To visit the C&TSRR, head to the village of Chama, 107 miles north of Santa Fe off U.S. 84. The railway was constructed in 1880 as part of the Rio Grande's San Juan Extension to climb the high mountain passages to the silver mining district in southwestern Colorado. Today it operates as one of the United State's highest railroads, reaching an elevation of more than 10,000 feet as it chugs though the Cumbres Pass. It's also the longest narrow gauge railway. The rails are only three feet apart, as opposed to the standard gauge of more than four feet. And the scenery is spectacular. Once the track veers away from U.S. 84, there's little evidence of modern civilization, giving you the impression you're seeing the landscape just as it was in the Old West.
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express also departs from the Santa Fe Depot, from which it travels south through Albuquerque to the end of its line in Belén. The Rail Runner began offering commuter train service in 2006 and completed its route along the heavily traveled central corridor in 2008. With a style reminiscent of the Super Chief trains that once toured the southwest, the trains boast double-decker seating where passengers can take in views of the Río Grande and Native American reservations while zipping along at a 21st-Century pace. Just hop aboard at one of the train's dozen stations (you'll buy your ticket on board) and get ready for adventure. Please note that while the train offers regular service, you should consult the schedule when planning your excursion.
The New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society (NMSL&RHS) is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization preserving the history of New Mexico’s railway. NMSL&RHS recently restored an Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe 2926, 4-8-4 steam locomotive that was originally built in 1944 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. The 2926 locomotive is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is recognized by the state’s legislature as the Official Steam Locomotive of New Mexico.
The NMSL&RHS restoration site is open to the public for free tours (weather permitting) every Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Large group tours can be made by appointment any day by calling 505-246-2926. Visit our website for more information.
One of New Mexico's 13 original Harvey Houses can be found in Belén just south of Albuquerque.
From 1908 to 1939 Belén's Harvey House Dining Room offered hearty fare and good service at reasonable prices to travelers heading into the Wild West. Today, the historic building houses the Harvey House Museum, which preserves Santa Fe Railway and Fred Harvey organization memorabilia. Visit the famous Harvey Girls' dormitories and the Belén Model Railroad Club's creations. Belén is located 30 miles south of Albuquerque off I-25. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Image Courtesy Palace of the Governors Archive
In March 8, 1881, in Deming, a silver spike joined the Southern Pacific Railroad to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, creating the second transcontinental railway. Although there's relatively little to see where this monumental collision was marked, the town of Deming owes its existence to the railway. Named after Mary Deming Crocker, wife of a railroad tycoon, Deming was officially founded after the meeting of the two railways. A Harvey House quickly followed, and part of that original building still stands next to the town's Amtrak depot today.