The Copper Canyon Express, El Fuerte to Posada Barrancas, Mexico

by Ken Humphreys

In March 2005 My wife Betsy and I were on a Holland-America cruise ship sailing the Mexican Riviera and into the Sea of Cortez. The ship offered land tours when we were in port and one of these was a trip on the Copper Canyon Express (Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacifico) to the famous Copper Canyon. To my distress, I was told that the tour was fully booked and that we would be put on a waiting list. We were down to about 100 on the list and had given up on the chance of taking the tour. Then it was announced that people going on the tour would have to get up about 4 AM to take a long bus trip to El Fuerte to board the train and that the return to the ship would not be until around midnight. That news caused a huge number of people who were either not rail buffs or who did not have the stamina for such a long day to cancel out on the tour. To our pleasure we did get on the tour dispite our position so far down on the waiting list.

Arising before dawn, we left the ship, boarded one of several buses, and with a police escort, traveled at an incredible speed along narrow roads and through small towns until we arrived at El Fuerte in time to catch CHEPE, the Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacifico or Copper Canyon Express for Posada Barrancas, about 200 kilometers Northeast of El Fuerte. Posada Barrancas is at the crest of the mountains and overlooks the famous Copper Canyon. The route from El Fuerte starts out with a gradual climb from about 200 meters in elevation to about 400 meters. This climb is accomplished in a distance of about 80 kilometers. The climb to Posada Barrancas is steep and slow ascent of about 2000 meters over the remaining trip distance of about 120 kilometers. The right-of-way is narrow and passes through many tunnels as it ascends the mountains. Along the route, rail cars lie over the cliff-side where they fell during accidents or derailments or where they were simply pushed to clear the right-of-way quickly. It is a bit disconcerting to ride up the steep track and see these remnants of past accidents, but the views are breathtaking as the photographs below show.

Click on each image below to see its full sized version. Hit your back button to return and view the next photo. All images, with the exception of the map, are copyrighted by Ken Humphreys, March 2005.

Map of the route. The inset shown the rugged nature of the mountains and the steep climb of the CHEPE.
Station sign at El Fuerte before sunrise
The gradual climb toward the mountains after departing El Fuerte
Approaching the mountains and the start of the hard climb to the Copper Canyon
The first bridge on the route. The pictures do not show it but wrecked rail cars lie under the end of the bridge just beyond the ties which are visible in the pictures. These could be clearly seen as we started across the bridge and looked down.
Entering one of the many tunnels on the routek
At Temoris, the line crosses a sweeping curved trestle before entering a curved tunnel climbing all the way. This picture was taken looking up from the valley to the siding at Temoris many meters above.
Crossing the high curved trestle climbing up to Temoris.
Pictures of rail equipment on a siding at Temoris
View of the curved trestle from Temoris
Views from the mountain above Temoris into the valley below
Four photos of rail cars and MOW equipment in the small yard at Bahuichivo
Looking out of the rear car of the CHEPE train while stopped at Bahuichivo
The Copper Canyon
Two photos of CHEPE waiting for passengers to reboard at Posada Baracas
About to enter a tunnel while heading back to El Fuerte

Prototype Images - Page 1
Prototype Images - Page 2
Prototype Images - Page 3
Prototype Images - Page 4
Piedmont and Western Home Page

©2005-2009 Piedmont and Western Railroad Club