These photos from the far north of the state of San Luis Potosí are from MEXLIST member Dr. John A. Kirchner.

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NdeM's Matehuala 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 students.


Farther along 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.


Here we see NdeM 6507 in a rare single-stall enginehouse at the end of the line in Matehuala (km 46.5).


The 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!


The 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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