Among the list of old railroad depots with historic significance, and there are many, is the train station at scenic Lamy New Mexico. Lamy is located about 20 miles southeast of Santa Fe and was a key stop on the old Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad main line. At one point there were four passenger trains each day making a stop at Lamy. The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was the driving force for the development of tourism in both Santa Fe and much of New Mexico.
One of the reasons that the Lamy railroad depot was so important to the AT & SF, aside from the tourism value, was the fact that it was the connection point to Santa Fe itself. The AT & SF Railroad main line was not built up to it’s namesake city because it was decided based on topographical considerations during the rail line survey that constructing the tracks up the grade to Santa Fe would be disadvantageous. The elevation of Santa Fe is about 1500 feet higher than Lamy.
The route of the railroad in that section ran from Las Vegas New Mexico southwestward to Albuquerque. If the main line was to build directly to Santa Fe it would have veered to the northwest, adding significant mileage, and would have had to allow for the elevation difference. While the main line railroad was not extended to Santa Fe, a spur line was built up the grade to serve the capital city of the New Mexico Territory. The spur line was built with bond money raised by citizens of Santa Fe and the spur was operated as the Santa Fe Railway.
Where settlement where the spur line met the AT & SF main line in 1880 was named Galisteo Junction.The name of Galisteo Junction was changed to Lamy in honor of Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe in 1875. The site was in the middle of what was called the Lamy Land Grant which was acreage taken in trust by the Catholic church. According to LamyMuseum.org, the settlement had it’s first postmaster in March of 1881. The first railroad depot in Lamy was also built in 1881. This was a two story wood frame structure that was changed into a freight depot when the new brick constructed Lamy railroad station opened in 1909.
Author Marci L. Riskin, in the book The Train Stops Here: New Mexico’s Railway Legacy, points out that like in most other new railroad towns, an entire list of characters gravitated to Lamy including gamblers, swindlers and con men of all sorts. The sheriff of Santa Fe came to Lamy many times to arrest people. Lamy however was known to be a respectable community by 1889.
Another interesting fact about the small settlement of Lamy was that in 1886 Fred Harvey built one of his popular Harvey Houses just to the east of the train station. The Harvey House was named El Ortiz and was constructed in gray-stucco with protruding vigas. The architect for the El Ortiz was Louis Curtiss of Kansas City and the interior designed by Harvey Company designer Mary Colter. Mary Colter is also known for her fine design work on the beautiful La Posada, the Harvey House hotel in Winslow Arizona. The El Ortiz had ten rooms and the staff consisted of the famous Harvey Girls in their black and white uniforms. Fred Harvey and the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe would become very significant in southwestern hospitality during the future years. In the area nearby Santa Fe there would be several hotels and eateries connected with Fred Harvey.
Two additional related articles we’ve published that you’ll find interesting are the La Castaneda Harvey House in Las Vegas New Mexico and the story of the old Harvey House La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe.
The La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, the La Castaneda in Las Vegas New Mexico, the Alvarado Harvey House in Albuquerque and the only Harvey House eatery built on an Indian reservation on the Santa Clara Pueblo at Puye Cliffs about twenty-nine miles northwest of Santa Fe. The Harvey Company’s Indian Detours sightseeing cars made regular visits to Santa Clara Pueblo. Fortunately, the stone structure of this Harvey House is still preserved and is visited by the thousands of tourists annually at Puye Cliffs. Unfortunately, in the cases of the El Ortiz in lamy and the Alvarado in Albuquerque, both were eventually torn down. The El Ortiz in 1943 and the Alvarado in 1970.
The Santa Fe Railway stopped operations on the eighteen mile spur line in 1926. The year 1926 coincided with the establishment of Route 66 and ushered in the era of mass auto travel. While train travel still remained quite popular for several years to come, the transportation of passengers from Lamy to Santa Fe was handled by motor vehicle.
Today, the train depot in Lamy is alive and well and welcomes one passenger train a day from the east and one from the west. The station handles passenger traffic for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief which travels between Chicago Illinois and Los Angeles California. Passengers today traveling to Santa Fe on the Southwest Chief avail themselves of scheduled van transportation for the short drive up to Santa Fe. Many people who travel to northern New Mexico and Santa Fe also add Lamy to their vacation trip planner. In addition to being located in a very scenic area, Lamy’s AT & SF depot relates the story of when the railroad came to New Mexico Territory’s capitol.
(Photos from author’s private collection)