Map of Linea S (SC)

FNM's Division Mexicano - FNM 1994 Employee Timetable

Ferrosur - Orizaba to Veracruz

Two C30-7's ease a train of Ferrosur and Ferromex automaxes toward the mainline at Orizaba yard.




Although the city of Orizaba is on the valley floor, the line toward Veracruz is still very steep as the the foothills of the Sierra Madre lean toward the Gulf Coast. Many rivers wind out of the mountains creating the steep valleys that eventually open to the coastal plains. Through this region, Ferrosur's Linea S is an interesting mix of historic and modern railroading. Much of the original FC Mexicano right of way is still used, undulating over ridges and crossing the many rivers on old steel trestles. It is common to find old catenary poles still standing along the mainline, remnants of the 1920's electrification from Paso de Macho to Esperanza. However, many parts of the line were rebuilt as part of the 1980's public work projects, featuring some impressive concrete bridges.

Orizaba yard sits on a 2% grade, sloping southward toward Veracruz. Here, a southbound train is slowly starting toward the mainline as it begins its trip to Tierra Blanca (via Linea G). Meanwhile double stacked containers (as well as some in gondolas) sit in the yard while a switcher approaches on the mainline.

Distributed power is now very commonly used in many different arrangements on Ferrosur. This heavy northbound train from Veracruz is using two sets of DPU's while only one locomotive is on the head-end. A work train is stopped in the distance on one main track while this train approaches Orizaba Yard.

Before the use of distributed power, manned helpers were very common throughout Ferrosur's mountainous territory. This northbound is about to cross over into Orizaba Yard with a set of mid-train helpers visible in the distance.

South from Orizaba, Linea S immediately starts to pass through sugar cane fields that cover the valley floors in southern Veracruz. A leased TFM AC44CW is leading this southbound through the fields as it approaches Sumidero.

Approaching Sumidero on the double track that extends from Encinar to Fortin (through Orizaba), this empty grain train is coasting through one of the many sags.


Puente Metlac


Between Sumidero and Fortin, Linea S crosses the Metlac Ravine on a high concrete bridge. The original right of way wound down the side of the ravine and crossed the river on a sharply curving bridge only to climb up a stiff grade on the other side. The new double-tracked bridge crosses directly over the ravine.

Led by a leases Feromex AC44CW, a southbound intermodal train is crossing Puente Metlac.

A southbound empty grain train crossing the bridge on a typical foggy morning.

On sunny days, Pico de Orizaba dominates the skyline above the Orizaba Valley. This southbound train is bound for Coatzacoalcos via Linea G.

A southbound manifest train is curving through Fortin moments after sunrise.

A northbound grain train is diverging at the beginning of double track at Fortin.

Although the coastal valleys of Veracruz are covered in lush tropical vegetation, the land is still very rugged. This northbound train is digging into the steep grades and sags that extend above Córdoba. Notice the catenary poles that still line the tracks through this area, reminders that this line was once electrified.

At Paraje Nueva, this northbound grain train struggles to climb away from the Rio Atoyac.

A northbound train curving through the village of Paraje, a small sugar cane town.

The town of Portrero was once the center of the large sugar cane industry in this region. There was a large sugar mill that was served by a shortline railroad and large yard. While the yard is still used for storage, and the shortline's engines sit dormant, most of the areas sugar cane is now trucked to larger mills throughout the region. This northbound is passing through Potrero while kids walk home from school.

A northbound approaches the old yard at Potrero. The tracks to the left were a yard lead while the foreground is the current siding. This train will meet a southbound that is taking the siding at the north end.

At Atoyac, Linea S winds into a narrow canyon above Rio Atoyac. This part of the line was rebuilt on the opposite side of the canyon. The tracks now pass through Túnel Pensil and a concrete rock-shed before crossing over Rio Atoyac. This northbound can be seen winding though the tunnel.

A southbound exiting Túnel Pensil in early morning light.

Northbound trains from Veracruz leave the coastal plains and encounter the first of the mountains at Atoyac. This northbound grain train is crossing Rio Atoyac on the impressive series of concrete bridges. In the distance the coastal plains stretch toward the Gulf of Mexico.

A northbound manifest crossing Rio Atoyac.

A short work train is on the same bridge as it heads north. Its caboose is pictured below.

A southbound is leaving the mountains behind as it enters the plains near Atoyac.

This northbound grain train is winding through sugar cane fields as it approaches the canyon at Atoyac.

A short work train is leaving Paso del Macho to pick up used concrete ties around Portero.

On clear mornings, Pico de Orizaba is visible to ships in the Gulf of Mexico. On this day, it is looming over a southbound train that is leaving Camarón siding after meeting a northbound intermodal train.

A southbound intermodal train below Pico de Orizaba. Notice that many of the containers are simply loaded into gondola cars; a common practice on Ferrosur.

Pico de Orizaba is mostly hidden by the coastal haze that is beginning to form into clouds as a southbound baretable passes through Mata de Agua.

At Soledad de Doblado, Linea S crosses over this interesting steel tresstle. The top level carries the tracks over Rio Jamapa, while the bottom level carries a narrow wood-planked roadway.

A view of the wood-planked roadway underneath the tracks.

A southbound manifest train is entering the town of Soledad de Doblado as it crosses the Rio Jamapa.

At Manlio Fabio Altamirano, the southbound baretable train (with two hoppers on the head-end) is entering the suburbs of Veracruz. The abandoned station here is being enveloped by the dense tropical vegitation.

Ferrosur - Apizaco to Orizaba; Distrito Acultzingo

Linea SC
Ferrosur's Linea S reaches its highest elevation of 8,235' along the sides of La Malinche, near Huamantla. From this point, it's 180 miles to sea level at the port of Veracruz. With this in mind, it is clear that building a railroad between these points would require some impressive feats of engineering. When the FC Mexicano built into the Sierra Madre Orientals from Veracruz, their original alignment through Orizaba, Maltrata and Esperanza featured 4.7% grades and many incredibly sharp curves. Most of the FC Mexicano's original alignment became NdeM's Distrito Maltrata, their mainline between Veracruz and Mexico City. In the 1920's, FC Mexicano electrified the line from Paso del Macho (on the coastal plains) to Esperanza which was the bulk of the climb into highlands of central Mexico. General Electric box cabs hauled passenger and freight trains up through the mountains until heavier duty diesel locomotives from Alco started to arrive on property. Although the toughest parts of the climb through the sierra were bypassed in the 1980's by Linea SC, parts of the FC Mexicano's original alignment are still in service today as Ferrosur's mainline.
Distrito Acultzingo - Linea SC
In the 1980's, the Mexican government funded the rebuilding of many rail lines throughout the country as part of a massive public works initiative. In many places, complete new alignments were built, by-passing difficult terrain. Between Jesus de Nazareno, Puebla and Mendoza, Veracruz, Linea S was completely rebuilt utilizing a neighboring valley to the south of the existing allignment. This huge progect was done to bypass the 4.7% grades and extreme curvature of Linea S's Distrito Maltrata. The new line, designated Linea SC - or Distrito Acultzingo - features a ruling grade of 2.7% and some impressive engineering. Although Linea SC is a huge improvement over the original line, it still poses an operational challenge.

Now in the highlands of Puebla state, this northbound manifest train is stretching out on the flatlands near Esperanza as it runs on the last few miles of Distrito Acultzingo. Lying ahead is the connection to Linea S at Jesus de Nazareno, and the run to Apizaco. Pico de Orizaba dominates the skyline throughout this region of Mexico.

Having crested the summit of the Sierra Madre Oriental, this northbound manifest train is passing through San Antonio de Soledad. From the high valleys of Puebla, the mountains do not look to impressive. However, the long climb from the coast of Veracruz lies on the other side.

At 18,500', Pico de Orizaba is the highest mountain in Mexico (third highest in North America behind McKinley and Logan). From the west, the peak doesn't look that impressive because the valleys are already so high. This southbound manifest is climbing toward the summit of Distrito Acultzing near San Antonio de Soledad with Pico de Orizaba standing in the distance. Once reaching the summit, the descent into the Orizaba Valley and to the Gulf Coast begins.

At 9,752 feet, "El Mexicano," Mexico's longest tunnel, carries Linea SC under the summit of the Sierra Madre Oriental. Since it is on the east side of Linea SC's summit, it is all up hill though the tunnel for northbound trains. According to the FNM 1994 Timetable, the grade is a steady 2.5% northward, requiring a ventilation and door system at the north portal. This northbound train is emerging from the north portal at Puente Colorado.

High above the Rio Blanco Valley and the town of Acultzingo, a northbound train begins climbing after meeting a southbound at Vaqueria.

A southbound train rolling through Vaqueria.

A southbound manifest train is winding down into the Rio Blanco Valley below Vaqueria. On clear days, the peak of Pico de Orizaba is visible from the higher parts of the valley walls. Usually coastal moisture keeps the mountains of Veracruz covered in fog and drizzle, hiding the peak.

A single engine is returning to Orizaba after spending the day on a work train. The higher elevations above the valley host a small lumber industry. A small mill is visible to the left of the engine.

Looking down at the village of Vaqueria, a northbound unit grain train is looping around the narrow valley as it climbs toward Vaqueria siding. After looping around again, the train will pass through the tunnels visible above the train as it continues to climb toward "El Mexicano."

Approaching Huaxtitla, this southbound train passes under Puente Vaqueria.

A heavy northbound train is down to a crawl in the village of Vaqueria.

Below Huaxtitla, the line loops back again and enters the town of Acultzingo. This northbound grain train is passing through a spot of sun on an otherwise cloudy day in the mountains of Veracruz. (Unfortunately, I missed the engines in the light)

On a sunny afternoon, a northbound grain train is climbing toward Huaxtitla.

Above Acultzingo, this southbound is passing a set of GE trucks, and other reminders of a recent derailment.

Another southbound passing by the derailment site below the loop at Acultzingo. Notice the right of way on the hillside above the train.

A northbound grain train meets a southbound manifest at Acultzingo. Immigration has a very visible effect on the railroads in southern Mexico. Especially on trains coming from Linea G (Tierra Blanca), it is very common to see groups of people riding on northbound trains. Most trains now also carry security guard on them, not to remove the riders, but to protect the crews and freight.

Until recently, manned helpers were still common on Ferrosur between Veracruz, Tierra Blanca and Jesus de Nazareno, Puebla. Now, DPU's are the norm on Distrito Acultzingo, distributed though out a train in many different variations. These helpers are returning light to Orizaba after helping an early-morning northbound. They are passing the DPU's on a heavy northbound on the main track at Acultzingo.

South of Acultzingo, a southbound is passing above the many small farms on the valley floor.

After passing through a chain of small tunnels, this southbound as approaching the loops at Mezquite. The tracks ahead are visible at two levels in the lower right.

As the sun breaks through the clouds, this northbound climbing out of the loop at Mezquite.

A small work train is climbing through the loop above Mezquite.

C30-7's lead a northbound through Mezquite.

The Orizaba Valley is visible in the background as this loaded grain train climbs through the curves at Mezquite. The DPU's are then passing below. Linea SC makes two reversing curves here to cross to the opposite side of the valley while still gaining elevation.

During the usual cloudy and foggy weather in the mountains of Veracruz, the sun will occasionally break out in the afternoons. This southbound cement train is passing through the sunlight at Mezquite. The moisture that rolls off the gulf coast cools when it presses against the mountains creating the usual fog and clouds that can bee seen in the distance.

Two trains that met at Mezquite siding can now be seen on opposite sides of the valley.

Above Tecamalucan, this northbound train is climbing out of the Orizaba Valley.

A northbound above Tecamalucan.

A southbound exiting a tunnel at KM 307.

This work train is approaching the first tunnel of Distrito Acultzingo as it leaves Tecamalucan. In the background is a high-wide detector that protects the many tunnels ahead.

At Encinar, Linea SC reconnects with the original Linea S right of way. When Lineas SC was completed, a former NdeM GE box cab locomotive was put on display at the junction as a monument to the new line through the mountains. This southbound (above) is curving onto the original right of way while passing the old GE locomotive. The formerly electrified Distrito Maltrata continued straight at this point, to the right of the train.

A northbound passing Encinar as it begins its trip up Linea SC.

Approaching Orizaba, a leased TFM AC44CW leads this short southbound down the grade on a rainy morning.

In Orizaba Yard, a southbound train eases toward the mainline to begin a trip to Coatzacoalcos. Double stacked containers - as well as a few in gondolas - are waiting in the yard while a switcher approaces on the mainline.

Late at night, this yard crew is walking into the towns streets for a quick meal as a southbound train pulls into the yard. Once the southbound is done with a setout, the crew on the mainlne will houl the cars into the Cuauhtémoc brewery for spotting.