The mention of Puebla usually conjures up images of colorful Talavera tiles, elegant Spanish colonial architecture, and the chocolatey mole sauce that was invented there. So it might come as something of a surprise to learn that this historical Mexican city and UNESCO World Heritage site also has something to offer train buffs.
Puebla was once a major rail hub, and it is now home to one of the most important railway museums in Mexico. The Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles (MFNM) or National Railway Museum is located on the site of Puebla’s 19th-century railroad station. The neoclassical style main building (closed for renovations when I visited in July 2010) houses an extensive collection of railway memorabilia as well as a research center. However, the museum's principle draw is its sprawling rail yard, which is crammed with rolling stock of all kinds.
Parked in neat rows are diesel, electric and steam locomotives along with passenger and freight cars, plus assorted machinery from all over Mexico. Some of the carriages have been refurbished and left open for inspection. There are sleeper and club cars, cabooses, and even a fully equipped mail carriage that was used up until the 1990’s. One car has been turned into a gallery that displays historical black and white photos.
The government-owned railway system Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Mexico (FNM) was privatized during the 1990’s, and passenger service ground to a halt roughly a decade ago. The only intercity passenger trains still running are a privately owned tourist lines such as the Chihuahua al Pacifio that winds through the Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua, and the Tequila Express in Jalisco. With train travel all but a thing of the past in Mexico, the tranquil National Railway Museum, often overshadowed by Puebla’s more famous attractions, is an ideal spot to indulge in some nostalgia and experience the romance of a bygone era.
GETTING THERE: The Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Mexicanos is located at Calle 11 Norte 1005, a short taxi ride northwest of Puebla’s main square. Admission is about US$1.00 (11 Mexican pesos}. Opening hours are Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays) from 10 am to 6 pm.
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National Railway Museum, Puebla, Mexico - Images by John Mitchell