So I’m a bit of a steam train nerd…

Almost anyone in southern New Mexico who has driven from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft has marveled at the old Mexican Canyon railroad trestle just below the summit of the Sacramento Mountains. 

Built in the early 1900s, the trestle was the crowning achievement of a steep mountain railroad called the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway. Work on the railroad started in the late 1890s and by the 1920s and 1930s, it connected a large network of logging railroads in the Sacramento Mountains. The rail lines were constructed primarily to harvest the timber needed for residential and commercial construction in El Paso and surrounding communities and for railroad ties throughout New Mexico. 

The railroad, which was later dubbed the “Cloud Climbing Railroad,” was also used to carry passengers from the desert lowlands to the cool mountain air of Cloudcroft. The railway continued to operate until 1947, when it was abandoned. 

Having grown up just a few miles north of Cloudcroft in the village of Ruidoso, we had visited the area many times. However, until this last week, I was only aware of two other  trestles along the abandoned railway route.

Remnants of unnamed trestle on Bridal Veil Falls trail in Sacramento Mountains
Solado Canyon trestle on Bridal Veil Falls trail in Sacramento Mountains

At any rate, it was quite a surprise to find out about the remains of two trestles I had never known about, both just north of the town of High Rolls. My wife, dog Chester and I hiked part of the way along the old railroad bed leading to Bridal Veil Falls when we discovered the trestle. There was a nice flow of spring water beneath the remnants of the trestle, which Chester enjoyed as a place to wade, drink and flop in the cool water.

For many years while I was a journalist in Santa Fe, I reported on progress of the effort to resurrect a section of the old Denver and Rio Grande Western narrow gauge railway between Chama and Antonito, CO. After many years of negotiations, involving two state governments, the dilapidated railway was purchased by the states of Colorado and New Mexico. It has now become a popular tourist attraction known as the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railway

It’s unfortunate that the old “Cloud Climbing Railroad” between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft could not have been preserved for future generations. I believe it was an even more spectacular railroad than the Cumbres and Toltec route or the Denver and Rio Grande line between Durango and Silverton, CO.

I found a link to a document about the railroad that was prepared by the U.S. Forest Service in 1984:

Logging-Railroads-of-the-Lincoln-National-Forest[7918].pdf

There’s also a book about the railroad that was written many years ago by Dorothy Jensen Neal that is still available:

http://twp.utep.edu/cloud.php

At any rate, I hope you’ll take time to take a look at these old trestles and walk along the very easy railroad bed trails. I don’t think I’m as much of a railroad nerd as Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory” TV show, but it’s fun to learn about these historic railways in our neighborhood. 

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