Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Railroads in New Mexico

The development of the American Southwest
was often parallel to the spread of the
Railroads have an important place in New Mexico's history, not just along the East-West and North-South corridors, but also the many branches and lines which led to lumber, livestock, mineral, and cultural resources. Some of these lines, and whole railway companies, are long gone now, the only traces being some route cuts and embankments and the occasional rusty spike. Towns boomed when the railway came through, and dwindled when the tracks were taken up.
Railroads were also important in developing tourism in New Mexico, with beautiful advertisements offering the accommodations of Fred Harvey's Houses and the grandeur of the scenery accessible via the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (which, curiously enough, did not directly service Santa Fe, only coming as close as Lamy.)
The location of the AT&SF main yards in Albuquerque was a major reason for the city's growth -- a fate that might have been Bernalillo's, originally slated as the site but passed up after a disagreement about the availability of land there. The railway also made it easy for thousands of tuberculosis patients to travel to New Mexico in search of a more salutary climate, another reason for a bump in Albuquerque's growth.
Many a smaller town in New Mexico is laid out along the railroad tracks, and if you travel along those tracks (often two streets away from that town's Main Street) you might find a Harvey House still standing though most often vacant, a fading reminder of another time when rail travel was not only essential but sometimes even elegant.
Browse titles on Railroads in New Mexico.
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New Mexico's Railroads: A Historical Survey by David F. Myrick

Long the handbook on the subject, Myrick's book provides a valuable overview with many historical photos. Chronicles the growth and ebb of  railway companies and lines around the state.
While the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe is likely the most recognizable company operating in the state, well over 100 railway companies have been active in New Mexico, some of them narrow-gauge lines serving lumber and mineral interests and some of them "common carriers" hauling freight and passengers. These companies have risen, receded, divided and combined as New Mexico grew and changed.
New Mexico's Railroads is a necessary resource for anyone interested in the subject, and fine browsing to gain some insight into a fascinating part of New Mexico's past and present. 

Railroad and Railroad Towns in New Mexico compiled and revised by William Clark

Compiled from articles previously published in New Mexico magazine from 1964-1980.

These articles reveal the color and the character of the effect of the railroads upon New Mexico, and discusses the colorful characters associated with our Territorial past. With period and recent photos of facilities and equipment.


The Coming of the Railroad - Howard Bryan
Fred and His Girls - Dale Bullock
When the Railroad Came - Las Vegas - Elmo Baca
The Second Albuquerque - Howard Bryan
Raton and the Northeastern Plains - Ruth Armstrong
The Last Frontier - Ruth Armstrong
Six Shooter Siding - Ruth Armstrong
Riley's Switch - Ruth Armstrong
Reminiscences of the New Mexico Central - Vernon Glover
The Cloud-Climbing Route - Marjorie White
One Yard Wide, More Than 100 Years Long - Doyle Kline
Memories - Three Feet Wide - Roy W. Albee
Short Trip on a Long Train - Margaret Erhart
Almost All the Way with Santa Fe - Richard Bradford
Highballing West on No. 5078 - Ray Nelson

The Train Stops Here: New Mexico's Railway Legacy by Marci L. Riskin

In the vast expanse of territorial New Mexico, railroads had a striking impact. Many cities, among them Carlsbad, Raton, Clovis, and Gallup, were founded as railroad stops. Architect Marci Riskin explores the history of railroad depots and other structures--everything but the trains themselves--that make up New Mexico's railway legacy.

To begin the examination, Riskin includes a brief history of railroad development in New Mexico, a description of the architectural features of the state's railroad buildings, and an overview of how railroads work. This background will help answer questions that may arise on a visit to a rail-yard: What is that strangely shaped train car carrying? How is that twisted piece of metal used? Why are the bricks on the platform stamped with the single word Coffeyville?

The bulk of the book is an account of what is left of the state's railroad heritage, organized geographically within each rail system: the Santa Fe system from Raton to Silver City, the Denver & Rio Grande, the Colorado & Southern, the Southern Pacific, and the El Paso and Northeastern, among others. - from the book jacket

Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest by Richard Melzer

The Harvey House was an oasis of comfort and civilization along the railway routes of the Southwest. Harvey, dismayed by the facilities he had seen at railway stops, endeavored to provide clean and welcoming lunchrooms, restaurants, and hotels as alternatives and his name became synonymous with quality accommodations -- an image fostered by clever and attractive advertising which drew in tourists from around the world. The Harvey House chain also offered tours to cultural, geological, and archeological attractions, further opening the Southwest to visitors. Harvey had close connections with the Santa Fe Railway, contracting to provide dining services along the line; this mutually beneficial association allowed Harvey to use the railroad for free shipment of supplies, while providing railway passengers with quality rest stops.
Fred Harvey is also famous for recruiting the Harvey Girls: young, decent, hardworking women from around the country to serve as hostesses in his lunchrooms.
In New Mexico, Harvey Houses were in the towns of Albuquerque, Belen, Carlsbad, Clovis, Deming, Gallup, Lamy, Las Vegas, Raton, Rincon, Santa Fe (the La Fonda Hotel), San Marcial, and Vaughan.

The Harvey Girls: The Women Who Civilized the West by Juddi Morris

Fred Harvey created the first restaurant chain in the United States (even while part of the country was still territorial rather than actual states.) The Harvey House chain of lunchrooms, restaurants, and hotels maintained very high standards, and Harvey wanted staff to match. So he advertised in the East for women 18 to 30, pleasant, competent, attractive, and willing to meet his expectations for civilized behavior. Besides their pay they would receive room and board. Thousands applied and the best were hired; for many of the young women, it was the first time they had left home.
The Harvey Girls became not only a famous feature of the Fred Harvey chain, but their standards for cleanliness and decorum are credited as having a civilizing effect on the often rough customers in "the territories". This civilizing influence became even more lasting when thousands of the "Girls" married customers, to settle in the West.

By the late 1800s, the major mode of transportation for travelers to the Southwest was by rail. In 1878, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company (AT&SF) became the first railroad to enter New Mexico, and by the late 1890s it controlled more than half of the track-miles in the Territory. The company wielded tremendous power in New Mexico, and soon made tourism an important facet of its financial enterprise.

All Aboard for Santa Fe focuses on the AT&SF's marketing efforts to highlight Santa Fe as an ideal tourism destination. The company marketed the healthful benefits of the area's dry desert air, a strong selling point for eastern city-dwelling tuberculosis sufferers. AT&SF also joined forces with the Fred Harvey Company, owner of numerous hotels and restaurants along the rail line, to promote Santa Fe. Together, they developed materials emphasizing Santa Fe's Indian and Hispanic cultures, promoting artists from the area's art colonies, and created the Indian Detours sightseeing tours.

All Aboard for Santa Fe is a comprehensive study of AT&SF's early involvement in the establishment of western tourism and the mystique of Santa Fe. - from the book jacket

 The New Mexico Rail Runner Express offers passenger service along the Rio Grande Valley between
Santa Fe and Belen. The Belen stop is
located near the old Harvey House.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
offers day trips May through October

over historic narrow-gauge lines
through northern New Mexico.
Advertised as "America's longest and highest
steam-operated railroad", the Cumbres & Toltec
offers visitors a taste of the past as they
ride this line originally built in 1880.

The Santa Fe Southern Railway
runs trips over the 129 year-old rail spur
between Lamy and Santa Fe, using
historic equipment. Available for day excursions,
night train, holiday or special event trips.

The New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society
(NMSL&RHS) is a non-profit organization generally dedicated to maintaining awareness of the role of the railroads in our history, preserving historical materials, and educating the public. Specifically, the mission of the Society is to restore the Baldwin 4-8-4 Steam Locomotive, AT&SF 2926, an ongoing project at their headquarters in downtown Albuquerque. The Society periodically hosts Open Houses to give the public an opportunity to learn about and admire the locomotive, and generally experience the atmosphere of the glory days of the railroads.

Amtrak offers passenger service through
New Mexico on two routes,
the Southwest Chief and the Texas Eagle.
The Southwest Chief
runs daily with stops in Albuquerque,
and serves Santa Fe with
a shuttle from Lamy.
The Harvey House in Belen NM still stands and has been preserved to give visitors a taste of that time. Housing the Belen Harvey House Museum, the structure is also home to the Belen Model Railroad Club, which maintains a large working model train exhibit in the building. The Museum holds exhibits and memorabilia pertaining to the railroad and Harvey House period in New Mexico. A Gift Shop also features railroad-related items. The Museum is free to the public. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12:30PM to 3:30PM, and Sundays from 1PM to 3PM. Donations are accepted.

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