April 19, Friday

I woke up late, and by the time I got my act together, it was getting to be mid-afternoon. This was the day I got to go out and look for trains in Torreón. My maps were marginal, at best, and I really had no idea what was where. But from the hill alongside Jesus the night before, I got a feeling the railroad yards were right down below, east of the big Peñoles smelter. My in laws wondered just what the heck I was going to do--drive around and look for trains? Better than spending another afternoon sweltering in the house, I took em along: Mary and Eliot, of course, and Mary's mom and sister Verónica and her two nephews, Pedro Iván and Daniel.

Verónica said there weren't too many trains--one at about 3pm every day. I wondered how she could know this--after all, they're freight trains, and not scheduled. But, at 3:15 as we neared the yard, sure enough, here was one pulling into the terminal, two red and green and white Ferromex C44's on a train of what looked like grain from the BNSF at Eagle Pass. The train disappeared into the yard. I wondered where the engine facilities were--we could see them a few hundred meters away, but how to get in? Outside, we saw ratty Union Pacific C30's and C36-7's--and some sharp maroon and gold (think Wisconsin Central) paint jobs on the same units. These were apparently among the locomotives being rebuilt by GE here for export to, of all places, Estonia. We found the entrance to the diesel shop--a GE facility, with a guard who wouldn't let us in for a look see. We drove the perimeter of the yard to find it surrounded by 10-foot tall fence and razor wire. At the east end of the yard, the tracks pass through a gate marked "Federal Property" and guarded by military-type guys with machine guns. This certainly limits trespassing on their facilities!

Back at the west end of the yard, a train was departing behind a backward-running Super 7 GE and a GP38. The GE was in rough-looking FNM paint, the GP38 in the sharp Ferromex paint. I couldn't tell if this was a yard job or a road train, but he was going mighty slow, and the sky was quite overcast. . . .

We followed the tracks back west into downtown, through a neighborhood that Mary's mom said was among the most unsavory in town. We locked the doors. We then ended up in a neighborhood where the residents were reknowned in the city for being ready to fight for no reason at all. "If you want to bring some muscle to prove your point, you round up a bunch of guys from here." Oh. And what do you pay them? "Oh, they like to fight. You don't need to give them anything."

We soon ended up across the river--well, what WAS once a river, but is now a wide ditch--in the city of Gómez Palacio in the state of Durango. This is another town with lots of industry--ADM, Phillips electronics, Lala (Mexico's largest milk and cheese producer)--and industrial spurs which crawl everywhere. Breaking out of city congestion on the north side of town, I spied a headlight coming south at a good rate of speed near the city electrical power plant. We spun around and set up, and got a nice photo of GP38-2 2045 leading a dozen or so boxcars and a real, live (well, empty, anyway) FNM yellow caboose back towards Torreón. I assume it was returning from switching near San Pedro de las Colonias , about 40 miles away.

Energized by seeing an actual train in good light, we chased it back into Gómez, using some blind navigating and making up some traffic rules (among them: wrong way down a one-way street) to get back ahead of him in time to photograph him swinging through the wide curve at the junction with the C&D line to Durango. A dead end ended the chase, and by then the women folk wanted to detour to nearby Ciudad Lerdo, a small suburb of Gómez, for some ice cream.

That evening, Mary and I went out for drinks and some live music with her brother Jorge, his wife Nancy, sister Verónica and her boyfriend, Jorge. We went to a relaxing piano bar, where a succession of entertainers performed. Nancy has been studying English for about six months, and it was a good opportunity to practice with her (Mary's brother Jorge also speaks a little English, as does Verónica. I felt like a cultural leper, not knowing more than a very few Spanish words). We left the club around 2am, and stopped by a street vendor near home for a couple of hot dogs wrapped in bacon. Incredible. The guy was doing bang-up business as well. The upstairs at home was still a furnace, the single fan moving the air around but not pulling in any cooler air. I tossed and turned, and finally fell asleep shortly before the neighborhood rooster crowed at dawn.

April 15, Monday
April 16, Tuesday
April 17, Wednesday
April 18, Thursday
April 19, Friday
April 20, Saturday
April 21, Sunday
April 22, Monday