The Chihuahua al Pacífico (Chepe) railroad is the only railroad that
has been international in its vision since its
inception. This engineering marvel took almost 90
years and 90 million dollars to complete. The
Reader's Digest has called it "the most dramatic
train ride in the western hemisphere." The first
Mexican train to traverse the complete route was in
1961. The route is through 5 climatic zones from sea
level to 8,000 feet elevation.
Sierra Madre Occidental Mountain, Chihuahua
State, northwest Mexico
Closest major airport: : Gral.
Roberto Fierro Villalobos International
Airport aka Chihuahua Intl. (CUU)
Nearest town/city: Creel (pop.
6,500), a small town known as the “Gateway
to Copper Canyon.”
Other important cities/sites nearby:
Chihuahua City (capital), 150 miles away
The original route of the Kansas City Mexico Orient
Railway (forerunner of the Chepe) was 1600 miles
long. It ran from Wichita, Kansas, through Oklahoma
and Texas, crossing the border at Presidio, Texas
and Ojinaga, Chihuahua. It continued on to Chihuahua
City, then went west across the Sierra Madre
Occidental Mountain Range, ending up at Topolobampo
Bay on the Sea of Cortez, near Las Mochis, Sinaloa.
The purpose of the KCMO Railway was to shorten the
shipping route to the orient by 400 miles.
Since the Chepe was privatized in 1998, it is one of
only two passenger trains left in Mexico - the other
being the Tequila Express out of Guadalajara.
The Chepe tourist line presently is the 400 mile
route between Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, and Los
Mochis, Sinaloa. The Reader’s Digest calls it the
“the most dramatic train ride in the western
hemisphere.” To enjoy the most scenic part of this
route during daylight hours, S & S Tours always
begins our tours in Los Mochis.
The Chepe engineering challenges include 37 bridges
and 89 tunnels on the route. At one point the train
does a 180 degree turn inside the mountain, and at
another point loops over itself. The longest tunnel
in Mexico, over a mile long, is on this route. In
the mountain region, there is a drop of 7300 feet
elevation in 122 miles.
Two Americans were directly involved in the
conception of this railroad. Arthur Stilwell of
Kansas City, Kansas, was responsible for completing
1000 miles of the total 1600 miles of track built.
(Note: My name is Sue Stilwell. We are in the family
line of Arthur Stilwell, so this history is of great
personal interest to me.) Albert Owens, a
Pennsylvanian railroad engineer, surveyed the
western end of the line. Chepe Train
In 1998, the private rail franchise - Ferromex -
took over the railroad from the Mexican government.
The government had operated all the railroads since
1940. Ferromex has made a significant investment in
a total modernization program.
A thorough renovation of the train stations has
taken place in Los Mochis, El Fuerte, Bahuichivo (Cerocahui),
Posada Barrancas, Creel, and the old train station
with murals in Chihuahua City. The train track has
been repaired and brought up to industry standards.
This assures added security, comfort, and speed for
the passenger trains. Twelve remodeled,
air-conditioned Chepe passenger cars are on
first-class express service.
It is a pleasure to dine in the new dining cars
freshly decorated with the same elegant upholstery
and carpet of the passenger cars. An excellently
equipped kitchen serves delicious breakfasts,
lunches, and dinners daily. The deluxe lounge cars
offer all varieties of drinks and a place for close
camaraderie on the trip.
Ferromex is to be commended for undertaking the
extremely challenging task of offering first-class
train service for tourists on this extraordinary,
remote route. This places the railroad in a unique