The International Steam Pages

Preserved Narrow Gauge Diesels in Mexico 2012

Thomas Kautzor reports on some preserved 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.

In an effort to modernize its remaining narrow gauge operations, in the mid-1960s NdeM took delivery of GA-8 narrow gauge diesel-electrics from EMD in two batches (NdeM 5400-5409 = EMD 29080-89/1964 & 5410-5416 = EMD 32278-84/1967). Locomotives of the same type had already been delivered to the FC Coahuila y Zacatecas (CyZ) in 1960 and 1964 (N°. 800-802 – see standard gauge section) and the FC Unidos de Yucatan (FUY) in 1964 (N°. 204-205). The 800 hp units had a unique drive system with the tractions motors hung under the floor with the motor shafts running parallel to the rail due to lack of space in the trucks. The soon replaced all steam running. With only the Oriental to Teziutlan branch remaining narrow gauge after 1973, most of the diesels were transferred to the newly-created FC Unidos del Sudeste (FUS), which had taken over the FUY in Yucatan. There they were renumbered in the 81-92 number range. After regauging of the Yucatan lines in the 1980s the two original FUS units as well as up to nine of the NdeM units were standard-gauged and renumbered into the 5417-5427 range to be used as switchers.

NdeM 5408 (EMD 29088/1964) is on display at the under construction Museum of Transportation in Xalapa, VERACRUZ, as NdeM 90. After being sent to Yucatan it became FUS 90 (ex 84 ?). It was later sent to the Teziutlan where it was withdrawn at Oriental on 01.12.1993.

The 89.9 km long Oriental to Teziutlan branch of the NdeM was opened in 1895 and became isolated after the Veracruz to Puebla line was standard gauged in 1947. It stayed open because of the importance of the Teziutlan copper mine and smelter. Its operation was unusual in that the daily pair of mixed trains (N°. 131/132) operating from Puebla to Oriental and back would use track and equipment of different gauges, but the same crews. At Oriental the crews and passengers would change trains on the same dual-gauge platform to complete the run. After the line was closed on 30.05.1993 the train that had spent the night in Teziutlan was left there to this day. It was composed of locos 5410 and 5412 (EMD 32278 and 32280/1967), 2nd class coaches 904, 950 and 971, a baggage and mail car, a steel box car and a caboose. The trains arriving into Teziutlan needed to back up to enter into the station, those leaving to back up into the main line. The station, water tower and the last train lay abandoned for many years until the municipality decided to restore them and turn the area into a park.

At Zaragoza (km 58.5), where the steeply graded section to Teziutlan begun, the water tower still stands and the station building is used by the social services unit (DIF). 

At Oriental, on the KCS de Mexico main line from Mexico City to Veracruz via Xalapa, some of the of the dual gauge trackage is still in place, as well as the four-track engine shed (2 SG, 2 NG). The bodies of a baggage and mail car and of a box car can also be found here. The central archway of the station building houses a small museum exhibit.

NdeM 5414 (EMD 32282/1967) is preserved at the National Railway Museum in Puebla, PUE. It later became FUS 82, then standard gauge 5427. It again sits on narrow gauge trucks at the museum and is coupled to gondola 12028, but has kept its standard gauge number.

At least one other NdeM GA-8 is preserved, N°. 5415 at the Yucatan Railway Museum in Merida as FUS 88. It was withdrawn on 30.11.1993.

The US-built (Vulcan IW ?) six-wheel diesel in the middle of a traffic circle (Blvd. Adolfo Ruiz Cortines – MX -180 & Calle Las Palmas) at Poza Rica, VERACRUZ, commemorates the 2ft gauge FC Cobos a Furbero, 82 km long line built by Oil Fields of Mexico, S.A., in 1902-08 from Cobos (3 miles from the city of Tuxpan) on the Gulf of Mexico in a southerly direction to the oil fields at Palma Sola (on the outskirts of Poza Rica) and Furbero. The railway was soon sold to Cia. Mexicana de Petroleo, El Aguila, S.A. (CMPA, Mexican Eagle Oil Co.) and became part of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) in 1938 when all foreign oil companies in Mexico were nationalized by President Lázaro Cárdenas. Early motive power consisted of four British-built 0-6-0s, N°. 1 by Hudswell-Clarke 1910 and N°. 2-4 by Bagnall 1911, followed by three O&K 0-6-0T+Ts in 1913 and two Davenport 0-6-0STs in 1921. In 1924 the first diesel locomotive was introduced and by 1945 all steam had been eliminated. In 1962 the railway was still in operation, using five Kalamazoo diesel railcars to transport employees. 

A similar locomotive numbered PEMEX 115 used to be on display at the Museo Technologico (MUTEC) in Mexico City, DF, together with a pair of flat cars, but all the PEMEX equipment was gone when we visited (hopefully to a future PEMEX museum).

Rob Dickinson