The National Museum of the Mexican Railways (MNFM) is an exhibition space dedicated to studying, preserving, and disseminating the railway legacy based on historical reviews of the railway, from its beginnings in 1988 to the present.
This museum is located in the Historic Center of Puebla City.
The museum has a significant number of historical railway objects, pieces that were not only part of the rolling stock, which is imposing and majestic, but also objects from everyday life used in offices, workshops, and patios of the now-defunct railway company.
There are also recreational spaces and huge green areas to the delight of children and adults. Here are authentic railway cars that were used in different eras, including a presidential car and old steam engines.
The museum has several halls, in which various exhibitions are temporarily presented, all related to the railway culture.
Generally, the different collections contained therein are shown through a micrographic script, such as maps or plans of stations, routes or railway tracks, photographs, historical archives, and specialized books on the railway subject.
In the 1970s, the National Railways of Mexico (FNM) company considered the creation of a Transport Museum whose purpose was to safeguard the historical and cultural heritage of Mexican railways.
This project materialized on May 5, 1988, when President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado inaugurated the National Museum of the Mexican Railways.
This museum was located on the land previously occupied by the stations, yards, and workshops of the Mexican Railway and the Mexican Railway of the Sur, which in turn formed part of the enormous railway complex that developed in Puebla City.
This place was extended over an area of approximately thirty blocks in which the Interoceanic Railway, the Puebla industrial Tramway, and the city’s urban Tramway Puebla, laid their tracks and established their stations.
The Mexican Railroad route was the first to be built in our country, it went from Mexico City to the port of Veracruz, with a branch from Apizaco to Puebla whose extension was 47 kilometers. The Puebla station of the Mexican Railroad was inaugurated on September 16, 1869, by the then president of the republic, Benito Juárez.
Between 1993 and 1994 the company FNM, through the MNFM, carried out the General Census of FNM Stations with the aim of creating a record that would allow the recognition of all railway stations for their subsequent restoration or reuse.
In 1995, before the imminent privatization of the Mexican railway system, FNM proposed to carry out the National Program for the Rescue of the Historical, Cultural and Artistic Patrimony of FNM (PRONARE) whose organization and operation was left in charge of the MNFM, with the purpose of locating, registering and collect the documentary, graphic and printed goods generated by and for the company, as well as the tractive equipment and tools used in its operation.
With the results of PRONARE, the collections that today constitute the Railway Documentation and Research Center were formed and enriched, A site that was built in the second section of the Museum, became the most important repository in Mexico in terms of railways because in it are gathered, protected and studied documents, graphics and printed matter from the mid-19th century and the 20th century.
The National Museum of the Mexican Railways is located in the premises that were part of the stations of the Mexican Railway, and the Mexicano del Sur, in the city of Puebla. Of both buildings, only one of the Old Mexican Railroad Station, the current headquarters of the Museum, remains.
The Old Mexican Railway Station was part of the planned infrastructure for the railway line that would run from Mexico City to the Port of Veracruz, via Orizaba; specifically, it was located in the city of Puebla, on a branch of the main road that would reach Angelópolis, starting from Apizaco in the state of Tlaxcala.
It was in 1857 that the Escandón family received from the government of the Republic, the concession in perpetuity for the construction of the new railway line.
And by 1861, the contract for the laying of the track was approved for what was then named “Ferrocarril Veracruz – Mexico – Acapulco, and the branch to Puebla”, said the contract also included the commitment of the railway company to build stations in the cities of Mexico and Puebla.
In the latter, a passenger station with a repair shop (both second class), a room to house six machines, and a deck to store wagons would be established.
In 1864, Maximiliano transferred the concession of this railway line to the Compañía Limitada del Ferrocarril Imperial de México, a company established in London.
With this company, the laying of the line to Veracruz was extended and infrastructure work continued, including 185 miles of “groundwork” for the road from Mexico to Boca del Monte (Veracruz), including the branch to Puebla, works that by 1866 they were completed, but not the construction of the station, which was still pending.
With the Republic restored, and already as President Benito Juárez, in 1867, the Limited Company of the Imperial Railway of Mexico was transformed into the Mexican Railway, whose purpose was to complete the railway from Mexico to Veracruz.
Through a new decree, it was established that in December 1868 the branch from Puebla to Apizaco would have to be completed (a term that would be extended one more year for the completion of the work).
With the work advanced, on June 1, 1869, the Apizaco to Santa Ana Chiautempan section was inaugurated, and it continued towards the city of Puebla, leading the construction of the line as director of the Mexican Railway, the English civil engineer William Cross Buchanan.
The Apizaco – Puebla section was completed in September 1869.
The inauguration of the section of the Mexican Railroad from Mexico City to the city of Puebla, represented a relevant event for the commercial development of the region, without a doubt this new infrastructure contributed to the vision of incorporating the country into the paths of progress.
Due to its economic, social, and political importance, both the Mexico-Puebla section and the Mexican Railway station in Puebla were inaugurated by President Benito Juárez on September 16, 1869. With this act, political ties were strengthened between the two main cities of the Republic.
Once the Mexican Railroad station was inaugurated, the local authorities determined to establish new railway stations in the same area.
Adjacent to the Mexican Railroad yards, the Southern Mexican Railroad station was erected, with a route from Puebla to Oaxaca.
The Puebla – Tehuacán line was inaugurated in 1891 by the governor of Puebla, Rosendo Márquez.
And the line to Oaxaca, a year later, by President Porfirio Díaz.
The Southern Mexican Railway station had a set of buildings in which various activities were carried out. The main passenger building was built in the English style, with limestone, brick window trim and trim, wooden floors, gabled roofs, and iron window guards and planters.
This station was set on fire by the revolutionary forces in 1920, and although it was repaired, its function was reduced to offices for the movement of workshops and patios, transferring passenger and cargo services to the Interoceanic Railroad station (located two blocks to the south).
By 1950, the Southern Mexican Railway station fell into disrepair, despite the fact that the Miscellaneous, Engine Repair and Engine Room workshops were still operating in the building.
Finally, in the 1970s, the Puebla workshops and stations of the National Railways of Mexico moved to what is known as the “New Station”, located on 80 Poniente Avenue, as a result of said action, the building of the Estación del Southern Mexican Railway was demolished.
For its part, after the heyday of the Mexican Railway station, the English company sold the Mexican Railway to the government in 1946, leaving the workers attached to the National Railways of Mexico company.
As a result of the poor state of much of the existing infrastructure on the Mexicano line, passenger and mixed train runs were provisionally suspended, resuming activities in 1947, with a series of continuous repairs until 1950.
From 1958 to 1959, the Mexicano station partially closed during the Vallejismo strike movement; and from 1960, it was used only for passenger service.
It was in 1974 that the station ceased to function definitively and was used provisionally as the premises of section 21 of the Union of Railway Workers of the Mexican Republic and a training school.
When said Union decides to definitively abandon the property, the Mexican Railroad station, and the Mexicano del Sur station fall into disuse and deterioration.
Between 1970 and 1980, the facilities were used as a market, marginal neighborhood, and bus stop; and in an attempt to regenerate the area, the Patronato Puebla Verde and the Puebla City Council carried out a massive planting of trees to create a public park.
It was in 1985 that engineer Andrés Caso Lombardo, director of the National Railways of Mexico, decided that both stations would house what would become the National Museum of Mexican Railways, inaugurated on May 5, 1988, on the 126th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla by the president of Mexico, Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado.
Building of the Old Mexican Railroad Station. Location and construction – architectural characteristics
The Mexican Railroad station was located in the vicinity of Calle del Señor de los Trabajos (San Pablo de los Naturales), Avenida 10 Poniente and Calle 11 Norte in the city of Puebla.
To the west of what was once a cemetery and square with a fountain, and later a garden, there was an orchard called “La Era de Hidalgo”, a property on which the station building was built.
Adjacent were two other orchards: “La Salitrería” and “La Caporala”; in them, saltpeter and nitro were produced, respectively, used for the manufacture of gunpowder.
The “Salitrería” was affected by the laying of tracks, likewise, the mud aqueducts that it had, were modified to provide water to the railway yards. “La Caporala”, for its part, was merged into the land of the Mexican Railway after its sale to the railway company.
The station building was built under the principles of the agreement established in 1861, as a second-class station as it belongs to a branch of the Mexico-Veracruz trunk road, and provided passenger and cargo services of Mexican manufacture and with advice from the British company, it adhered to the model of the English stations.
The materials used for its construction were adobe, stone, sand, and wood.12 Its construction system is based on load-bearing walls supporting a wood and sheet roof with breaks at different waters.
From its origins, the station had telegraph wiring, warehouses, an office for express and mail service, a deck for wagons and locomotives, as well as a small roundhouse or workshop for minor repairs.
Towards the west, crossing the maneuvering yard, there was a platform for pulque and a cargo hold with two offices and a scale; to the east, stables, a corral, two pools, and bathrooms.
Likewise, the station building had a lunch house for service to users, and in its waiting room, you could see the blackboard with schedules and the regulatory clock. There were also abundant water fountains for locomotives and other uses; and in 1878, rooms were built for the workers.
Years later, as a result of damage suffered during the Revolution, the station was rebuilt. By 1925, the main building had a first-class passenger lounge, restrooms, a baggage section, restaurant, and express service, all on the north side; and to the south, there were four offices for officials, another for the telegraph, kitchen, and two toilets.
In 1950, already in the hands of Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México, the Mexican Railway suffered several repairs, among which those carried out in the Puebla station stand out, which included the telegraph lines, the reconstruction of the main building, the construction of a repair pit for locomotives, the repair of the powerhouse and the conclusion of the installation of a track scale.
In 1974, the main building of the Mexican Railroad Station ceased to function definitively, housing provisional uses and later falling into abandonment and deterioration.
It was until 1985, the year in which the company Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México, undertook the rescue of the building, as well as the other facilities of said station, and the Southern Mexican Railway Station, to house the National Museum of Mexican Railways.
With this project, the property is rescued according to its original design, favoring its use as a space for temporary exhibitions.
The National Program for the Rescue of the Historical, Cultural, and Artistic Heritage of the National Railways of Mexico (PRONARE), managed to collect various documentary, movable and immovable assets related to the railway culture between 1995 and 1998.
During this work, it was possible to send through vans all this collection to the headquarters of the National Museum of Mexican Railways located in the city of Puebla.
During this period, assets were located, marked, documented, and rescued that, in the opinion of the researchers, had an important historical and cultural significance, that is, they had an impact not only visual but also historical and even nostalgic; the collection of historical personal property represented one of the most important periods in Mexico, there are objects from between 1895 and 1960.
The National Museum of Mexican Railroads saw the need to create an appropriate space specifically for the protection of a constantly growing collection, diverse in every way, mainly in shapes, weights, and functions.
Industrial archeology prevails in the collection, there are all kinds of objects related to railways, not only rolling stock but also has tools, machinery, signage, hardware, furniture for offices and for towing equipment, clothing, chemical laboratory equipment, electrical, electronic, for construction, medical, kitchen, maintenance, communication utensils… there are even handcrafted objects, that is, created by the railway workers themselves; it is a rich universe historically speaking.
Railway Documentation and Research Center
The Railway Documentation and Research Center (CEDIF), is the area of the National Center for the Preservation of the Railway Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Mexico, whose purpose is to preserve, organize, describe and disseminate historical documents, plans, photographs, and specialized publications, which were produced by private railway companies and, above all, by the public company Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (FNM) during the 19th century and almost the entire 20th century, which are protected in its facilities located inside the museum.
Since the opening of the Museum in 1988, the content and presentation of each exhibition have been worked on, the main objective of which is to spread the advances in the rescue, research, and conservation of the national railway heritage.
The topics are approached from very diverse points of view: scientific, technological, humanistic, and from an aesthetic and cognitive approach through the arts.
The main building of the Museum has been enabled to house temporary exhibitions whose themes are nourished by the rich collection of pieces and documents as well as the valuable collection of tools and various objects.
Similarly, some pieces of rolling stock have been adapted, such as the Express car 12178 of the FNM company, built in 1945, which is known as the Photography Express, located on the third platform of the Museum where photographic exhibitions are exhibited. that show the railway infrastructure to the work and daily life that developed around the railway as well as the work of local and foreign photographers, and collections from other collections.
On the other hand, there is a program of itinerant exhibitions whose main objective is to promote reflection, disclosure, assessment, and dissemination of railway heritage in the Museum Network.
A large part of the temporary exhibitions, specifically the photographic ones, presented in the Photography Express car, have been integrated into the range of traveling exhibitions.
For the Museum, the health crisis generated by the coronavirus has posed new challenges to generate new ways to continue its cultural offer. Given this, virtual exhibitions have been generated, making content in digital format available to the public on the heritage that the MNFM has in its custody.
Some exhibitions presented in the museum
- “BRACEROS, seen by the Mayo Brothers” | August 2014 – April 2015
- “My heart misses the train. Ride the Sound System Wagon” | September 2014 – April 2015
- “Route to modernity 1902 – 1908” | November 2015 – May 2016
- “Without Borders” | November 2017 – April 2018
- Photo exhibition “The gray car” | November 2019 – April 2020
- Photographic exhibition “Vía libre: railway guild and sport” May 30, 2021 – April 2022
Educational services and cultural offer
The museum develops an educational and communication program whose purpose is the dissemination, appreciation, and social use of railway heritage. The foregoing, through the development of educational activities and playful resources for the educational sector, the programming of a cultural agenda that includes the Festivals for culture and peace, as well as the production of radio programs and series.
It also has cultural spaces such as the Toy Library, The Radio Wagon, The Science Wagon, The Bebeteca, The Public Library, and the Movie Wagon, which serve children, young people, and adults.
Educational activities and playful resources for the educational sector
The National Museum of Mexican Railroads carries out activities with school groups of different educational levels, through projects and materials, guided, face-to-face, and virtual visits, and the publication of the Guide to the National Museum of Mexican Railroads for primary school teachers, in printed, digital and website versions, which includes content and resources so that teachers can take guided tours with their groups and support their teaching practice. Likewise, the museum has a social service and professional internship program for technical high school and undergraduate students.46
The museum produces series and radio programs aimed at disseminating the history, technology, and culture of the railroads in Mexico and the world. Some of these productions are The radio car, On the tracks of the Mexican revolution, Férrea memoria, Travelers on board, Sung stories, and Acoustic in the car, among others.
Through them, cultural, educational, and recreational programs are developed for various audiences, both at the headquarters of the National Museum of Mexican Railroads, as well as in public spaces, auxiliary boards, housing units, and popular neighborhoods of Puebla and its metropolitan area.
Summer Season Festival
It has been carried out since 2008 in coordination with the Municipal Institute of Art and Culture of Puebla. This festival seeks to guarantee equitable access for children, youth, and adults to artistic, educational, and recreational proposals, during the vacation period of July and August.
Various government agencies have participated in the festival’s programming, such as the General State Archive, the Ignacio Zaragoza General Museum and Library, the Puebla Cholula Tourist Train, the National Coordination of Wings and Roots, and the Educational Bookstore, which participated with the Book Bus in public spaces, such as the Mercado de Sabores Poblanos or the Laguna de Chapulco.
Other institutions that have collaborated in this festival are the Mexican Academy of Science, the Germán Martínez Hidalgo Planetarium, the State Council of Science and Technology of Puebla and the National Institute of Optical and Electronic Astrophysics have contributed science workshops to the programming.
The National Center for Digital Culture and the Multimedia Center of the National Center for the Arts have provided workshops on digital art. The contribution of other institutions such as the Alliance Française, Radio Cultural Campesina de Teocelo Veracruz have made it possible to appreciate multiculturalism from the perspective of art and communication.
Through the universities of Puebla capital, Estación Verano has expanded its spectrum of action to the student communities. Among the higher-level educational institutions that have participated are the Institute of University Studies, Fine Arts and the UPAEP Museum, the Ibero-American University, the Vice-Rector for extension and dissemination of the culture of the Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla, cultural dissemination of the UNAM, the Cuauhtémoc University and the UDLAP Chapel of Art.
Citizen groups and civic associations have also joined this community project with workshops and artistic events, among them, are La 15, Puebla Reading Council, Subterráneos Cultura y Rock, Citizen Initiative, Citizen Bridge, Spokesperson for people with disabilities, the Collective of Organized Independent Musicians (MIO), the Visiklkticxs, CemiJazz, La Matatena and the international organization Save The Children.
The participation of the local and national artistic community has been present in the fourteen years of existence of the festival, among the participating artists are the Pueblan and national music bands for children such as Los Patita de Perro, Los Monedita de Oro, La Hormiga Juana, Papiroplástica, Bandula, Cachivache, and Tu Rockcito. Other musical groups such as Triciclo Circus Band, Entretango, and FAS trio have been part of the musical artistic offer.
Among the local and national artists who have participated in Estación Verano are Aziza Alaoui, Luis Camey, Jorge Llaca, Michael López, Santos Cuatecontzi, Antonieta Sulas, Jenny Casas, Antonio Cedeño, Ana Bilbao, Jesús López, Ángel Osorio, among others.
Wings on Rails Festival
It has been carried out since 2019, with the collaboration of the Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla, through the University Center for the Prevention of Regional Disasters, the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, as well as the Francisco Peláez Ethnobotanical Garden, and the Naturaleisa Civil Association.
Its purpose is to promote, through educational and recreational activities, care for the environment and a culture of peace.
As part of the festival in 2019, the process of establishing a community garden for educational purposes began that includes plant areas for pollinators, vegetables, milpa, compost, and bodies of water, among others.
Festival on rails
Indigenous and Afro-Mexican art and culture. It has been carried out since 2012 in collaboration with the Secretary of Culture of the Government of the state of Puebla. Aimed at children, its purpose is to promote books and reading by addressing different thematic axes.