An N de M passenger train at Mexico City in the 1960s, the Torre Insignia Building in the background.

(Kristhian Jimenez, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

FERROCARRILES NACIONALES DE MEXICO (N de M)

Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (English: National Railways of Mexico) and better known as N de M and in its final years as FNM was Mexico's state owned railroad company from 1938 to 1998, and prior to 1938 (dating from the regime of Porfirio Díaz), a major railroad controlled by the government that linked Mexico City to the major cities of Ciudad Juárez, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros on the U.S. border. The first trains to Nuevo Laredo from Mexico City began operating in 1903.

 

Share of the National Railways of Mexico, issued 9. May 1910.

(Unbekannte Autoren und Grafiker; Scan vom EDHAC e.V., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

History

The beginnings of rail transport in Mexico date back to the concessions granted by Maximilian I of Mexico, mostly to foreign companies, and continued by Benito Juárez.

In 1898, José Yves Limantour proposed a system of concessions of the railway companies on the future lines to be built from 1900. That same year the Secretariat of the Treasury promulgated the first General Railway Law. This law established a system whereby concessions would be granted to companies to lay railway lines only when they satisfied the economic needs of the country and linked the interior of the Republic with its most important commercial ports.

The original N de M company was created in 1903 during the tenure of Porfirio Díaz, and it was through said company that most of the Mexican railway network was developed. In fact, before the Porfiriato, only the Mexico City–Veracruz segment was in operation, since Gen. Díaz's greatest interest was to develop the country industrially, he had a special affinity for the railroad.

 

President Lázaro Cárdenas (center) greeted by 10,000 avid constituents in Tijuana, Mexico on July 8, 1939.

Elected in 1934, Cárdenas nationalized the railway system creating the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México in 1938.

(Acme News Bureau, W. Lenheim Collection)

 

Nationalization and Privatization

Pursuant to an agreement signed on February 29, 1908, N de M absorbed the Mexican Central Railroad (Ferrocarril Central Mexicano, first section from Mexico City to León, Guanajuato, opened in 1882) in 1909, thus acquiring a second border gateway at Ciudad Juárez (adjacent to El Paso, Texas). This gave the Mexican federal government a 58% stake in N de M. The N de M was fully nationalized by President Lázaro Cárdenas del Río in 1938, and privatized in 1994–1998 by Presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo. N de M operated most railway trackage through the central and northeastern regions of the republic. The Ferrocarril del Pacífico (or Pacific Railroad) and the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico operated railroads in the northwest.

In 1995, the Mexican government announced that FNM would be privatized and divided into four main systems. As part of the restructuring for privatization, FNM suspended passenger rail service in 1997, and the new arrangements applied from 1998; by then FNM ceased to be the administrator of most of its major railway routes. The companies were Kansas City Southern de Mexico, Ferromex, Ferrosur, and (owned jointly by the three companies) Ferrocarril y Terminal del Valle de México or Ferrovalle which operates railroads and terminals in and around Mexico City.

Liquidation

It was not until June 4, 2001, during Vicente Fox's presidency that FNM as an organization was officially extinguished, as confirmed by a publication in Mexican Official's Gazette. FNM will continue to exist legally as a state-owned shell entity (as Ferrocariles Nacionales de México en Liquidación) until the conclusion of the liquidation process.

As of 2022, FNM en Liquidación still owns some lines (23% of which are shortline railroads) where concessions cannot be granted or are considered to be of importance for the national economy, such as the Trans-Istmico, which goes from Salina Cruz, Oaxaca to Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, although their direct operations are contracted to private companies. Since 2012, FNM en Liquidación as well as its associated liquidation process and settlement of existing liabilities has been headed by an undersecretariat of the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT).

 

NdeM 8129, an ALCO C424, with eastbound Train 52 arriving at Esperanza, Puebla, Mexico on September 11, 1966. Click to enlarge.

(Roger Puta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Locomotives

During the days of steam locomotives, N de M was best known for operating Niágara class locomotives, which took their name from the New York Central Railroad locomotives of the same wheel configuration. It was also the home of several 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge systems that used steam, both nationally and regionally. N de M was one of the few railroads outside the US to purchase new diesel locomotives from Baldwin Locomotive Works: the only three "Baldwin E-units" ever built (DR-6-4-2000), the DR-12-8-1500/2 and the AS-616. Two of the three DR-6-4-2000 locomotives had been on major railroads in the United States on a demonstration tour in 1945. N de M bought them in August 1945 and ordered a third in August 1946. All three consistently broke down and were retired soon after their factory warranties expired and were scrapped in September 1957. They do not appear on the 1958 N de M locomotive roster, and sat for years in the scrapyard at San Luis Potosí. Notes in the FNM archives in Puebla, Mexico describe how one of these locomotives had a wheel disintegrate at high speed, and also how the Centipede locomotives were delivered in 1948 with parts missing.

In Acámbaro, Guanajuato, N de M operated one of the few facilities in Latin America that was capable of constructing and doing complete rebuilds of steam locomotives, thus with rare exceptions (as with the Niagaras), most of N de M steam motive power was purchased used and rebuilt there. Portions of the facility and a preserved 2-8-0 steam locomotive remain as part of Acambaro's municipal railway museum.

 

A photo of an N de M Baldwin Centipede, No.6404. These were delivered from the factory with parts missing. Click to enlarge.

(Unknown, W. Lenheim Collection)

 

An N de M 4-8-4 Gallery

These N de M 4-8-4 Niagaras were built for passenger service in 1946

(same year as the New York Central's Niagaras), and were still hard at work in September of 1966.

Click on image to enlarge photo.

 

NdeM 4-8-4 Niagra 3049 working in Valle de Mexico yards, Tlalnepantla, Mexico on September 13, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta via Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

NdeM 4-8-4 Niagra 3039 in Valle de Mexico yards, Tlalnepantla, Mexico on September 10, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta via Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

NdeM 4-8-4 Niagra 3036 on turntable at Valle de Mexico roundhouse Tlalnepantla, Mexico on September 10, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta via Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

NdeM 4-8-4 Niagra 3031 coming off turntable at Valle de Mexico roundhouse Tlalnepantla, Mexico on September 10, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta via Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

NdeM 4-8-4 Niagra 3049 leaving north from Valle de Mexico yards, Tlalnepantla, Mexico on September 10, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta via Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

NdeM 4-8-4 Niagra 3031 backing on to the turntable at Valle de Mexico roundhouse Tlalnepantla, Mexico on September 10, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta via Marty Bernard from U.S.A., 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.

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

 

An N de M logo and motto: Unite, Serve. 

(By FNMKZ - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49634785)

 

Notable named passenger trains of the N de M

Named trains usually bore names related to the destination, for example, El Purépecha referred to the Purépecha peoples of western Michoacán.

El Jarocho - Mexico City - Veracruz, Veracruz.
Águila Azteca - Mexico City - Monterrey - Nuevo Laredo, with the addition name, the Texas Eagle for continued service to San Antonio and St. Louis and connections to Amtrak for continued service to Chicago
El Azteca - Mexico City - Querétaro - León - Aguascalientes - El Paso, Texas
La Estrella del Sur - Mexico City - Puebla - Oaxaca de Juárez
El Regiomontano - Mexico City - Monterrey - Nuevo Laredo
El Fronterizo - Mexico City - Chihuahua - Ciudad Juárez - El Paso, Texas; as Nos. 7/8, it had connections to Southern Pacific Railroad connections to Los Angeles
El Nocturno - Mexico City - Toluca - Morelia - Uruapan
El Oaxaqueño - Mexico City - Puebla - Oaxaca de Juárez
El Purépecha - Mexico City - Morelia - Uruapan - Lázaro Cárdenas (Michoacán)
El Tapatío - Mexico City - Guadalajara
El Rápido de la Frontera (railcar service) Chihuahua - Ciudad Juárez - with nearby connections to the north in El Paso
El Hidalguense - Mexico City - Pachuca, Hidalgo

The Águila Azteca/Texas Eagle service was in conjunction with the Missouri Pacific railroad. Later with Amtrak, connections could be made in Laredo with Amtrak's Inter-American. Besides connections in Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo, there were connections to trains in the United States in Guadalajara, Piedras Negras and Matamoros. To the south there were connections to Guatemala in Ciudad Hidalgo.

Other passenger service was provided between Mexico City and: Cuernavaca, Morelos; Tampico, Tamaulipas; and Guanajuato, Guanajuato.

 

Interior of NdeM's new Buenavista Grand Central Station, Mexico City, DF, 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)

Interior of NdeM's Buenavista Grand Central Station, Mexico City, DF, 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)

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)

 

Buenavista railway station

Buenavista railway station in Mexico City served as the terminal and after 2005, it was renovated and serves as the southern end of the electric Tren Suburbano line. Photos of Buenavista often prominently feature a pyramid-like tower, the Torre Insignia. The building housed the headquarters of Banobras (El Banco Nacional de Obras y Servicios Públicos), but currently is unoccupied and it has been renovated.

Preservation

A preserved Niagara steam locomotive and GE boxcab can be viewed at the Museum of Electricity at Chapultepec, Mexico City. Many more preserved Mexican steam, diesel and electric locomotives can be viewed at the FNM museum in Puebla, Mexico.

 

A Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México Photo Gallery

N de M F units led by 6331 of Train 51 (and to be put on 52) at Esperanza, Querétaro, Mexico on September 11, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta courtesy Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

N de M Train 45 for Balsas led by F-unit 7010 at Buena Vista Grand Central Station, Mexico City, DF, Mexico on September 13, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta courtesy Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

An NdeM FP9A at the Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Mexicanos, (The National Museum of Mexican Railways) Puebla, on March 4 2012. (Foto por Hernán García Crespo from DF, Mexico, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Narrow Gauge Train 128 going through San Lazaro yards led by EMD GA8 No. 5406. Also, extreme left is FCI (Ferrocarriles Interoceanico) 2-6-0 No. 60. Taken in Mexico City, DF, Mexico on September 13, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta courtesy Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Postcard photo of new SD40-2 EMD locomotives at the Electro-Motive plant in LaGrange, Illinois. The company was celebrating its 50th anniversary of building diesel locomotives in 1972. Photo by Paul L. Schumann. (Audio-Visual Designs, Earlton, NY, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

N de M No. 5843, an EMD export  at Escobedo Jct., Guanajuato, Mexico. Taken from Train 2, the Aguila Azteca on September 7, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta courtesy Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

N de M Train 61 for Beristain led by F unit 6318 at Buenavista Grand Central Station, Mexico City, DF, Mexico on September 11, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta courtesy Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

An N de M freight led by a rare F2 No. 6205 in Valle De, Mexico yard, Tlanepantla, Mexico on September 9, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta courtesy Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

N de M Train 5, the all-Pullman El Tapatio with a Sonora Baja-California private car on rear at Buenavista Grand Central Stration, Mexico City, DF, Mexico on September 10, 1966. (Photo by Roger Puta courtesy Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

A GE U30C model locomotive in the Tres Centurias corridor. (Foto por Luis Alvaz, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

N de M ALCO PA No. DH-19 in museum courtyards with SBC (Ferrocarril Sonora–Baja California) No. 2203, an EMD FT. (Foto por Carlos González Torres, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Ferrocarriles Del Sureste Commedor (Diner) "Agua Blanca" on N de M Train 51 at Esperanza, Puebla, Mexico. An ex-Lehigh Valley diner. The old Mexicano electrification began here. (Photo by Roger Puta courtesy Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

The Plaza de las Tres Centurias, a space dedicated to showing the historical legacy of the railways, in the State of Aguascalientes, Mexico. July 28, 2019. (Foto por Armando Olivo Martín del Campo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

N de M Train 73 led by MC-306 at Buena Vista Grand Central station, Mexico, City, DF, Mexico on September 13, 1966. This train was manufactured by Metro Cammell. (Photo by Roger Puta courtesy Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Roger E. Puta on step of Pullman "Teapa" 7813-3, a Ferrocarriles Del Sureste car, on N de M Train 51 at Esperanza, Querétaro, Mexico on September 11, 1966. Photo by Ron Salters. (Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

In popular culture

In 1999, sound artist and musician Chris Watson worked as an audio recorder for the BBC riding the "Ghost Train" in the fourth episode of the fourth season of the television documentary series Great Railway Journeys. Having spent between five weeks and a month on the journey, Watson used to the field recordings for his 2011 album El Tren Fantasma.

In 2016, a fictional character named Carlos introduced in the Thomas & Friends movie The Great Race was based on the preserved ex-Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México 2-8-0 steam locomotive No. 903.

 

Poor's 1891 map of the system. Click to enlarge.

(Poor's Manual of the Railroads of the United States, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

An NdeM Locomotive Gallery

Nacionales de Mexico Alco RSD1 5705, date, location and photographer unknown. Only six were bought new for North American use, NdeM 5700-5705, built in 1946. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalrailartist/51754331687/in/dateposted/)

Nacionales de Mexico EMD GP18 7504 at San Luis Potosi, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, March 7, 1975. Photographer: James C Herold. This unit was built in June, 1961, as part of a the first order for 20 units, NdeM 7500-7519. NdeM owned a total of 37 bought over the next year. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalrailartist/51755074936/in/dateposted/)

Nacionales de Mexico Alco S2 5519 at San Luis Potosi, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, March 4, 1974. Photographer: James C Herold. NdeM owned few switchers, but all of them were Alco. This unit was built as part of the second S4 order for ten units, NdeM 5510-5519. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalrailartist/51736804633/in/dateposted/)

Nacionales de Mexico Baldwin AS616 6811 at Tlalnepantla, Distrito Federal, Mexico, March 1, 1975. Photographer: James C Herold. By 1975 the Baldwins were living on borrowed time, and retirement was imminent. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalrailartist/51724958786/in/dateposted/)

Nacionales de Mexico EMD GP35 8221 at Valle de Mexico, Distrito Federal, Mexico, February 27, 1974. Photographer: Keith Ardinger. NdeM owned 55 EMD GP35's, delivered in 1964 and 1965 and numbered 8200-8254. NdeM 8215-8254 were built with high short hoods and had steam generators for passenger service. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalrailartist/51721040666/in/dateposted/)

Nacionales de Mexico GE U23B 9117 at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 21, 1975. Photographer: David H Hamley. NdeM power was pretty snazzy when it was freshly painted! Here is U23B 9117 being delivered, having just been built at GE at Erie, Pennsylvania. NdeM bought a single order for 30 units, 9100-9129, delivered between March and June, 1975. Another ten followed for Ferrocarril del Pacifico in August and September. All of the NdeM units had GE's FB-2 trucks, except seven units, 9114-9121, which had these rougher riding drop equalizer trucks, along with the FCP units. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalrailartist/51720577056/in/dateposted/)

Nacionales de Mexico Baldwin AS616 6811 at Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico, March 2, 1975. Photographer: James C Herold. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalrailartist/51720566694/in/dateposted/)

Nacionales de Mexico Alco RS11 7222 at Nogales, Sonora, on the Ferrocarril del Pacifico, January 18, 1976. Photographer: Thomas Chenoweth. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalrailartist/51694051849/in/dateposted/)

Overview

Reporting marks: NDEM, NDM, NDMZ
Locale: Mexico
Dates of operation: 1903–2001
Technical
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Previous gauge: 3 ft (914 mm) Some lines

Website: Ferrocariles Nacionales de México en Liquidación

(Editors note: At the time of posting, I was unable to determine if this site was still active.)