Ten little engines (and a crane)

Atencingo, in southwestern Puebla, was once the hub of an extensive network of sugarcane handing railways built to connect the ingenio there with the canefields and several haciendas scattered about the region.  According to an identified source1, approximately 90 kilometers of 600mm gauge lines extended northeast to Tepeojuma by way of San Nicolás Tolentino, San Juan Raboso (on a branch), with a branch on the north to San Félix Rijo.  A further 60 kilometers of 900mm gauge ran east to Jaltepec, southwest to the area of El Organo, and another route went north to turn west, ending at Campo Nuevo.  Appending both networks were numerous spurs and loading points.  At least some of this track was of the Decauville character, but it may not have been used much as portable lines.2

These lines, labeled on the cited map as “FCA” (presumed to be either Ferrocarril Agrícola or Ferrocarril Atencingo), existed by the late 19th century at least at the Hacienda de San Juan Cólon in a photo dated “posterior a 1881”, and at San Félix Rijo by 1910.3

Starting in 1921, up to 1936, many of the large haciendas between Matamoros and Atencingo and their cultivated lands were gradually acquired by the Compañía Civil e Industrial Atencingo (known as Sistema Atencingo), owned by the North American entrepreneur William Oscar Jenkins Biddle (Don Guillermo Jenkins).  As a result, this company is presumed to be the owner of the FCA up to 18 June 1938, when it was taken over by the Sociedad Cooperativa Ejidal de Atencingo y Anexas, by decree of President Cárdenas.  In the mid 1950s, the sugar handling railroad was declared obsolete and the tracks removed, with most of the embankments converted to canefield roads.  The Cooperativa Ejidal de Atencingo was dissolved 23 June 1970, and the installation at Atencingo (Fideicomiso Ingenio Atencingo 80326), now privately owned, is the only remaining sugar mill in southwestern Puebla, the largest in México by production tonnage.4

In addition to the FCA, the region was traversed northeast to southwest by NdeM’s 915mm gauge Distrito de Atencingo (Línea VC) that ran from Los Arcos (near Puebla) to Cuautla, and its branch, Distrito de Tlancualpicán (Línea VD), southwest 25 kilometers from Atencingo to Tlancualpicán.  These lines were built by predecessors of the Ferrocarril Interoceanico: opened from Los Arcos to Matamoros Izúcar in 1890 by FC de Puebla a Izúcar de Matamoros; Matamoros to Tlancualpicán in 1895 by FC de Izúcar de Matamoros a Tlancualpicán; and Cuautla to Atencingo in 1900 by the FC Interoceanico.5

The route to Tlancualpicán was originally envisioned as the main line, intended to reach Acapulco.  Línea VC was converted to standard (1435mm) gauge with several line relocations approximately 1974, suspended from use approximately 1999, and taken out through the area of discussion about 2008.6  Línea VD was abandoned and lifted approximately 1974, never having been widened.

Crossings with the “F.C. Hacienda” existed at kilometer VC-97.6 (200 meters railroad north/compass southwest of Atencingo station), and kilometer VD-2.5 (the distance south from Atencingo along the Tlancualpicán branch), as well as with a different agricultural railroad, the F.C. Teruel, at kilometer VC-61.6, near Cascabel between La Galarza and Matamoros.7  According to the cited map, additional crossings of the FCA with Línea VC existed near Colón and on the opposite side of Atencingo, but NdeM timetables do not document these.

All the cane transportation is now handled by road vehicles, either stake-bodied trucks, or two-axle carts that are towed along the local highways in trains of up to five units, without lights or brakes except on the propelling farm tractor, which is sometimes equipped with a flashing amber beacon on top.  The former railroad yard on the west side of the ingenio complex has been converted into a truck staging area.  It appears there had been two yards, one for each track gauge, almost parallel to each other.8

In this space the cane deliveries gather, in at least ten long files of stationary vehicles, for their turn to be weighed and unloaded in the “área de batey”, a wait as much as 12 hours at the height of the zafra, when the mill is working 24 hours a day.  Discharging is either a platform that elevates the front of a truck to allow the load to slide out the back, or one of several large cranes lifting cable slings that had been interposed in the cane when loading in the field.  Immediately the cane is fed into the crushers to begin the sugar extraction process.

The only remaining railroad track anywhere near the ingenio is a pair of standard gauge (1435mm) spurs on the west side of the plant inside the wall.  Formerly these emerged through the southwest gate to cross the parallel highway and connect to NdeM’s Distrito de Atencingo close to kilometer VC-99.  Outgoing production is of course also now truck commerce.

Through the diplomatic negotations of Sergio Escobar, he and I received permission a few months ago to enter Ingenio Atencingo to examine the former railroad yard and observe the cane receiving process in general.  In a row along one of the aforementioned spurs, but placed inside the gauge, we found six tiny internal combustion locomotives, three Plymouth and three Orenstein & Koppel, 600mm gauge, painted a light blue (this seems to be the official color of all Mexican sugar ingenios), with dark red cab roofs and silver internal machinery.  None carried lettering or numbers, but some had builder plates, readable with difficulty under a thick layer of paint.  Listed in order of south to north, they were:

Orenstein & Koppel Nr.20470 0-6-0 (MAN engine) “Type R L 7” [70hp] “Spurweite 600” “Dienstgewicht 10.5 tons” “Geschwindigkeiten 5-7.5-13.5-21 Km/sd” “Baujahr 1934”  “Orenstein & Koppel Abt. Montania.” [in translation: Type RL7, Gauge 600mm, Weight 10.5 tones, Speeds 5-7.5-13.5-21 KMH, Built 1934 at the Montania works.]

Plymouth 3971 JCD type 2 (Caterpillar engine) 23-5/8 inch gauge, 16 ton, Orenstein & Koppel importer

Plymouth [plate missing] JCD type 2 (Caterpillar engine)

Orenstein & Koppel [plate missing] 0-6-0 (engine missing) Type RL7, 70hp

Orenstein & Koppel [plate missing] two-axle (? engine) Type RL2, 20hp

Plymouth 3970 JCD type 2 (Caterpillar engine) 23-5/8 inch gauge, 16 ton, Orenstein & Koppel importer

Several meters away across the yard, closely surrounded by waiting cane trucks, were four more small locomotives, also internal combustion: another 600mm gauge Orenstein & Koppel, and three Davenport 0-6-0 (900mm gauge) of two different designs, plus an Industrial Works crane missing its boom, steam powered.  The locomotives were painted similar to the others while the crane is rust-covered.

Orenstein & Koppel 20030 [plate on rear of cab] two-axle (Caterpillar engine) Type RL4, 40hp

Davenport 3148 0-6-0 (engine missing, top of hood resting on the base)

Davenport [plate missing] 0-6-0 (Caterpillar engine)

Davenport [plate missing] 0-6-0 Some information was marked on the engine, a 180hp 8-cylinder model Caterpillar D17000: bill of material no. 8B5570, power unit no. 3S1865.

With regard to the two units whose engines are missing, it is very likely the apparatus has been reused to power some of the canefield irrigation pumping stations in the region.

We give special thanks to Ing. Metrobio Ismal García Castro, Gerente General of Fideicomiso Ingenio Atencingo, and several of his staff, for facilitating our research with their generous hospitality, and to Lic. Juan Manuel Celorio for the loan of a high-quality digital camera.  Thanks also to Dipl.-Ing. Matthias Richter of Dresden, Germany, for technical information on the Orenstein & Koppel units.

1.   Carrera M., Timoteo: “Ferrocarril particular del Ingenio de Atencingo y Anexas” undated manuscript map, of the cane-growing region (not to scale), displayed in the offices of Fideicomiso Ingenio Atencingo.  The information has not been independently confirmed.

2.      Sánchez Cruz, Manuel: Izúcar y sus Haciendas, Fideicomiso Ingenio Atencingo 2007, photos p.163, 164

3.      Ibid, p.87, 93

4.      Ibid, p.46-52 passim, 116-120, 161

5.      Garma Franco, Francisco: Railroads in México, an Illustrated History, v.2, Sundance Publications 1988

6.      Oral statements of local residents in the Matamoros to Atencingo area and of Mexican railroaders at Puebla, March 2010

7.      Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México, División de Puebla Horario No.6, 16 de Febrero de 1930

8.      Sánchez Cruz, photo p.122, which also shows the cane-carrying rolling stock circa 1920: long strings of flatcars with low end bulkheads, described as “gondolas”.

Todd Minsk, August 2010

 

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Photos courtesy of Sergio Escobar, February 26 – March 5, 2010

 

Carrera M., Timoteo: “Ferrocarril particular del Ingenio de Atencingo y Anexas”

Carrera M., Timoteo: “Ferrocarril particular del Ingenio de Atencingo y Anexas”, and the author.

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Carrera M., Timoteo: “Ferrocarril particular del Ingenio de Atencingo y Anexas” (segment)

Atencingo 100t.jpg

Carrera M., Timoteo: “Ferrocarril particular del Ingenio de Atencingo y Anexas” (segment)

Atencingo 102t.jpg

Carrera M., Timoteo: “Ferrocarril particular del Ingenio de Atencingo y Anexas” (segment)

Atencingo 103t.jpg

Carrera M., Timoteo: “Ferrocarril particular del Ingenio de Atencingo y Anexas” (segment)

Atencingo 104t.jpg

Carrera M., Timoteo: “Ferrocarril particular del Ingenio de Atencingo y Anexas” (segment)

Atencingo 107t.jpg

Carrera M., Timoteo: “Ferrocarril particular del Ingenio de Atencingo y Anexas” (segment)

Atencingo 094t.jpg

Photograph in the offices of Ingenio Atencingo, probably showing the north gate.

Tepeojuma station VC-60.1, looking east.

Ruins of Tatetla station VC-68.0.  The narrow gauge track was behind while the standard gauge passed in the foreground.

Matamoros station VC-76.5, looking southeast.

A hot day for this North American: Matamoros, 27 February 2010.

Ruins of Mier station VC-80.8, looking west; this shows the side opposite the track.

Colón station VC-87.2, looking north

Bridge 87+33 (Colón) looking west

Ruins of Chietla station VC-94.3, looking west

Atencingo station VC-97.4, looking north

Name board at Atencingo stationVC-97.4

Typical sugar cane convoy.

Inside Ingenio Atencingo.

Inside Ingenio Atencingo.

Inside Ingenio Atencingo.

Inside Ingenio Atencingo.

Row of locomotives inside Ingenio Atencingo.

Orenstein & Koppel Nr.20470,

Type RL7, (1st on the list)

Orenstein & Koppel Nr.20470, Type RL7 (1st on the list)

Orenstein & Koppel Nr.20470, Type RL7 (1st on the list)

Plymouth 3971 JCD type 2 (2nd on the list), and Plymouth JCD type 2 (3rd on the list)

Plymouth 3971 JCD type 2 (2nd on the list)

Plymouth JCD type 2 (3rd on the list)

Plymouth JCD type 2 (3rd on the list)

Orenstein & Koppel 0-6-0, Type RL7 (4th on the list)

Orenstein & Koppel 0-6-0, Type RL7 (4th on the list)

Orenstein & Koppel two axle, Type RL2 (5th on the list)

Orenstein & Koppel two axle, Type RL2 (5th on the list)

Plymouth 3970 JCD type 2 (6th on the list)

Row of locomotives inside Ingenio Atencingo.

Orenstein & Koppel 20030 two axle, Type RL4 (7th on the list)

Orenstein & Koppel 20030 two axle, Type RL4 (7th on the list)

Davenport 3148 0-6-0 (8th on the list)

Davenport 3148 0-6-0 (8th on the list)

Davenport 0-6-0 (9th on the list)

Davenport 0-6-0 (9th on the list) and Industrial Works crane

Davenport 0-6-0 (10th on the list)

Industrial Works crane

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