to Los Mochis
2006 by Doug Rhodes
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
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.
arena on left, various corrals on right.
Fresno on the right was originally established as a hacienda in 1712.
Chuviscar, the main drainage of this
valley, flows thrugh Chihuahua and eventually joins the Rio Conchos.
on right carries natural gas to Anahuac and Cuauhtemoc.
an intensively cultivated high plateau or altiplano.
principal crops cultivated in this valley are wheat, barley, corn, rye, and
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.
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
Isabel Railroad Station.
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.
a railroad siding.
No. 1, 400 feet.
No. 2, 367 feet.
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.
this point you begin seeing more trees, mostly oak.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
a small settlement originally named Munaca, a corruption of the Tarahumara “muguyaca,”
which means mountain lion.
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.
a broad valley.
siding on right.
the village of Terrero.
station. Church on right
outside of Terrero, there are apple orchards.
To the left a concrete aqueduct for drainage. The railroad follows Arroyo Ancho.
over Arroyo Ancho.
Station. This village was
established in 1678 by Jose Guevara, a Jesuit missionary.
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.
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
over Arroyo Ancho.
Prieta. Sawmill on the right.
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.
No. 3, 982 feet.
No. 4, 4134 feet long, the second longest on the line.
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
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.
No. 6, 131 feet.
No. 7, 215 feet.
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.
No. 8, 164 feet.
No. 9, 215 feet.
for railroad ballast.
No. 10, 262 feet.
No. 11, 361 feet.
No. 12, 419 feet. To the right are
deep canyons, approaching the Divisadero on the left.
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.
No. 13, 377 feet.
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.
where the weathering of the tuffs created pedestal or hoodoo rocks.
No. 14, 180 feet, and No. 15, 369 feet.
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
No. 16, 351 feet.
No. 17, 512 feet.
over “La Laja” bridge
(a good picture from the left side of the train after you cross the bridge).
No. 18, 1,141 feet.
This is the starting point for the Rio Mina Plata Canyon.
No. 19, 364 feet.
“La Mora,” 445 feet long.
No. 20, 859 feet.
“Sehueravo”, 429 feet.
No. 21, 597 feet.
No. 22, 331 feet
No. 23, 764 feet.
No. 24, 587 feet.
“Novochic”, 393 feet
No. 26, 669 feet.
No. 27, 567 feet.
Bridge, 389 feet long. Note the
greenish-yellow stained rocks resulting from the oxidation of pyrite.
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.
No. 29, 243 feet.
No. 30, 404 feet
No. 31, 246 feet
No. 32, 220 feet.
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.
No. 33, 279 feet
over Rio Plata, 273 feet long
No. 34, 257 feet.
No. 35, 268 feet
No. 37, 636 feet, No. 37, 236 feet, and No. 38, 1,102 feet.
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.
No. 40, 1548 feet
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.”
No. 41, 256 feet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No. 50, 413 feet.
No. 51, 1143 feet.
No. 52, 1032 feet.
Plata Bridge, 348 feet long.
711-716—Tunnels No. 53 to 63, ranging from 139 to 657 feet in length
No. 64, 800 feet, and No. 65, 450 feet. Note
the organ-pipe cactus growing through the vegetation on the left.
waterfall on right entering a beautiful plunge pool.
718-721—Tunnels No. 66 to 70, ranging from 305 to 639 feet.
Ornelas, railroad station.
722-727—Tunnels No. 71-78, ranging from 65 to 581 feet
before the station of Tacuina, note the Tescalama fig tree growing out of the
bare rock on the right.
Nino. Small railroad camp and siding.
739-742—Tunnels No. 79 to 82, ranging from 124 feet to 780 feet.
boundary between the states of Chihuahua and Sinaloa.
Cruz, another small railroad camp.
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.
No. 83, 367 feet.
753-754—Tunnels No. 84, 318 feet, and No. 85, 453 feet.
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.
Descanso railroad siding.
Caliente, village and railroad station.
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.
Station, approximately two hours from Los Mochis.
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.
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.