"El Aguila Azteca" (The Aztec Eagle) train No. 1 northbound, modern streamlined passenger train  of the National Railways of Mexico departing from Mexico City on the 802 mile run to Nuevo Laredo,  Mexico - located on the Rio Grande opposite Laredo, Texas. Circa 1960. Click to enlarge.

(Above: ["Aztec Eagle" departing from Mexico City]photograph1960~; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth28636/m1/1/accessed March 14, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.)


In 1948 the Missouri Pacific (MP) and the National Railways of Mexico (NdeM) began running the Aztec Eagle, or in Spanish language, Aguila Azteca, from San Antonio to Mexico City. The name was in keeping with the Missouri Pacific’s use of the word “Eagle” in its streamliner names. The MP part of the train was discontinued in 1969, however, the NdeM part of the train continued to run until well into the late 1980s.

The MP and NdeM ran connecting trains, through cars, or through trains from St. Louis, Missouri to San Antonio, Texas to Mexico City, D.F. via Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico and back beginning in 1915. 

Even though the new train featured through cars, the entire train did not cross the border into Mexico, as the Missouri Pacific was reluctant to send brand-new streamlined equipment to Mexico. As a result, despite being named Eagle, the MP's through cars were older heavyweight cars.

When it began in 1948, the NdeM used 4-8-4 locomotives built by both Alco and Baldwin to power the train. Following a tradition created by the New York Central Railroad, the NdeM referred to these 4-8-4s as Niagaras instead of Northerns. When compared to American or Canadian-built Northerns, these were actually some of the smallest 4-8-4s ever built. However, they were some of the largest locomotives ever built for use outside of the United States and Canada.

Streamlined Consist

In 1952, NdeM went to Swiss manufacturer Schindler Wagon and purchased brand-new, streamlined passenger cars for the Aguila Azteca. Today Schindler manufactures escalators and elevators, having sold its railcar division to Daimler-Benz in 1998 who, in turn in 2001, sold the company to Stadler. 

Each train consisted of a mail-baggage car; an 84-seat coach; two 56-seat coaches; a diner; two sleeping cars with eight sections and three three double-bedrooms; one sleeper with ten room, probably double-bedrooms; and an observation car. Since travel from Nuevo Laredo to Mexico City took 26 hours, three sets of equipment were purchased for the service. The colorful downloadable brochure show below describes the train in detail.

The observation cars, which looked distinctly Pullman, were named Olmeca, Mexica, and Maya. They were even referred to as Pullman cars by the NdeM, which suggests Schindler may have paid royalties to Pullman for the use its designs. We are not sure from the black-and-white photos what colors were used originally, but by 1964 the equipment had been repainted dark green with a thin orange-red stripe. NdeM later adopted a two-tone blue color livery with a grey roof, which was slightly reminiscent of MP's Eagle colors, and it's even a possibility that the Swiss cars may have used an early version of this scheme.

No Schindler cars went north of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and MP and NdeM continued using heavyweight equipment to send across the border into the early 1950s. Eventually, the through heavyweight cars were replaced by streamlined cars, and the through sleepers from San Antonio to Mexico City continued to the end of 1968, with through coach service continuing for a few weeks into 1969.

NdeM Dieselized the train about the same time it received the Swiss Schindler streamlined cars. The NdeM initially used GM EMD FP-7s, later purchasing Alco FPAs. The NdeM also purchased Baldwin Centipedes.

The Mexican Aguila Azteca ran at a leisurely pace, averaging 31 mph southbound and a brisk 34 mph northbound. The segment from San Antonio to Laredo on the Missouri Pacific’s wasn’t much faster, averaging 36 mph. Including the time it took for customs inspections, the total average from San Antonio to Mexico City was only 30 mph southbound and a slightly faster 33 mph northbound.


The Aguila Azteca was involved in a major crash in Mexico on January 22, 1961. One person was killed and many others were injured according to the Laredo Times newspaper.


NdeM Train 2, the Aguila Azteca south of San Luis Potosi, S.L.P., Mexico on September 7, 1966. Click to enlarge. (Photo by Roger Puta, via Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Observation Bar Lounge of Train 2, the Aguila Azteca, in San Luis Potosi, S.L.P., Mexico station on September 7, 1966. Click to enlarge. (Roger Puta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


NdeM No. 6200 leading the Aguila Azteca in 1960. Click to enlarge.

(NdeM Publicity photo, Public domain)

Interior of 14 section Texla Gueterro on Train 2, the Aguila Azteca, north of San Miguel Allende, GTO, Mexico on September 7, 1966. Click to enlarge. (Photo by Roger Puta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

An Alco Builders photo of National Railway of Mexico 4-8-4 steam passenger locomotive No. 3036, built in 1946. Click to enlarge.

See an N de M 4-8-4 Gallery ay the N de M page.

(Alco Builders photo, NdeM Publicity Department, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)



Interior of dining car built by Swiss railcar manufacturer Schindler Wagon for the Aguila Azteca. Click to enlarge. (Schindler Wagon for NdeM, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)


Cars on their way from the Schindler factory to a port. Click to enlarge. (Schindler Wagon for NdeM, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)


Original text: Los pasajeros disfrutan de una excelente comida en el vagón comedor de lujo del Águila Azteca.

Translation: Passengers enjoy an excellent meal in the Aguila Azteca's luxury dining car. Click to enlarge photo.

(NdeM publicity photo, ca. 1960s. Public domain, via W. Lenheim Collection.)


A beautiful NdeM Aguila Azteca brochure printed for English-speaking

patrons, ca. 1960. Click on the image to download a PDF.

(Image: NdeM Publicty Department, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)


A Spanish-language print ad for the Aguila Azteca. Click to enlarge.

Unfortunately I can't read the fine text, but here's a translation of what I can read: Luxury train at a modest price. No means of transportation offers or can offer the public the advantages and comfort that this luxurious train provides. Warm shower baths, family bedrooms, luxurious dining room, bar-observation car, attentive ladies stewardess, artificial climate (air-conditioned). National Railways of Mexico. (Source: N de M. This was sent to me and I'm sorry I've lost the person's contact info., etc.)


Timetable  Schedule for the Aguila Azteca

June 1, 1952

2 Train Number (National Railways of Mexico) 1
6 00P Dp 156 Nuevo Laredo, Tam. Ar 8 00A
8 39P 266 Villaldama, N.L. M 5 23A
10 15P Ar 324 Monterrey, N.L. C M Dp 3 50A
10 35P Dp Ar 3 30A
1 15A Ar 391 Saltillo, Coah. C M Dp 1 40A
1 35A Dp Ar 1 20A
5 15A Ar 512 Vanegas, S.L.P. M Dp 9 55P
5 25A Dp Ar 9 45P
8 55A Ar 633 San Luis Potosi, S.L.P. C M Dp 6 35P
9 15A Dp Ar 6 15P
11 08A 686 San Felipe, Gto. 4 38P
12 08P 716 Rio Laja, Gto. 3 38P
1 08P 742 San Miguel Allende, Gto. C 2 35P
1 55P Ar 765 Escobedo, Gto. Dp 1 55P
2 15P Dp Ar 1 35P
780 Mariscala, Gto. 1 13P
2 58P 793 Queretaro, Qro. C 12 59P
4 54P 860 Huichapan, Hgo. M 11 10A
8 00P Ar 958 Mexico City, D.F. (Buenavista) (CT) C Dp 8 20A


Interior of NdeM's new Buenavista Grand Central Station, Mexico City, D.F., Mexico on September 10, 1966. This is one side of the waiting room. There is plenty of seating behind the camera. (A Roger Puta Photograph, Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

NdeM Observation-Bar Lounge to be put on the head end of Train 2, the Aguila Azteca (for the Four Winds Cruise) at Nuevo Laredo, Tamps, Mexico station on September 6, 1966. Click to enlarge. (Photo by Roger Puta, Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Interior of NdeM's Buenavista Grand Central Station, Mexico City, D.F., Mexico on September 10, 1966. Click to enlarge image.

(A Roger Puta photo, via Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)