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The Train

First-class service between Chihuahua and Los Mochis operates daily in both directions. Second-class trains also run daily. They stop more frequently than the first-class trains and are slower. First-class service has undergone major improvements. The passenger cars have been revamped, with clean bathrooms that work and improved seating and windows. (They already were air-conditioned in summer and heated in winter.) In addition, the train makes fewer stops than before. The owner, Ferromex (www.ferromex.com.mx), invested heavily in improving the tracks, making delays due to landslides less frequent. It has also spruced up some of the local stations.

Which Direction Should I Travel? -- For sightseeing, Los Mochis, the western terminus, is the better starting place: The most scenic part of the 15- to 16-hour journey comes between El Fuerte and Bahuichivo/Cerocahui, which you are guaranteed to see in daylight if you come from Los Mochis. The train that starts in Chihuahua often gets to this area in darkness. This chapter lists the stops in order from Los Mochis to Chihuahua.

The train makes 12 stops. The schedule is a word problem that would gratify any high school algebra teacher: Two trains depart from opposite ends of the line (Chihuahua and Los Mochis) at the same time (6am) to meet at point x. 

Actual times vary. The locals at each stop are well attuned to train times, so it's good to ask them. The stops are short except at El Divisadero, where you have 20 minutes to get out and walk down the steps to the overlook for a spectacular panorama of the canyon, and perhaps time to buy a trinket or a taco from one of the many vendors.

DELAYS -- Travelers may have to contend with delays because of landslides, minor derailments, or maintenance projects. Traveling in this region requires some flexibility and patience. In case of a major service interruption, you can travel on a highway that parallels the railway from Chihuahua as far as Cerocahui, but the final stretch from Cerocahui to El Fuerte is not much of an option because it requires four-wheel-drive.

BUYING A TICKET -- The train offers no rail pass; you must buy a ticket for a particular day, point of departure, and destination. This is not usually a problem during the off season. You can buy a ticket for the first leg of your trip when you get to Los Mochis or Chihuahua, and then buy the rest each time you board the train. You're not going to have a guaranteed seat, but there's usually abundant seating during this part of the year. If you have an itinerary, you'll have guaranteed seating throughout the trip. You may not get to choose which seat, but that's a minor issue. Should you deviate from your itinerary, you can buy a new ticket at the local station or aboard the train. The cost of a ticket for the entire trip one-way is 1,981 pesos.

To reserve tickets ahead of time, call the railway directly (tel. 888/484-1623 in the U.S. and Canada, or 614/436-7212). A few days before your trip, you will need to call again to reconfirm your reservations. Then you can buy the tickets at the station the morning of your departure with cash or credit card (MasterCard or Visa). For more information, see www.chepe.com.mx. If you actually want to purchase tickets ahead of time, you can do so from a local travel agency in Chihuahua or Los Mochis. To start out in Chihuahua, contact Turismo al Mar (tel. 614/410-9232 or 614/416-5950); from Los Mochis, contact Viajes Araceli (tel. 668/815-5780; fax 668/815-8787; ventasaracely@viajearacely.com) or Viajes Flamingo (tel. 668/812-1613; fax 668/812-0046; www.mexicoscoppercanyon.com). Travel agencies outside of Mexico sell tickets only as part of a package that includes transportation to the region and hotel accommodations. A wide variety of packages and custom trips are available. Look into these carefully before you book.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.