The International Steam Pages

Diesel Traction in Action in Mexico, 2012

Thomas Kautzor reports on some items recorded during his November 2012 visit. Click here for the index to the other reports which include steam locomotives, stationary steam and railway cranes.

Even though they are modern, diesel and standard gauge, these were still the most fun to chase, beating any of the plinthed locos. I was quite lucky in that whenever I wished for a train it appeared within a short time.

When FNM (formerly NdeM) was privatized in 1998, three major companies emerged from it:

Ferromex (FXE) operates more than 8,500 km of track and interconnects five major inland Mexican cities, five cities along the border with the US (Mexicali, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Ojinaga and Piedras Negras), four Pacific Ocean seaports (Guyamas, Topolobambo, Navolato, Mazatlan and Manzanillo) and one more on the Gulf of Mexico (Puerto Altamira). It is currently owned to 74% by Grupo Mexico, the largest mining corporation in Mexico, and to 26% by Union Pacific. Ferromex operates daily passenger service on the former FC Chihuahua al Pacifico (CHP) through the Copper Canyon and the weekly Tequila Express between Guadalajara and Amatitán.

Ferrosur (FSRR) operates 1,886 km of track southeast of Mexico City. Its two main routes are Veracruz to Mexico City over the old FC Mexicano (450 km) and Cordoba to Coatzacoalcos. It also took over some of the routes operated by FC Chiapas-Mayab (FCCM) in Mexico’s southwest after FCCM parent company Genesee & Wyoming pulled out at the end of 2007. This includes the line across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to Salina Cruz (207 km, owned by the Mexican government through FC del Istmo de Tehuantepec, S.A. – FIT).

Ferrosur was formerly owned by companies controlled by Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim until November 2005 when the company was sold to Grupo Mexico. A proposal to merge Ferromex and Ferrosur was rejected in 2005 amid opposition from competitor KCS de Mexico, however in March 2011 a tribunal ruled in Grupo Mexico’s favor and the merger was permited. Ferrosur has since adopted the Ferromex paint scheme and engines are operated over both railways.

The third big player is Kansas City Southern de México (KCSM), with 4,282 km of track. Their main line runs from the US border at Laredo south to Mexico City, a track which carried 46% of all rail traffic in Mexico and 60% of all freight coming from the US prior to privatization. It also operates lines to the Pacific Ocean port of Lázaro Cárdenas and Gulf of Mexico ports of Veracruz (over the former narrow gauge NdeM line via Xalapa), Tampico and Matamoros. It was formed in 1996 as Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) by Transportacion Maritima Mexicana (TMM), a shipping company, and Kansas City Southern Industries, each paying 51% and 49% of the U$1.4 billion concession. In 2005 KCSM purchased TMM’s shares in TFM and the railway was renamed. KCSM locomotives can be regularly seen operating over KCS trackage in the US.

4563 & ? (GE AC4400CW, 2000-01, 4400 hp) with a southbound manifest train between Acambáro and Toluca shortly before Maraviato de Ocampo, MICHOACAN;

KCSM 4073 & 4062 (EMD SD70ACE, 2007, 4300 hp) with a southbound autorack train to the Toluca Chrysler plant at Acambáro, GUANAJUATO;

Ferromex 4659 & 4622 (GE ES44AC, 2006, 4400 hp) with a northbound train passing by Aguascalientes’ old station complex;

Ferrosur 4704 (GE ES44AC, 2010, 4400 hp, “on loan” from Ferromex) & 4412 (GE AC4400CW, 2000, 4400 hp) just after leaving Apizaco, TLAXCALA, with a northbound hopper train to Mexico City on the old FC Mexicano line;

Ferrosur 9158 (GE B23-7, 1979-80, 2250 hp, ex NdeM) at Medias Aguas, VERACRUZ, with a southbound train across the Tehuantepec Isthmus to the Pacific Ocean port of Salina Cruz;

Ferrosur 10027 & 10049 (GE B23-7, 1980-82, 2250 hp, ex NdeM) at Medias Aguas, VERACRUZ, awaiting a crossing with an eastbound hopper train to the port and petrochemical complex of Coatzacoalcos. These are two of 142 diesels (63 B23-7 and 79 C30-7) bought as kits from GE’s Erie Plant and assembled at Aguascalientes’ former steam shops between 1980 and 1986;

Ferrosur 4540 (GE AC4400CW, 1999, 4400 hp, “on loan” from Ferromex) with a southbound autorack train to Veracruz on the Fortin bridge at Fortin de las Flores, VERACRUZ, between Orizaba and Cordoba. The double-track viaduct dates from the 1980s grade-reduction program which eliminated the famed curved Metlac stone viaduct on the FC Mexicano’s electrified line. The Mexicano line used to run up and down both sides of the valley below. The Fortin viaduct is the highest railway bridge in North America and the highest two-track railway bridge in the world;

Ferrosur 4707 (GE ES44AC, 2010, 4400 hp, “on loan” from Ferromex) leaving Orizaba, VERACRUZ, with a southbound train;

Ferrosur 6794 (GE C30-7, 1980, 3000 hp, ex NdeM) shunting at Orizaba, VERACRUZ;

Tren Suburbano at Cuautitlán station. The FC Suburbano de la Zona Metropolitana del Valle de México operates a single line between NdeM’s old Buenavista station in Mexico City, DF and Cuautitlán, MEXICO. Opened in 2008/09, the line is 27 km long, double track, electrified with 25 kV 60 Hz overhead, serving five intermediate stations and operated with 15 CAF-built four-car EMUs of the same type as RENFE class 447. During peak hours the trains are operated in pairs and run every 6 minutes. There are promises from politicians to extend the network north and east of Mexico City, but at the moment this is Mexico’s only commuter rail operation (Mexico City has an extensive metro system and there are light rail lines in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey).

Rob Dickinson