These photos from the far north of
the state of San Luis Potosí are from MEXLIST member Dr. John A.
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Branch diverged from the Saltillo-San Luis Potosí main line at Vanegas. In 1978, the
branch hosted two pairs of mixed trains daily (245/246 and 247/248),
each connecting with secondary trains on the main line. Here we see NdeM 6507, an
ALCO FA-2 built in 1951, on Train 247 at the station in Vanegas.
Along the line
toward Matehaula lies Cedral (km 24.1). This photo was taken two years later in 1980. The
trains had been cut back to only one pair per day, but NdeM 6507 was still the
power. We see it here at the Cedral depot. The young lady was one of Dr. Kirchner's
the line at La Cabra (km 37.4), and in 1978 once again, we see Train 248. Note the semaphore
and the narrow-gauge (30-inch) track of the Ferrocarril Santa María La Paz y Anexas, a
mine railroad then operated with a Plymouth locomotive. The Matehuala Branch, itself, was
once three-foot narrow-gauge.
A wider shot
shows more of the neat La Cabra depot.
we see NdeM 6507 in a rare single-stall enginehouse at the end of the line
in Matehuala (km 46.5).
former rail connection to Real de Catorce was in three stages:
The first was an NdeM spur from the (then) three-foot-gauge Matehuala Branch to
Portrero. There began the 30-inch-gauge Ferrocarril Ogarrio, which used
Shay geared steam locomotives to ascend the steep grades to the third
stage, the Túnel Ogarrio. This incredible 7,415-foot (2,260 m) unreinforced
rock-cut tunnel was electrified, as was the street railway that served the city
beyond in the late 1800's. In this photo, we see the east portal of the
tunnel. Most of the railroad grade is now a 14-mile cobblestone road, and
the municipal government maintains the one-lane direction-controlled
tunnel with tolls. The only other easy way to get to Real de Catorce is
to be born there!
other end of the tunnel opens immediately into Real de Catorce. Founded
in 1772, this rich silver-mining city once had 40,000 inhabitants, two
mints, and an opera house where Enrico Caruso sang. At 9,000 feet
(2,743 m.) above sea level, the streets are narrow and steep. The
street railway ran the length of the city, passing right beside the
Iglesia de San Francisco de Asís, built in 1780. Rails can still be seen
in places. Today, much of the city is in ruins, and a small but
hardy population lives in the mansions of the former mine owners
and subsists on the tourist trade. Real de Catorce should not be
missed by any adventurous traveler in the region.
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