Joe’s Blog: The History of the Santa Fe Railroad

Joe’s Blog: The History of the Santa Fe Railroad

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Santa Fe remains synonymous with railroads, thanks to the continued existence of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, even though a merger in 1994 with Burlington Northern all but obliterated Santa Fe’s name from the new company. Now known as BNSF, future generations will certainly not recall the colorful history of the AT&SF Railroad, nor the origins of the name of the BNSF.

Long before this merger, in the beginnings of the western expansion of the railroads, the AT&SF was formed in 1859 to connect Kansas with Santa Fe, the legendary capital of the newly formed New Mexico territory. However, unknown to most, there was another railroad that served Santa Fe. Ironically, the AT&SF never even reached the capital, as the elevation grade made routing through Santa Fe impractical. But the grades were nothing for the tough narrow gauge (3 feet wide) railroad known as the Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG), incorporated in 1870 to build tracks from Denver to Santa Fe. Its company emblem was scribed with the words: “Through the Rockies, not around them.”

Bat Masterson & Doc Holliday – Characters of the Old American West – images from wikipedia.org

The history of the conflicts between the AT&SF and D&RG railroads is legendary. Competition for the lucrative routes that would link the silver and gold riches of Utah and Colorado with the rest of the country eventually led to a conflict between the AT&SF and the upstart Denver D&R). The dream of the upstart D&RG owners was to eventually connect Denver with El Paso Texas, an arduous task to say the least. The fierce competition between the two railroads intensified until literally a war broke out over the lucrative Southern Colorado Arkansas River basin, where a narrow gateway named the Royal Gorge gave access to the many mines of western Colorado.

The Royal Gorge War was intense, violent and even involved hired gunslingers such as Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. It looked like the AT&SF would secure the lucrative routes through force of arms until a circuit court ruling in the D&RG’s favor proved decisive. Armed now with the force of the law, the D&RG was free to pursue a direct line connecting Colorado with Santa Fe. Believing a narrow gauge design to be superior in the mountainous terrain between Antonito and Santa Fe, the company began laying a narrow gauge track south from southern Colorado to Santa Fe. The narrow track was layed within the portion of the D&RG from Antonito, Colorado, on through the small New Mexico towns of Tres Piedras, Taos Junction, Embudo, Espanola and eventually on to Santa Fe. This section was nicknamed the “Chili Line” in honor of New Mexico’s premier and distinctive crop, but its official name was the Santa Fe Branch. Though the majority of western commercial traffic would continue to go to the AT&SF, the Chili Line leg of the D&RG began construction in 1880, eventually, providing a valuable link between the small and isolated northern New Mexican and southern Colorado farmers and ranchers and the country’s larger markets.

Due to its remote nature from Antonito, Colorado, down through desolate Northern New Mexico to Santa Fe, the Chili Line would be an informal one. The engineers and fireman “often stopped to shoot jackrabbits and coyotes. Sometimes passengers joined in the sport… In the little town of Tres Piedras, the train would meet ‘a yellow mongrel dog…’ The engineer tossed off a newspaper daily which the dog picked up and carried to the home of its owner.” (The Evening Independent -St. Petersburg, Florida: Associated Press- September 2, 1941).

The Rio Grande Zephyr in 1983 – image from wikipedia.org

Ironically, the court decision to bring peace between the AT&SF and the D&RG prevented D&RG to go further south than Espanola, so another train company was formed, named the Texas, Santa Fe and Northern Rail Road Company, and in 1886, the Chili Line arrived in the Santa Fe Railyards. The Chili Line continued its operations until 1941 when transportation by truck began the erosion of the small narrow gauge “feeder lines” throughout the country. But it didn’t end there, the final successor inter-city train, known as the Zephyr, continued service until the mid 1980s.

So, at least 3 Railroads have used the Santa Fe Railyards for depots, not just the more famous one, the AT&SF, whom as I said in the beginning, has itself fallen to the fate of time and is now only represented by 2 letters behind the BR of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, whose harsh orange engines laboriously pull double decked railcars from China across the country-side.

A visit to Santa Fe should always include a tour of the Santa Fe Railyards where the original depots of these railroads can be seen. And where else to stay but the Inn on the Alameda, conveniently located near the Plaza and Canyon Road as well. If you don’t feel like walking, our free courtesy car will gladly drop you off and pick you up at your convenience.

The Galisteo Studio Tour

The Galisteo Studio Tour One of the great joys of the autumn season in Northern New Mexico is the annual round of village studio tours. Artists open their homes and studios to wandering aficionados of the arts in many of the picturesque small towns around Santa Fe...

read more

Santa Fe remains synonymous with railroads, thanks to the continued existence of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, even though a merger in 1994 with Burlington Northern all but obliterated Santa Fe’s name from the new company. Now known as BNSF, future generations will certainly not recall the colorful history of the AT&SF Railroad, nor the origins of the name of the BNSF.

The D&RG on the Narrow Gauge. Image from ngdiscussion.net

The D&RG on the Narrow Gauge. Image from ngdiscussion.net

 

Long before this merger, in the beginnings of the western expansion of the railroads, the AT&SF was formed in 1859 to connect Kansas with Santa Fe, the legendary capital of the newly formed New Mexico territory. However, unknown to most, there was another railroad that served Santa Fe. Ironically, the AT&SF never even reached the capital, as the elevation grade made routing through Santa Fe impractical. But the grades were nothing for the tough narrow gauge (3 feet wide) railroad known as the Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG), incorporated in 1870 to build tracks from Denver to Santa Fe. Its company emblem was scribed with the words: “Through the Rockies, not around them.”

Bat Masterson & Doc Holliday - Characters of the Old American West - images from wikipedia.org

Bat Masterson & Doc Holliday – Characters of the Old American West – images from wikipedia.org

 

The history of the conflicts between the AT&SF and D&RG railroads is legendary. Competition for the lucrative routes that would link the silver and gold riches of Utah and Colorado with the rest of the country eventually led to a conflict between the AT&SF and the upstart Denver D&R). The dream of the upstart D&RG owners was to eventually connect Denver with El Paso Texas, an arduous task to say the least. The fierce competition between the two railroads intensified until literally a war broke out over the lucrative Southern Colorado Arkansas River basin, where a narrow gateway named the Royal Gorge gave access to the many mines of western Colorado. The Royal Gorge War was intense, violent and even involved hired gunslingers such as Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. It looked like the AT&SF would secure the lucrative routes through force of arms until a circuit court ruling in the D&RG’s favor proved decisive.   Armed now with the force of the law, the D&RG was free to pursue a direct line connecting Colorado with Santa Fe. Believing a narrow gauge design to be superior in the mountainous terrain between Antonito and Santa Fe, the company began laying a narrow gauge track south from southern Colorado to Santa Fe. The narrow track was layed within the portion of the D&RG from Antonito, Colorado, on through the small New Mexico towns of Tres Piedras, Taos Junction, Embudo, Espanola and eventually on to Santa Fe. This section was nicknamed the “Chili Line” in honor of New Mexico’s premier and distinctive crop, but its official name was the Santa Fe Branch. Though the majority of western commercial traffic would continue to go to the AT&SF, the Chili Line leg of the D&RG began construction in 1880, eventually, providing a valuable link between the small and isolated northern New Mexican and southern Colorado farmers and ranchers and the country’s larger markets.

The Rio Grande Zephyr in 1983 - image from wikipedia.org

The Rio Grande Zephyr in 1983 – image from wikipedia.org

 

Due to its remote nature from Antonito, Colorado, down through desolate Northern New Mexico to Santa Fe, the Chili Line would be an informal one. The engineers and fireman “often stopped to shoot jackrabbits and coyotes. Sometimes passengers joined in the sport… In the little town of Tres Piedras, the train would meet ‘a yellow mongrel dog…’ The engineer tossed off a newspaper daily which the dog picked up and carried to the home of its owner.” (The Evening Independent -St. Petersburg, Florida: Associated Press- September 2, 1941). Ironically, the court decision to bring peace between the AT&SF and the D&RG prevented D&RG to go further south than Espanola, so another train company was formed, named the Texas, Santa Fe and Northern Rail Road Company, and in 1886, the Chili Line arrived in the Santa Fe Railyards. The Chili Line continued its operations until 1941 when transportation by truck began the erosion of the small narrow gauge “feeder lines” throughout the country. But it didn’t end there, the final successor inter-city train, known as the Zephyr, continued service until the mid 1980s.

So, at least 3 Railroads have used the Santa Fe Railyards for depots, not just the more famous one, the AT&SF, whom as I said in the beginning, has itself fallen to the fate of time and is now only represented by 2 letters behind the BR of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, whose harsh orange engines laboriously pull double decked railcars from China across the country-side.

A visit to Santa Fe should always include a tour of the Santa Fe Railyards where the original depots of these railroads can be seen. And where else to stay but the Inn on the Alameda, conveniently located near the Plaza and Canyon Road as well. If you don’t feel like walking, our free courtesy car will gladly drop you off and pick you up at your convenience. Oh, yes…remember to order a :”Sidecar” when you are dining or cocktailing in the Agoyo Lounge.

Experience the Museum of International Folk Art Santa Fe

Experience the Museum of International Folk Art Santa Fe

Located at 706 Camino Lejo on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill, the Museum of International Folk Art is part of the state of New Mexico museum system and a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. The museum holds the largest collection of international folk art in the world, numbering more than 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries. The core collection of 2,500 objects was donated by museum founder Florence Dibell Bartlett.

Since that time, the collection has been shaped in large part by the generous support of individuals, most notably Alexander and Susan Girard, with their gift of 106,000 objects, and Lloyd Cotsen’s Neutrogena Collection, consisting of 2,600 exceptional textiles and objects.

 

Alameda- dreamcatcher

Our collection continues to grow according to the belief that through the traditional arts, we may illuminate human creativity and shape a humane world. The museum is also family friendly, with multisensory experiences and a designated play area for kids.

Featured Exhibit

Beadwork Adorns the World
April 22, 2018 – February 3, 2019

Extraordinary how a small glass bead from the island of Murano (Venice, Italy) or the mountains of Bohemia (Czech Republic) can travel around the world, entering into the cultural life of people far distant.

Hours and Fees

Regular hours for the museum are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from May 1 through October 31.  From November 1 through April 30, the museum is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday through Sunday and is closed on Mondays. The museum is also closed on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day

Alameda-museum

Admission fees are modest. For New Mexico residents, fees for adults and seniors 60 and older are $7; student fees are $6. Admission is free for children 16 and younger. Free admission for all New Mexico residents is available on the first Sunday of each month. Seniors are admitted free on each Wednesday. For nonresident adults and seniors, admission is $12; admission for students is $11, and for children 16 and younger, it’s free. 

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To learn more about experiencing all that Santa Fe offers, or for help planning your trip to the Inn on the Alameda,

The Galisteo Studio Tour

The Galisteo Studio Tour One of the great joys of the autumn season in Northern New Mexico is the annual round of village studio tours. Artists open their homes and studios to wandering aficionados of the arts in many of the picturesque small towns around Santa Fe...

read more
Fishing on the Pecos River

Fishing on the Pecos River

If you love to fish, Northern New Mexico may be your dream vacation. The Pecos River is an excellent location for both fly fishing and regular cast fishing, offering incredible fishing options just a short drive from Santa Fe.

The Pecos River is known for its Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and Rio Grande Cutthroats. The river has benefited from extensive restoration and rehabilitation to restore native trout, helping make the Pecos a great place to fish in almost any season.

Inn on the alameda fly shing pecos

From the headwaters high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this cold, clear water flows 926 miles before it empties into the Rio Grande in Texas. The Browns run wild, and the river is continually stocked with Rainbows, making this a prime fly fishing location.  

Featured Exhibit

We recommend checking out the Orvis fishing report here for the most up-to-date information on weather, water and fishing conditions.

The Pecos offers some truly exceptional waters for casting in a beautiful setting. Let us help you plan your fishing trip.

To learn more about the Santa Fe area, or for help planning your trip to Inn on the Alameda, visit our website.

The Galisteo Studio Tour

The Galisteo Studio Tour One of the great joys of the autumn season in Northern New Mexico is the annual round of village studio tours. Artists open their homes and studios to wandering aficionados of the arts in many of the picturesque small towns around Santa Fe...

read more
White Rapids in the Desert!

White Rapids in the Desert!

Here in the arid Southwest, people naturally think of the desert.  And while New Mexico boasts some of the most striking desert landscapes and scenery in the country – white-water rafting is also prominent. In fact, this region boasts some of the finest white-water rafting in the country! With outings available for every skill level, white-water rafting represents an ideal way to cool off during the hot summer months!

The Racecourse

White-water-rafting-easy

The Racecourse is New Mexico’s most popular rafting trip. This half-day trip is ideal for beginners or rafters who have limited time available, while providing exhilarating, extended white-water runs. This trip is usually Class II-III but goes to Class IV when the water is high. This outing is suitable for nearly all ages except during periods of exceptionally high water.

Rio Grande Gorge Full-day

The Rio Grande Gorge Full-day rafting trip features lush habitat scenery along the Orilla Verde section of the Rio Grande. A calm first-half float allows rafters the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. After stopping for a riverside lunch, the second half features the exciting Racecourse white-water runs. The minimum age for this trip for most of the year is 5 years old, which makes this a fun outing for the entire family.

White-water-rafting

Rio Chama 3-day

Chama-River

This multi-day rafting trip is regularly available for most weeks from April through August, thanks to regularly scheduled releases from El Vado Reservoir. This trip covers 33 miles through sandstone and limestone canyons on the river, starting outside of Tierra Amarilla and concluding at Abiquiu, a renowned artist village. The spectacular scenery along the route includes desert cliffs and beautiful pine trees reminiscent of the work of New Mexico’s own Georgia O’Keeffe and outdoor photographer Ansel Adams.

These are just three of several white-water rafting outings accessible from the Santa Fe area.

For more white-water rafting ideas:

The Galisteo Studio Tour

The Galisteo Studio Tour One of the great joys of the autumn season in Northern New Mexico is the annual round of village studio tours. Artists open their homes and studios to wandering aficionados of the arts in many of the picturesque small towns around Santa Fe...

read more
History of the Anasazi

History of the Anasazi

Hundreds of years ago, the Anasazi, also known as the Ancestral Pueblo people, carved their homes from the volcanic turf at the sides of the cliffs in the Jemez Mountains. Today, visitors can explore this complex of cliff dwellings, called the Bandelier National Monument.  

The 50-square-mile monument offers a glimpse inside the lives of the Anasazi, including their farming and eating habits. Their diets consisted of corn, beans, squash, and native plants, along with deer, rabbit, and squirrel meat. The Anasazi also had domesticated turkeys.  

Along with the actual pueblo homes, visitors can see cave paintings and petrogylphs created by the Anasazi. There are miles of hiking trails, and the area is home to abundant wildlife. While you’re there, you may spot one of the black bears or mountain lions that inhabit the national monument area.  

The visitor center at the Bandelier National Monument features a museum with exhibits about the Anasazi, including pottery, tools, and other items of daily life. Other exhibits include dioramas demonstrating how the Anasazi lived, artwork, a 10-minute film, and more.  

The roads winding through the Jemez Mountains, just northwest of Santa Fe, are filled with history. Along with the Bandelier National Monument, the area is home to a volcanic crater and the birthplace of the atom bomb. You can see it all in a day’s trip from Santa Fe.  

 Ready to take a trip back in time? Let us help plan your next adventure! 

Field Trips Aren’t Just for School Kids

Field Trips Aren’t Just for School Kids

When was the last time you went on a field trip? We bet it’s been a while.

Santa Fe’s School for Advanced Research offers seasonal field trips for adventurers and knowledge-seekers of all ages. Local archaeological experts are hosting a field trip to El Morro and Zuni Pueblo for a two-day, overnight exploration the weekend of October 20th-21st.

El Morro, or “The Heartland,” is 200-foot bluff where Ancestral Puebloans lived long before Europeans arrived, and carved petroglyphs into the soft walls. Starting in the late 1500s, Spaniards and then Americans carved their names, dates, and messages into the walls as they passed through the area. The El Morro National Monument protects more than 2,000 of these inscriptions and petroglyphs, along with Ancestral Puebloan ruins.

At Zuni Pueblo, you will learn more about the Zuni’s unique fetish carvings and inlay silverwork. You’ll tour the exhibits at the Ashiwi Awan Museum and Heritage Center, and head to the Middle Village for a walking tour through the cultural heart of the Zuni people. The trip extends to Hawikkuh, one of the fabled Cities of Gold, where Zuni ancestors have lived since 1200 AD. It is the first place of documented Southwest history.

Don’t miss this intimate look at New Mexico history and culture guided by experts in the history of the Southwest. Let us be your home base in Santa Fe. Schedule your stay now.

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