion.

471—Bridge over Rio San Pedro.  Watch for the ruins of the bullring on the left side.  For the next 30 or 40 miles, the railroad turns more or less southerly. 

474—Entering a broad valley.

476—Gonzales siding on right.

484—Entering the village of Terrero.

485.5—Railroad station. Church on right

486—Just outside of Terrero, there are apple orchards.  To the left a concrete aqueduct for drainage.  The railroad follows Arroyo Ancho.

501.5—Crossing over Arroyo Ancho.

503—Pichachic Station.  This village was established in 1678 by Jose Guevara, a Jesuit missionary. 

513—Ataros Station.

523—Trevino Station.  Named after Juan F. Trevino, who directed construction of part of the old Kansas City, Mexico and Oriente Railroad.  This station serves a large sawmill. 

531—San Juanito, one of the main lumbering centers in Chihuahua.  Large sawmill on the right.  San Juanito, 8000 feet above sea level, was established with the arrival of the railroad in 1906.  It is said that it has the coldest climate of any town in Mexico. 

534—Bridge over Arroyo Ancho.

539.6—Cuesta Prieta.  Sawmill on the right.

552—Bocoyna—a lumber and railroad town.  Its name means, “pine forest” in Tarahumara.  It was founded in 1702 by the Jesuit missionaries with the name of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Bocoyna.  It is the municipal seat of Bocoyna which includes both San Juanito and Creel.

555.8—Tunnel No. 3, 982 feet.

561.8—Tunnel No. 4, 4134 feet long, the second longest on the line.

565—Creel. Elevation 7735 feet, Creel is the economic center and most important town of the Tarahumara mountains.  Its principal industries are lumber and the railroad, but tourism is becoming more important every day.

            Creel is named after Enrique C. Creel, son of the American consul to Chihuahua.  He married a daughter of Don Luis Terrazas, and later became governor of the state in 1904-1906 and 1907-1911.  He also served as Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Relations and as Mexico’s Ambassador to Washington.  He was the interpreter when presidents Diaz and Taft met in 1909 on the international bridge between Juarez and El Paso.  Becoming the vice-president of the Kansas City, Mexico and Oriente Railroad, he was responsible for the construction of part of the railroad west of Chihuahua, reaching Creel by 1907.  There work was suspended for lack of funds. 

592.3—Tunnel No. 6, 131 feet.

592.6—Tunnel No. 7, 215 feet.

593—Beginning a sharp descent at this point, the railroad makes a complete circle and crosses over itself.  This is one of the only three such loops on the North American continent.

599.8—Tunnel No. 8, 164 feet.

600.2—Tunnel No. 9, 215 feet.

602.3—Pitorreal, small village.

604.5—quarry for railroad ballast.

605—Tunnel No. 10, 262 feet.

608.8—Tunnel No. 11, 361 feet.

618.4—Tunnel No. 12, 419 feet.  To the right are deep canyons, approaching the Divisadero on the left.

622—Divisadero.  This is a natural lookout point into the Urique Canyon, one of the most beautiful of the six main canyons that compose the canyon system.  The train stops here to allow passengers an opportunity to look into the canyon.  Tarahumara Indian ladies offer a  variety of hand-woven baskets, carvings, drums and other souvenirs.  Note especially the small baskets woven of pine needles.  Hotel Cabanas Divisadero-Barrancas was constructed in 1974.  Indelacio Sandoval,  the present owner’s father and a cattle buyer in this area, purchased this site about 1918.  It was originally a campground on the mule and horse trail from Creel to Chinipas.

623—Tunnel No. 13, 377 feet.

625—Hotel Posada Barrancas and the village of Areponapuchic.  Originally constructed by Rogelio Garcia who had mining interests in the canyon, the hotel started life as a small cabin for his personal use.  This stop also serves the castle-like Hotel Tarahumara Mansion and the Mirador.

628—Area where the weathering of the tuffs created pedestal or hoodoo rocks.

633—Tunnels No. 14, 180 feet, and No. 15, 369 feet.

635—Entering San Rafael.  Railroad terminal with several sidings and switches.  The train engineer and part of the crew change here.  The train is inspected and maintenance is performed, usually on brakes and running gear; the train is also fueled and watered.  The town has one small native hotel.  We’ve had negative reports on the prepared food sold here

638.3—Tunnel No. 16, 351 feet.

638.6—Tunnel No. 17, 512 feet.

639.2—Cross over “La Laja”  bridge (a good picture from the left side of the train after you cross the bridge).

640.8—Tunnel No. 18, 1,141 feet.

648—Chihuahuicame.  This is the starting point for the Rio Mina Plata Canyon. 

649.7—Tunnel No. 19, 364 feet.

650.1—Bridge “La Mora,” 445 feet long.

650.8—Tunnel No. 20, 859 feet.

651.5—Bridge Sehueravo”,  429 feet.

651.9—Tunnel No. 21, 597 feet.

652.3—Tunnel No. 22, 331 feet

653.4—Tunnel No. 23, 764 feet.

654.5—Tunnel No. 24, 587 feet.

655.3—Bridge “Novochic”, 393 feet

655.5—Tunnel No. 26, 669 feet.

655.9—Tunnel No. 27, 567 feet.

656.5—Rochohuaina Bridge, 389 feet long.  Note the greenish-yellow stained rocks resulting from the oxidation of pyrite.

662—Cuiteco.  A little village originally pure Indian until the Jesuit missionary, Father Salvatierra, established a mission here in 1684.  The word Cuiteco comes from the Tarahumara word meaning “neck-shaped hill.”  The area is said to produce the sweetest apples in Chihuahua.  The tourist hotel ”Cuiteco” is nearby. 

662.6—Tunnel No. 29, 243 feet.

663—Tunnel No. 30, 404 feet

663.6—Tunnel No. 31, 246 feet

663.9—Tunnel No. 32, 220 feet.

669Bahuichivo Station. This is the station serving the Hotel Paraiso del Oso, Cerocahui, Urique, and several smaller towns. The 12-km ride to the Hotel takes about 30 minutes.  A truck normally running Monday through Saturday takes passengers to the municipal seat, Urique, a small village in the bottom of the canyon.  The truck departs after arrival of the second class train from Chihuahua. The ride down the canyon-side is not for the timid.

680.4—Irigoyen. Railroad siding.

682.1—Tunnel No. 33, 279 feet

687—Parajes, railroad station.

688—Bridge over Rio Plata, 273 feet long

690—Tunnel No. 34, 257 feet.

691—Tunnel No. 35, 268 feet

692—Tunnels No. 37, 636 feet, No. 37, 236 feet, and No. 38, 1,102 feet.

693—In the canyon on the right are two wrecked cars from a derailment in May, 1986.

694-695—Two bridges and Tunnel No. 39, 459 feet.  Before entering the tunnel, the rocks back and to the right form a profile of Jesus Christ.  This tunnel is unique in that it has a window to the right about midway. 

695.8—Tunnel No. 40, 1548 feet

698.3—Cerocahui.  The village is located on the site of a mission established by Father Salvatierra in 1681.  The river is also named Cerocahui and is a tributary of Rio Septentrion.  Cerocahui, in Tarahumara, means “Enemy Hill.”

698.7—Tunnel No. 41, 256 feet.

700—Tunnel No. 42, 2542 feet.

701-702—Tunnels No. 43, 384 feet, No. 44, 479 feet, No. 45, 662 feet and No. 46, 2680 feet.

703-704—Tunnels No. 47, 115 feet, and No. 48, 623 feet.

704—Beautiful views of the road bed descending by means of curves and loops.  At one point three levels of the railroad can be seen.  The Commemorative marker built for the dedication of the railroad by President Lopez Mateos, November 23, 1961, is made of rails 22 feet long with letters two feet high.  A short distance away is the monument commemorating the 25th anniversary of the dedication.  Six hopper cars and a locomotive were used to create the representation of a train exiting a tunnel.

704.8—Tunnel No. 9, “La Pera,” 30374 feet long and shaped like a pear so that when you come out, the scenery that was on your left will be on your right.

708—Temoris Station, 3365 feet above sea level, is a mission founded by the Jesuits in 1677 and named Santa Maria Magdalena de Temoris (Temoris was the name of the Indians that inhabited the region).  It was near Temoris, according to legend, that the Indian cure for leprosy was discovered. This station serves eight small agricultural and mining communities and is the most beautiful station on the line.  Shortly above Temoris the vegetation changes, becoming much more tropical.  Some of the vegetation people frequently ask about is the pink-flowered Amapa, a member of the dogwood family.  The white flowers on a tree with few or no leaves identify the palo blanco; the kapok tree is identified by the globular balls of white kapok hanging from its branches.  The red-barked tree is the madrone which started much higher in the mountains.  Banana trees abound near villages.  There are several species of tall cactus - the organ pipe, pitaya, whose spelling I’m uncertain of, and one other variety I’m still trying to identify.

Leaving Temoris, we cross the Santa Barbara Bridge, 714 feet long, across the Rio Mina Plata.  Below, where the Septentrion joins the Chinipas, the river is known as the Rio Fuerte.

709—Tunnel No. 50, 413 feet.

710 –Tunnel No. 51, 1143 feet.

710.4—Tunnel No. 52, 1032 feet.

710.8—Mina Plata Bridge, 348 feet long.

711-716—Tunnels No. 53 to 63, ranging from 139 to 657 feet in length

717—Tunnels No. 64, 800 feet, and No. 65, 450 feet.  Note the organ-pipe cactus growing through the vegetation on the left.

719—Small waterfall on right entering a beautiful plunge pool.

718-721—Tunnels No. 66 to 70, ranging from 305 to 639 feet.

722—Julio Ornelas, railroad station.

722-727—Tunnels No. 71-78, ranging from 65 to 581 feet

728—Just before the station of Tacuina, note the Tescalama fig tree growing out of the bare rock on the right.

736—Santo Nino. Small railroad camp and siding.

739-742—Tunnels No. 79 to 82, ranging from 124 feet to 780 feet.

743—Approximate boundary between the states of Chihuahua and Sinaloa.

747.5—Jesus Cruz, another small railroad camp.

748—Chinipas Bridge over the Rio Chinipas.  This is the highest bridge on the line, about 335 feet above the ground, and 1000 feet long.  Note the suspension bridge below on the left.

749—Tunnel No. 83, 367 feet.

753-754—Tunnels No. 84, 318 feet, and No. 85, 453 feet.

754.6—Tunnel No. 86, the last and longest, 5966 feet long.  It was named “El Descanso” (the rest) because it was the final tunnel excavated and the workers could rest when it was completed.

758—El Descanso railroad siding.

763—Los Posos, village.

780—Aqua Caliente, village and railroad station.

781—Bridge over Rio Fuerte.  This is the longest bridge on the line, 1637 feet long.  The ferry below the bridge is the only crossing for vehicles and people.  A ford just upstream from the bridge is crossable during the dry months.

791—Loreto Station, approximately two hours from Los Mochis.

839—El Fuerte.  This town was established late in the sixteenth century as a fort to protect settlers from Indian attacks.  It was originally capital of the state of Sinaloa.  A few miles north is the newly-constructed Presa Miguel Hidalgo which captures the waters of the Rio Fuerte.  The present capacity is 350 million cubic meters, and it is capable of generating 276 million kilowatts each year.

882—San Blas (Sufragio) Station.  Elevation 105 feet.  This is where the line crosses the railroad from Nogales to Guadalajara.  Years ago this was a major passenger station for people changing trains but, alas, the train you are on is the last operating passenger train in Mexico.

920.6—Los Mochis.


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