Photo Essay: Views from El Chepe, the Copper Canyon Train

Copper Canyon Train

Copper Canyon trainThe Chihuahua-Pacific Railroad, also known as El-Chepe or the Copper Canyon train, is one of the most scenic and spectacular train journeys in the world. Starting in the high desert city of Chihuahua, it climbs to an elevation of 7900 feet in the Sierra Madre, skirts the top of the Copper Canyon, then drops into deep gorges before emerging in the cactus-studded Sonoran desert and finally ending at the turquoise Sea of Cortes.

On the journey, the train goes through 86 tunnels and over 37 bridges, passes assorted highland villages and ranches, and at the time of our visit in October 2015, through fields carpeted with wildflowers. The scenery is as diverse as it is majestic.

Copper Canyon MapWe boarded the train in Divisadero, above the mighty Copper Canyon, and rode it to the colorful colonial town of El Fuerte in the Sonoran desert.

Below is a collection of photos, all taken from aboard the train, which I should say was very difficult to do. Landscapes normally don’t run away and hide like animals, or turn bashful when a camera is aimed at them like a human; landscapes are usually very still and cooperative.

However, shooting landscapes from a moving train is like guerrilla warfare photography. I’d see something cool but get blocked out by a stand of trees, or get jostled to the side by the lurching train, resulting in a blurry shot. When we’d pull up to something especially spectacular, the open air vestibule between the cars where I was shooting would suddenly become clogged with other photographers, who would throw elbows and shove their way to the opening.

In spite of all of this, I dutifully snapped photos so that you can enjoy the experience of riding the rails from the comfort of your home. You are welcome.

Copper Canyon Railroad Photos

Click any photo to open a slideshow view


Have you been to the Copper Canyon?

What is the most spectacular train ride you’ve done? 


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16 Comments on “Photo Essay: Views from El Chepe, the Copper Canyon Train

  1. Jeff, great “moving” photos. And yes, a difficult task. I remember the Copper Canyon as lovely, but you know, for some reason the train from Puno to Cuzco in Peru sticks in my mind as…perhaps simply more vast. And yeah, I took some shots while moving from between the cars…many wasted megabytes. Another ride I loved was from Sicily to Pisa, Italy. Hard to beat the Italians for landscape along that coast!

    • I agree about the coastal trains in Italy – those are awesome. I took the bus from Puno to Cuzco, but I can see how a train ride might have been extremely spectacular. You have been too many places! Thanks for sharing.

      • I have been to all but two States: Alaska is one!!! But…maybe this summer???? Have you tried any street food…I miss those tortas: bread, cheese, avocado. And ceviche. With a tall-neck Pacifico. I’m beginning to get jealous of you. Ciao…I mean…hasta la vista, baby.

      • Yes, we have eaten a lot of street food. The fish tacos in La Paz were the best! And we have washed all of it down with a Pacifico (or two).

      • Pacifico…my all time favorite. But don’t take any photos from a moving train with a bottle in your hand.

    • Alison, one thing about shooting from a train is that you pass right through towns and cities. In cars, the road is usually bordered by uninteresting gas stations, strip malls, etc, and the trees are cut back. I look forward to seeing your posts of the Middle East when you get caught up. Thanks for sharing the link.

  2. Thank you for taking your life and camera into your own hands to bring us these gorgeous shots! Aren’t you glad you don’t shoot film anymore!?!

  3. Wonderful photos, Jeff! Thanks for risking decapitation for your readers–definitely worth it from my perspective!

    FYI: I am sure you are probably already aware of this, but I saw on the news this morning that there is a huge Category 5 hurricane headed to the west coast of Mexico and predicted to hit Manzanillo with 200 mph winds this afternoon. I am not sure where you are at the moment, but I just wanted to give you a heads up in case you didn’t know…

    • We just arrived in Mexico City. Thanks for the warning – when you travel, you never know what is going on sometimes! I need to look and see if the remnants of the storm are going to hit the capital.

  4. Pingback: Photo Essay: Hiking The Copper Canyon | Planet Bell

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