FIT Toward Guatemala

After asking several FIT employees in Oaxaca and getting several conflicting answers, I wanted to find out exactly how for south FIT was operating on Linea K toward the Guatemala border. As previously mentioned, the line was severely damaged during Hurricane Stan in 2005, prompting Gennessee & Wyoming to give up operations and their concessions on the line. Once FIT took over operations, little was known as to how far southward on the line they operated.


Continuing the drive southward into Chiapas state, it was clear that FIT had been doing work on the tracks and that trains were operating on the line.


At the south switch of San Ramon, the DTC signs still stand between the San Ramon and Arriaga blocks. Cleared flangeways and the condition of the tracks here made it evident that a train had recently operated through the area.



Upon arrival at the Arriaga yard, it was clear that FIT was still operating at least this far south. Quite a few grain hoppers and tank cars filled the small yard. I learned from the yard master that a train operated as far south as Arriaga at night, usually arriving around 9:00 PM. The cars in the yard were being transloaded to trucks for forwarding to Guatemala. Grains from northern Mexico and the US were shipped to Guatemala's as well as some petroleum products in tank cars. Although it looked as though the line was in service south of Arriaga, the yardmaster informed me that it was the furthest south that the line was in operation. Additionally, it was apparent that construction on the line was continuing at ties and other track material were being loaded onto trucks and driven southward. The FIT yardmaster guessed that the line to Guatemala would be reopened by next year (2010).

Above, an empty BNSF hopper car awaits the nocturnal pick up in the Arriaga yard.

Continuing southward from Arriaga, the rail was quite shiny indicating that the line was still in use - contrary to the news from the yardmaster. Upon arriving in the small town of Tonala, it was clear that the line was in service up to this point based on the cars being loaded and cleared track. The view of the small yard above shows the poor condition of the former passenger station and two coaches that were presumably used on the Chiapas passenger train.

Upon finding my way to the locomotive shops, I was surprised to find several FC Chiapas Mayab locomotives stored in pretty good shape. An employee at the shops showed me around, informing me that a few of the locomotives are still in operating condition, although unused. There was an interesting mix of geeps and GE U-boats (U23-7's).

A high-nosed U23-7 sits in the shops next to GP40 9224.

The bodies of several salvaged locomotive are still scattered around the shops complex. Here a former FNM U23-7 has had its prime mover removed.

Two former Union Pacific U23's sit in the yard.

At the north end of Tonala yard, local truckers were loading palm oil into tank cars. After speaking with them, I found that the palm oil was being shipped to Oleofinos SA de CV in Guadalajara. They said that they shipped around 8 loads out of Tonala each week, and that FIT arrived to switch their cars in the late evening. It was clear based in track conditions that the line was not in service any further south. That would make Tonala the furthest south point that the North American rail network extended to. And this customer would be the furthest south rail customer in North America.

A view of the right of way continuing south of Tonala shows that the line is clearly out of service. Thick tropical brush covers any sign of the rails.


Below is a report that I posted to Mexlist in October of 2009 providing more details of FIT operations in Oaxaca and Chiapas;


Currently, a daily manifest train is being operated between the Ferrosur Yard at Medias Aguas and Ixtepec, Oaxaca. The train generally leaves Medias Aguas around5-6 PM, passing through Matias Romero around 8 PM. It turns at Ixtepec,returning north through Matias Romero around 6 AM, arriving at Medias Aguas around 8 AM. This train uses Ferrosur locomotives, although I received differing answers if the crew was a FIT crew. I was able to photograph this train at the Matias Romero depot and spoke with the crew for a few minutes.


From Ixtepec, the line to the south is in service as far as Tonala, Chiapas. In Tonala, Oleofin is loading some sort of oil in tanks for delivery to Guadalajara. I spoke with the men loading the tanks with palm oil. South of Tonala, the line is covered with thick brush and I was able to see several smaller bridges were washed out. I was also allowed to walk through the shop sat Tonala, where several FCCM locomotives are stored (and several damagedlocomotives too).


At Arriaga, tank cars and grain hoppers are being trans-loaded to trucks for forwarding to Guatemala. According to a FIT employee in the depot, a small grain elevator there also receives about 5 hoppers per week. There is also some sort of Cemex facility on the north end of town that had several Cemex box cars.According to several workers, a train runs from Ixtepec to Arriaga, arriving around 8PM. Unfortunately, I did not stay to witness this train.


According to two workers in Tonala, FIT is also hauling windmill (turbine) parts from the port of Salina Cruz to an area on the coastal plain south of Itxtepec where large windmills are being built. From Highway 200, several of these huge windmills are visible, although I did not see any that appeared to be under construction. It could be that this business has passed.


As far as work on the line to Guatemala, there are huge stacks of wood and concrete ties at Arriaga. While I was there, several men were loading ties onto several semi-trailers throughout the day. in about an hour, three trucks left town on Highway 200 southbound. At Arriaga, there are many stacks of jointed rail along the yard, although no one seemed to be working in the area.


Also at Tonala, there were two Kinki passenger cars in the yard that were in really bad condition. I don't know if these cars were used for the passenger train that worked the line. But several windows were broken out and pieces of the air brake system were visibly missing.

FIT in Matias Romero - The Last G12

Matias Romero
Matias Romero, Oaxaca was one of the last places that former NdeM Alco locomotives were being stored. I was sure that by 2009 all the remaining Alcos had been scrapped, but I still wanted to look through the yard and locomotive shops hoping that maybe a locomotive or two still remained. The FIT employees around the station were very friendly and informative. One man who appeared to be in charge of the property anxiously agreed to show me around inside the locomotive shops buildings... although he warned me to be very vigilant of poisonous snakes where we were walking.

The ceiling of the main shops building. The man who lead me through the complex had said that Matias Romero was once the second largest shops complex on the entire NdeM system, behind San Luis Potosi. This was surprising to hear, although I still have not been able to verify that.

Inside the main building, I found it to be completely empty except for one former FNM G12, and EMD export model that was once very common in Mexico. Although the locomotive was obviously not kept in running condition, I had never before seen a G12 and was excited about the find.

Ferrocarril del Istmo de Tehuantepec (FIT)

The Ferrocarril del Istmo de Tehuantepec (FIT) is the current operator of Linea Z from Medias Aguas, Veracruz (and the connection to Ferrosur's Coatzacoalcos mainline) to the Pacific port city of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. In only 200 kilometers, the line crosses Mexico's isthmus from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Coast. Although the mountain pass that is crossed is low compared to the surrounding Sierras, 2.2% grades and 12 degree curves are common. At Ixtepec, Oaxaca, there is a connection to Linea K, which ran southeast along the Pacific coast to the Guatemala border.

To see the FIT timetable (including maps), follow this link:

These lines (as well as the Coatzacoalcos-Merida lines) were concessioned to Gennessee & Wyoming during the 1997 privatization of NdeM. The American shortline company operated the lines under the Ferrocarril Chiapas Mayab until 2005, when Hurricane Stan devastated much of the line, washing out the right of way and bridges along much of the line to Guatemala. By 2007, G&W decided to back out of the 30 year concession due to the expenses of repairing the line. The federal government eventually took over operations of these lines from G&W, essentially creating FIT.

Little was known of FIT operations in the region, and especially of the efforts to rebuild the line to the Guatemala Border. In November of 2009, I decided to explore the line and learn as much as possible about FIT's operations.


While driving along the narrow road to the town of Medias Aguas, my scanner began to pick up the chatter of a crew switching cars. As I arrived at the wye, I found three Ferrosur B23-7 running from the Ferrosur yard to the FIT yard. The sign above warns migrant travelers of the different poisonous animals that can be found in the brush.

A view of FIT's small yard at Medias Aguas.

The NdeM shield and heritage is becoming visible on the nose of FSR 9153, a B23-7, switching at the FIT interchange yard.

After speaking briefly with the Ferrosur crew, they informed me that they were building the southbound FIT train to Ixtepec and Salina Cruz. Before returning to the Ferrosur yard, they also mentioned that the train would not run until late at night. With this in mind, I decided to continue driving southward toward Matías Romero.

A view of the right of way and bridge near Palomares, Oaxaca.



Matías Romero


Once a division point on Linea Z, Matías Romero's yard was once a busy place. The Passenger station is an impressive old building, and the locomotive shops were once NdeM's second largest (according to current employees around the yard - I did not verify this). It was also one of the last known places that former NdeM ALCo locomotives were stored. I wanted to visit the yard to see what was left of the historic equipment (more on that later).


Upon arriving at the yard, the friendly employees gave me a tour of the yard and shop buildings. As it began to get dark, they mentioned that the southbound train from Medias Aguas would be arriving within about an hour. I was surprised that the train was running, especially since I was just told by the Ferrosur crew that it wouldn't leave Medias Aguas until late that night. It turns out that the train departed Medias Aguas shortly after I left there, and that I could have been following it all the way to Matías Romero. Anyway, I found a small hotel with parking in the town, then walked back to the station to photograph the southbound train.


The peaceful quiet of Matías Romero at night is slowly broken by the awkward sound of an antiquated whistle and the throaty growl of old GE locomotives slowly approaching from the north.

The crew stopped at the depot just long enough to exchange paperwork with the dispatcher (apparently on the second floor of the building) and to briefly chat with me about their schedule before departing southward.

Ferrosur - Linea S; The Mainline

Of course, a trip to Mexico is not complete without a visit to Ferrosur's Linea S, their mainline between Mexico City and Veracruz. The line climbs eastward out of the Valle de Mexico, and across the high plateaus of Tlaxcala and Puebla before descending to the Gulf coastal plain via the impressively engineered Linea SC.

For a map, and more information on the line, follow these links;

As the morning fog burns off, Iztaccíhuatl becomes visible above this northbound manifest train near Soltepec.

Leaving Muñoz, northbound trains drop into a series of several steep sags. The howl of dynamic braking quickly changes to that of run 8 as this northbound manifest train negotiates the first such sag.

A new development (to me) along the Ferrosur mainline is the installation of several automatic crossing gates. The vast majority of grade crossings in Mexico are protected by only warning signs. While these gates are a fairly new installation, they remained stuck in the lowered position after the passage of this northbound train at Guadalupe.

A northbound train passes the well kept kept at Apan.

The abandoned depot in the small village of Acopinalco still stands as a northbound intermodal train approaches in the distance.

A southbound quimico bound for Coatzacoalcos climbs the short steep grade out of Apan.

Local sheep herders barely notice as two trains meet at Soltepec.

At Calderon, Linea S crosses KCSM's Mexico-Veracruz line at grade. Both lines are dark territory, governed by track warrants. The crossing is simply protected by instructions for all trains to come to a complete stop before proceeding across the diamond. Basically, whoever arrives first will proceed first - although the KCSM line sees only an occasional train.

A northbound intermodal train climbs out of a small valley at Guadalupe.


Distrito Acultzingo
Linea SC

In the town of Acultzingo, a southbound unit cement train descends the steep grade. The tracks of Linea SC can be seen at two levels on the hillside above the train as they wind up through the Sierra Madre Orientals.

High above Acultzingo, the tracks make a horseshoe curve almost completely within two tunnel. There is only a short break in the curve where the tracks emerge high above the town of Acultzingo. This southbound train is negotiating the horseshoe, seen between the two tunnels. Below, about 15 minutes later, the same train is again visible nearing the valley floor.

A southbound train enters the second tunnel while negotiating the curve.

Looking down from the upper horseshoe curve, a unit grain train winds through Acultzingo. In the picture below, notice that another horseshoe curve lies above the town on the opposite side of the valley. Another tunnel is also visible above the train to the left.

A short northbound train climbs through the chain of tunnels between Mezquite and Acultzingo. The lower Mezquite horseshoe curve is visible on the valley floor above the train to the left.

Around Mexico City

I was excited to ride Mexico City's new Tren Suburbano between Mexico City and Cuautitlán. The electrified passenger line uses two of the four main tracks that extend between Mexico City and Huehuetoca. Leaving Estación Buenavista, the trains give a good view into Pantaco and Valle De Mexico yards - Mexico City's two main freight yards. Additionally, the Tlalnepantla station is adjacent to Avenida Mario Colin with a great overpass for viewing trains around "Valle" and the roundhouse.
The concourse of Estación Buenavista has lost most of the NdeM flavor, but is still impressive facility today.

The electric train-sets use 6 tracks at Estación Buenavista, although primarily only one is used for revenue service.

In the neighborhood of Tlalnepantla, a Tren Suburbano passes the north end of "Valle" yard. The Latino America Building near the Zocalo is visible in the distance.

As viewed from the Av. Mario Colin overpass, a northbound KCSM train pulls through the departure track at Valle de Mexico, making its way to the mainline. Ferrovalle's main terminal buildings are located at this part of the giant yard complex.

A southbound (albeit northbound on Ferrovalle tracks) Ferrosur train enters the mainline.

At dusk, locomotives from 3 of Mexico's four major railroads are visible resting at the Valle de Mexico roundhouse (Ferrosur is not represented). The Polanco towers are visible in the distance.

The Av. Mario Colin overpass gives a good view of operations at the hump.

One of Ferrovalle's many C30-7's switches the south end of the arrival yard while a long cut of cars is shoved over the hump.