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TrainToCampeche Day 4-Train Ride to Campeche  Finally we got to see the Expreso Maya private luxury train for the first time, and to ride it for eight hours!  We departed from the Chan-Kah jungle hotel for the Palenque depot.  As mentioned above, the Expreso Maya was the most impressive train on which I've ever ridden.  The cars were ready for travel, but the engine from the railroad company was not yet connected.  We entered the cars and before long were underway.  

Palenque (56 deluxe-class capacity Bar-Club car)


Serpent artwork and traditional red of the Maya.



Each table has artwork of earlier wildlife of the area.


Artwork showing the Colonial period...

in each corner of the car.


Comfortable seating at 4-seat tables
on one end of the car.

Two conversation areas in this car as well.


Lectures take place in the Palenque club car.

Calakmul (64-comfortable seat coach car)


Large, comfortable, reclining seats, large windows
for excellent visibility of the passing scene.

The coach car was the last, so its vestibule was
an excellent place for photos without windows.

Merida (48-seat deluxe-class dining car)




Sayil (Baggage car)


Dennis introduced himself as our guide, not part of the train staff.  I sat with Dennis during breakfast at 8 a.m. as we watched another freight pass with many more Guatemalans on it than the last freight train I saw.  We ate toast, fruit juice, fruit plate, and eggs any style.  I chose eggs with sausage and coffee.  About 9 a.m. the sun came out, but it was still a nice temperature outside in the vestibules with the windows open for photography or just enjoying the countryside.  I asked, and was given permission by the Chief of Operations, to go on the vestibule of the last car, giving me 3 directions to shoot unobstructed photographs...out the left side, the right side, and the rear.  Inside the coach car, the temperature was watched by attendants with a remote control thermometer, and adjusted to suit the guests.  It was 23 degrees C when we boarded.


Dennis Marrufo, Tour Guide

Humberto Gomez Herrera
Expreso Maya Director of Operations

As we passed grade schools in session, students went to the windows to wave.  Since there are no other passenger trains on this route, the once or twice a month passing of the Expreso Maya is an event for everyone along the tracks.

The top half of all doors in all vestibules on this Expreso Maya as well as the Copper Canyon Express are open for excellent photography of scenes along the tracks.  However, the safety of your body (eyes, hands, upper body) is up to you.  The vegetation along the right-of-way on this train is not managed at all.  In fact, the only clearing takes place when the freight or passenger cars pass. You can, therefore, hear branches scraping along the cars all along the trip.  If you happen to look forward, out the vestibule, you might get whacked in the face, or even lose an eye.  I suggest, therefore, that you look through the closed windows in the next car forward to see if the branches are not right along the car, then quickly peek out and if the coast is clear, lean out for a photograph.  Wear solid sunglasses or even goggles for this activity.  I only had one instance when I was hit, and it was in the hand, not the face.  I was standing back in the vestibule, away from passing branches and we were passing homes with families out front waving at the train.  I was in the very last car's vestibule at the time and wanted the kids to keep waving for my photograph, so I was waving outisde the car.  My hand got whacked a good one,  but there was no damage beyond a sore hand for about an hour.  I learned the lesson quickly and had no other incidents.  During the 2nd day on the train, I noticed that the tall trees on both sides of the right-of-way were trimmed the exact size of the box cars that pass on this same route, almost like a rectangular tunnel in the vegetation...for miles.  I also observed that after a day of this type of travel, the cars' outsides were extensively marked horizontally from the branches.  Since I did not notice this at first, I beleive they must wash and/or polish the cars at the beginning of each trip.

Dale enjoys open vestibule.


Another Dale does the same.

It is my guess that our normal top speed was 25 to 35 mph for this day's trip.  The countryside was mainly occupied by Brahma cattle pasture land.  There were small poor towns.  Cowboys, machete weilding workers, railroad workers and in towns, tricycle taxi drivers.

John, from Tucson, and I talked extensively about his extended passenger train travels around the world.  He said he'd traveled with High Iron Travel and Trains Unlimited in Portola.  He had an annual report from Genesee and Wyoming, who owned and/or operated this rail line on which we were traveling.  They are an owner/operator of regional freight railroads in the US, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Bolivia, and provide switching services to industrial companies in the US.  They own, or have interest in, over 20 railroads and operate 8,000 miles of owned and leased track.  In the US, they have property in Oregon, Utah, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania. Their North American operation brings in 61.8% of their net income.  Their North American freight mix is:

30% Coal, 14% paper, 11% Minerals and stone, 13% metals, 8% lumber and forest, 6% petroleum, 6% farm and food, 4% chemical and plastics, 4% auto, and 1% intermodal.

During the day, I met Donna and Don McCormick, English speakers from Mexico, formerly from California.  They have traveled around the world on freighters and speak very favorably about that mode of transportation.  They make their travel arrangements through a newspaper from and e-mail to

After picking up a brochure about the Expreso Maya in the club car, I realized that our group was not large enough to use all the cars.  The cars that were not in our consist were:  Chichen-Itza, and Uxmal, Deluxe cars; Tikal, Tourist car; Campeche, Snack Cafeteria.  This means there are actually eight cars in this private luxary train set.

Mid day we stopped at the Agua Azul "cenote" (open air pond of an underground river) hidden in the jungle.  We detrained and made our way down a semi-improved steep trail to a flat area in the trees on the side of this very large, round, stone-quarry like, waterfilled circular opening.  You could have water skied on it if you could have gotten a boat down the narrow trail with bamboo railing.






Upon our return to the train, I took my first daylight pictures of the cars then entered.  We were offered complimentary drinks in the club car, as would become a tradition after a short outing from the train during the day.  Next the professional Chef had prepared a special four-course lunch with wine and complimentary beer that we had selected earlier in the day.  I had chosen a lettuce salad, and some lime soup.  I also chose chicken with tomato sauce and rice.

We continued to ride the train through the afternoon and, since we were scheduled to arrive in Campeche at 11 pm, I charged camera batteries and my computer using one plug in the coach car.  I downloaded the day's shots.  Soon they said we were arriving ahead of schedule and dinner would be served soon.  I had dinner with John and Sarah and enjoyed great stories from Trans-Siberian railroad trips to Hilton's first hotel in San Antonio, New Mexico.  Also heard about the Casablanca B & B there and the nearby wildlife refuge with snow geese leaving at dawn.  After dinner, our train pulled onto a siding as we met a freight.

We arrived in Campeche after dark, and were taken in vans to Hotel del Mar where we went immediately to our rooms.  I could see a four-lane street with a sidewalk from my balcony, but nothing but black beyond that street.

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