The railroad journey with El Chepe through the north-east of Mexico is a genuine adventure for all railroad lovers. Between the coastal city Los Mochis and the desert city Chihuahua, the train covers a distance of 653 km, rising over 2,300 m. The name El Chepe is derived from the abbreviation CHP of the real name of the line, Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico.
100 YEARS CONSTRUCTION
The line was built between 1861 and 1961 for freight traffic. The exceptionally long time of construction was a result of the complex geography of the terrain. For example, the section between San Pedro and Creel, which passes through the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, could only be completed in the middle of the last century. And it is mountain range, with its spectacular canyons and peaks, which is the basis of the appeal of the El Chepe route. You will find out more about this route, the wonders of nature and other attractions later in this article.
VALUABLE NATURAL RESCOURCES
The reason for starting work on the new railroad line in 1861 was not, for example, the natural beauty of the mountain range but Sierra Madre Occidental’s valuable mineral resources, i.e. gold, silver, mercury, copper, lead, iron and many others. It was intended to mine these resources and then to transport them by rail to Los Mochis via El Chepe‘s predecessor and, further on, to Topolobampo. Since 1998, the El Chepe passenger train has two versions: El Chepe Express und El Chepe Regional.
EL CHEPE EXPRESS
El Chepe Express travels on a line approximately 350 km long between Los Mochis und the town of Creel. This version provides the passengers a high level of comfort so that you can enjoy to the full extent the spectacular highlights of the journey lasting approximately 9 ½ hours. The train consists of six passenger cars, a bar wagon, a restaurant car and a terrace with a total capacity of 340 passengers. The cheapest category is economy class with upright or reclining seats at the panorama windows. In business class, passengers have in addition a high-grade entertainment system. For the best possible comfort you should travel first class. While you’re making yourself comfortable in an ergonomic recliner and are admiring the countryside you will be offered by on-board service the best possible Mexican dishes and drinks. Of course, you can enjoy them in the restaurant car or the bar wagon as well. At the end of the train you will find the veranda with oversized folding windows. You can enjoy fresh air here and take outstanding photos.
EL CHEPE REGIONAL
This version goes from the beginning to the end of the imposing Sierra Tarahumara between Los Mochis und Chihuahua. With the two categories regional tourist class and economy class, the train is not quite as luxurious as the El Chepe Express. However, in the middle of the 653 km long route, there are numerous unique canyons. In the course of the 15.5 hour journey you pass through eighty-six tunnels with a total length of around 17 km and cross thirty-seven bridges. Each train has 4 to 7 wagons for sixty-four passengers and a restaurant car.
The coastal city Los Mochis is currently an important business center and is situated in the middle of the El-Fuerte Valley, the most fertile region of Mexico. Temperatures of close to 50°C can be reached in the subtropical climate close to the Pacific coast. The first station on the way to Chihuahua is the town of El-Fuerte. The magnificent buildings in the colonial style indicate the former riches obtained from gold and silver mining in the nearby mountains.
From now on the journey is really spectacular, as this is where El Chepe begins its climb in to the mountains. The village of Bahuichivo is 1,800 m above sea level and the station of Divisadero even 2,400 m. This is where you have to get off the train. The famous copper canyon and the adventure park with the same name give you not only the opportunity to see an incredible view of the adventure park with the same name enables you to take advantage of extensive cable car railways and suspended bridges with heights of 450 m, cycle tours, excursions with horses, climbs and many other attractions. On the way to Creel the train passes the highest point of the route at 2,420 m. The small mining town of Creel is situated at a height of 2,345 m and is the starting point for a tour of the area around the beautiful Lake Arareko.
FROM THE HIGH MOUNTAINS TO THE DESERT
Because the El Chepe Express comes to an end in Creel you will need to transfer to the El Chepe Regional. First of all the route takes you to the town of Cuauhtemoc. This village, which was once extremely small, grew almost overnight in the early 1920s into a city. Many thousands of immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, mainly people subscribing to the (Christian) Mennonite faith, found a new home here. The Mennonites are traditional farmers and still produce the tasty Chihuahua cheese. The terminus is at Chihuahua, capital of the federal state with the same name. In this desert metropole you will find once again many interesting buildings and museums, which provide you with a detailed insight in the history of our destination, Mexico – well worth seeing.