El Chepe half way between Anáhuac and Creel; 16 May 2006
|Dates of operation||1928 (Completed in 1961)–|
|Predecessor||Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Headquarters||Mexico City, Chihuahua, Los Mochis|
The Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico (Chihuahua-Pacific Railway), also known as El Chepe from its reporting mark CHP, or Ferrocarril Chihuahua-Pacífico, is a major rail line in northwest Mexico, linking the Chihuahua City, to the Los Mochis and its port, Topolobampo. It runs 673 km (418 mi), traversing the Copper Canyon, a rugged series of canyons that have led some to call this the most scenic railroad trip on the continent. It is both an important transportation system for locals and a draw for tourists.
The tracks pass over 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels, rising as high as 2,400 m (7,900 ft) above sea level near Divisadero (the continental divide), a popular lookout spot over the canyons. Each one-way trip takes roughly 16 hours. The track also crosses over itself to gain elevation.
The concept of the railroad was officially recognized in 1880, when the president of Mexico, General Manuel González, granted a rail concession to Albert Kinsey Owen of the Utopia Socialist Colony of New Harmony, Indiana, United States, who was seeking to develop a socialist colony. The railroad was actually built by Arthur Stilwell as the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway, starting about 1900. Financial difficulties caused by the cost of building a railroad through rugged terrain delayed the project, and the ChP was not completed until 1961.
The private rail franchise Ferromex took over the railroad from the Mexican government in 1998.
In general, two passenger trains run daily: a slightly-slower service with more stops for locals, with 15 official stops and more than 50 flag stops at which boardings or disembarkations can be made at passenger request, and the other a direct service for tourists, which is faster and more expensive. First-class trains are composed of two to three cars, each holding 64 passengers. Second-class trains have three or four cars, each holding 68 passengers.
There is also regular cargo service running between Topolobampo and Chihuahua that might be further increased and extended so as to connect with the Texas Pacifico Transportation Railroad at the Ojinaga Presidio Crossing into the United States as a part of the La Entrada al Pacifico.
In popular culture
- The American funk group Vulfpeck named a song off their 2016 album (The Beautiful Game) "El Chepe" which features sounds of a train on a track in reference to El Chepe.
- COPPER CANYON - Chihuahua al Pacífico Train
- Working on the Railroad
- For a good but slightly-dated guide to the railroad and the area, see Wampler, Joseph, "New Rails to Old Towns: The Region and Story of the Ferrocarriles Chihuahua al Pacifico," (1969, Berkeley, CA).
- Topolobampo or Bust
- "Vulfpeck - El Chepe".