Regatta fed us a nice breakfast starting at 4 am. By 5:15 am, 260 of us brave souls left on 8 buses for the drive from Topolobampo to El Fuerte, where we caught a private train on the El Chepe line. (Chepe is the nickname for the Chihuahua-Pacific Railroad, the only passenger route in Mexico.)
The 1.5 hour bus ride was dark and boring. We boarded the private train at 6:45 and were soon on the way. The train cars were a little old, but very spacious and had clean restrooms. After the sun came up, I spent much of the time on the space in-between cars, snapping photos of the magnificent views. Needless to say, I kept my jacket on since it was quite breezy. Although coffee was available not long after we started, they waited to serve a continental breakfast about 8 am. Seats on the right side on the outbound trip up to the canyon were the best. There is more to see, although the left side did have its moments.
The first part of the ride was flat and dark. By the time we started the ascent into the Sierra Madres Occidental (the western branch of the Sierra mountains), the sun was up on a beautiful day.
All the cars had double seats on either side of a wide aisle, with as much leg room as you get in first class on an airplane if not more. There was also overhead storage. The seats reclined some and were comfortable. The train staff wore traditional railroad uniforms - pillbox hats, vests, bow ties, and jackets. Very old fashioned. Mom said they looked like they stepped out of the 1930s/early 1940s when she was riding trains a lot.
The views of the many canyons, rivers, lakes, and mountains we saw from the train were wonderful. We passed through 3 levels of vegetation--thorn bushes, deciduous hardwoods, and pine trees. Many trees were blooming. One they called the "morning glory" tree, which looked like it had dogwood-like white flowers, was especially prevalent. As we moved higher (the train goes from near sea level to 7700 feet), the mud puddles along the track changed to snow. We passed through dozens of tunnels and many bridges.
We were accompanied on the whole tour by at least three armed guards, dressed in uniforms with body armor (including knee pads - guess they come in handy when the banditos try to shoot out your knee caps or for crawling under the train to check for bombs) and carrying pistols and some type of automatic/semi automatic large guns. A solemn reminder of the gangs found in Mexico, but reassuring.
The train moved very slowly, about 25-35 mph most of the time. It was almost a snail's pace in some places, probably where the tracks were not in tip-top shape.
El Chepe Train to Copper Canyon - 36 photos from the El Chepe Train on a ride from Los Mochis to Barrancas, Mexico in Copper Canyon
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