The Tramways of
Lerdo, Gómez Palacio
This webpage is divided into two parts.
Part I covers the years between 1890 and 1940.
Part II considers the period from 1940 to 1952.
Part II: 1940 - 1952
The Ferrocarril Eléctrico de Lerdo a Torreón closed its urban tram routes about 1940 and in 1948 purchased 17 double-truck cars secondhand from the El Paso Electric Railway in Texas (which may already have run in Mexico on the international line to Ciudad Juárez).
We might not have any photographic record of Torreón tramway development after 1923 had not tramway enthusiast J. Wallace Higgins made a legendary visit to that city on 10 November 1952 - only a few months (unknown at the time) before the tramway closed. Mr. Higgins found only the interurban line in operation and only three cars in service: Brill tram 12 and ex-El Paso trams 73 and 74. El Paso 95 and 501 stood in the yard and the carbarn was full of wrecks. He found no trace of the urban tram system or the CBTWY.
The following photographs were selected from the 20 that he took. The first shows car 12 heading west on Av. Carranza east of the railroad station in Torreón [see map]. Mr. Higgins says that a plaque inside this car claimed that it was "Made in the Company Shops in 1946" - but, he adds, "none of the parts were newer than 1900, as far as I could see." This is no doubt tram 12 built by Brill in 1906 which the company remodeled 40 years later [J. Wallace Higgins]:
In the photo below, ex-El Paso tram 74 is turning from Calle Múzquiz onto Av. Carranza, near the railroad station [see map]. Trams 73 and 74 were both built by American Car Co. in 1906. 74 was still in its El Paso livery. The catenary ended at the station [J. Wallace Higgins].
Car 74 had just come down this track along Calle Múzquiz [see map]. View is north, toward the bridge [J. Wallace Higgins]:
Here is a tram-window view of the Río Nazas bridge - looking north from Torreón toward Gómez Palacio [see map]. There seems to have been a drought that year [J. Wallace Higgins]:
Mr. Higgins says that a tram ride from Torreón to Lerdo took 55 minutes. On the other side of the river in Gómez Palacio, the line turned southwest from Av. Madero onto Calle Independencia [see map]. Turnouts along the route had catenary on one side only. The unwired track in the foreground connected with the Mexican Central Railroad, whose station was out of view on the right. Mr. Higgins saw no evidence of tram track on Calle Centenario, shown on old maps [J. Wallace Higgins]:
Ex-El Paso tram 73 proceeds west on Calle Independencia in downtown Gómez Palacio [see map] [J. Wallace Higgins]:
Ex-El Paso tram 95, built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1914, rests at the FCELT shops at the corner of Calle Independencia and Av. Las Palmas in Gómez Palacio [see map]. The building on the left may be the same one shown a half-century earlier in the first photograph in Part I. There were tram sheds on both side of Calle Independencia [J. Wallace Higgins]:
The photo below shows the other end of tram 73 - without the "V" front - near the carbarn in Gómez Palacio [see map]. "S.C.L." after FERROCARRIL ELÉCTRICO DE LERDO A TORREÓN on the side means Sociedad Comercial Limitada = Incorporated [J. Wallace Higgins]:
The following two color views show ex-El Paso 74 on the roadside track along Av. Las Palmas south of Gómez Palacio [see map]. My Higgins says that trams 12, 73 and 74 provided 40-minute headways during most of the day, but during siesta 74 returned to the barn and 12 and 73 ran once an hour [J. Wallace Higgins]:
Here is tram 12 crossing another dry riverbed, between Gómez Palacio and Lerdo [J. Wallace Higgins]:
Finally, at the end of our journey "de Torreón a Lerdo", tram 73 passes a park at the north end of Ciudad Lerdo [see map]. This is the only photograph that Mr. Higgins took in Lerdo [J. Wallace Higgins]:
According to a letter that Mr. Higgins received from the Cámara Nacional de Comercio de Torreón, the city's electric tramway ended operation at 2 pm on 3 March 1953 - exactly 52 years after it had begun [see Part I]. Tramway enthusiasts that visited Torreón after that date confirmed the abandonment. The tramway bridge over the Río Nazas was dismantled. Disposition of the trams is unknown.
On Torreón's 75th birthday in 1982, a medal was struck to commemorate "THE CITY OF GREAT ENDEAVORS" (the medal's diameter is 4 cm / 1.5 in) [col. Allen Morrison]:
(It was a nice thought, but the horsecar is in San Pedro de las Colonias, 60 km northeast of Torreón. The engraving is based on a famous photograph that shows Mexican revolutionist Francisco Madero participating in a tramway wedding party in 1907. The photograph is reproduced in the Moreno book noted below. For more information about Francisco Madero, see the discussion of the Chinese tramway in Part I.)
BIBLIOGRAPHY (in order of publication)
Though all the equipment for Torreón's tramways came from the United States, its transport journals reported very little about that city, so most of the information on this webpage came from other sources. In addition to the documents listed below, the author is indebted to Harold E. Cox for invaluable data on tram orders; Leroy W. Demery for his enthusiastic research of the Chinese tramway; Sergio Antonio Corona Páez for the extraordinary documents and photographs that he provided from the Archivo Histórico "Juan Agustín de Espinoza, S.J." at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Torreón; Theresa Alfaro Velcamp in New York for putting me in touch with Sr. Corona Páez; Alejandro Ahumada in Gómez Palacio for additional information about projects in Durango state, including the 1908 plan for an alternate route; and, of course, J. Wallace Higgins, who now lives in Japan, for the priceless memories of his 1952 visit.
México. Secretaría de Fomento, Colonización e Industria. Anuario Estadístico de la República Mexicana, 1893-. Mexico City, 1894-. Annual inventories of "Ferrocarriles urbanos" and "Ferrocarriles foráneos" describe the motive power, track gauge and length of the tramways in the Lerdo-Torreón region.
México. Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Obras Públicas. Reseña Histórica y Estadística. Ferrocarriles de Jurisdicción Federal desde 1 de Enero de 1895 hasta 31 de Diciembre de 1899. Mexico City, 1900. Franchises and electrification plans of the "Ferrocarril de Ciudad Lerdo a Torreón", p. 52.
Jacobo M. Aguirre. Torreón, 1887-1902. Torreón, n.d. . The "Tren Eléctrico" chapter, pp. 99-100, describes early development.
Modern Mexico, published in New York and Mexico City. An extraordinary source of tramway information. The "Notes and Comments" section on p. 26 of the March 1901 issue states: "The new electric railway connecting Lerdo and Gómez Palacio, Durango, was inaugurated last month." Page 33 of the November 1906 issue supplied the 4th photograph in Part I. News items on the following pages chronicled the development of the Chinese system: 28 January 1908, p. 21; 30 June 1908, p. 11; 21 July 1908, p. 14; 28 July 1908, p. 14; 5 January 1909, p. 15.
Street Railway Journal, New York. Photographs and descriptions of trams that American Car Co. built for Tranvías de Torreón in issues of 10 September 1904, p. 380; and 12 November 1904, p. 888. Photos and descriptions of trams that J. G. Brill built for Ferrocarril Eléctrico de Lerdo a Torreón in 21 September 1907, p. 434. Brief news reports of Torreón tramway development in 22 June 1907, p. 1116; 10 August 1907, p. 228; and 21 March 1908, p. 471.
Street Railway Review, Chicago. Photographs and descriptions of trams 4 and 10 that American Car Co. built for Tranvías de Torreón in 15 January 1905, p. 66.
Ferro Carril Elçctrico de Lerdo a Torreón. Proyecto de la Línea Directa entre C. Lerdo (kilometro 0.643 m) y kilometro 7.472. Lerdo, n.d. . Unpublished map showing proposed direct route between Lerdo and Torreón, bypassing Gómez Palacio.
Alejandro F. Hernández. Plano General de Torreón. Torreón, 2/1908. Wonderful large-scale map shows the routes of all three tram systems (in Torreón only), including detail of the proposed Chinese lines. Map kindly supplied by Stanley F. Worris and Russell Powers.
J. Saenz. Plano y Directorio Comercial y Profesional de la Ciudad de Torreón. Torreón, 9/1910. Nice street map shows both interurban system and local lines (but not the planned Chinese routes).
Album de la Paz y el Trabajo. Mexico City, 1910. Brief history of the Ferrocarril Eléctrico de Lerdo a Torreón; eight extraordinary photographs of the line and its offices. This publication is in the Archivo Histórico "Juan Agustín de Espinoza, S.J." at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Torreón.
McGraw Electric Railway List or Directory. Published annually in New York c. 1900-1930; 1918 edition reprinted by Harold E. Cox in 1970; 1924 edition reprinted by Wagner Car Co. (n.d.).
Gutiérrez Hidalgo. Plano de Torreón, Gómez Palacio y Lerdo. Torreón, n.d. [1920s?]. The only map found that shows the entire tramway network (except the Chinese lines) in both states. Scale 1:5,000.
Eduardo Guerra. Historia de Torreón. Torreón, 1996 (first edition, 1932). Brief tramway references on pp. 111-112 and 137.
Pablo C. Moreno. Torreón. Saltillo, 1951. Tramway advertisement notes fares, p. 75. Photograph on p. 164 is the source of the image in the medal shown above.
Laurence R. Veysey and M. D. Isely. "Electric Railways of Mexico" in Timepoints (Los Angeles), July 1953, pp. 1, 4-9. Probably the first tramfan survey of Torreón, Tampico, Mexico City, Veracruz and Celaya. Fascinating text, but no pictures or map. Also available on line.
Jung-Pang Lo. K'ang Yu-Wei. Tucson, 1967. Biography of the Chinese political reformer and entrepreneur who helped finance the Chinese tramway in Torreón. See especially pp. 203, 207-8, 211, 215.
Leo M. Dambourges Jacques. "The Chinese Massacre in Torreón (Coahuila) in 1911" reproduced on pp. 233-246 of Roger Daniels, Anti-Chinese Violence in North America, New York, 1974. Tramway references on pp. 235-236. Map of the planned tramway system opposite p. 237.
Pablo Manchuca Macías. Ensayo sobre la Fundación y Desarrollo de la Ciudad de Gómez Palacio. Mexico City, 1977 [also available on line]. The "Tranvías" chapter describes early tramways west of the Nazas River.
Manuel Terán Lira. La Matanza de Chinos (Torreón 1911). Torreón, 1989. Details of the massacre, with only a brief mention of the tramway enterprise.
Juan Puig. Entre el Río Perla y el Nazas. Mexico City, 1992. Scholarly, well documented description of Chinese enterprise in Torreón and the massacre of 1911. Tramway references on pp. 157-158, 161 and 163-164.
Part I: 1890 - 1940
INTRODUCTION & INDEX MAP
Copyright © 2003 Allen Morrison - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED