23.7.06

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR. The Santa Fe Railroad went to a great deal of trouble to secure the Raton Pass crossing of the southern Rockies in order to secure a route from Kansas to the north end of the Santa Fe Trail. The bad news, however, is that the railroad had to chop its way across Glorieta Pass to get close to Santa Fe. (The Denver and Rio Grande, Santa Fe's rival for the Santa Fe Trail traffic, did secure the Royal Gorge and built a narrow-gauge line including a very long straight track from Alamosa into Santa Fe.)

Continuing passengers have reboarded Train 4, and we're ready to go, but first a Roadrunner.


Passenger Rail reports that the Albuquerque commuter trains went into service July 14. We leave Albuquerque 12:48:56 (Mountain Daylight Times approximate. I was not able to find a standard clock in Albuquerque to set my watch properly.)

Lamy for Santa Fe 1:52:18 - 1:56:22.


East of Lamy, the ascent of Glorieta Pass, which was the location of a pivotal battle in the War Between The States, begins.


Both trains are close to time, and the meet with westbound 3 that left Chicago on 4 July is just after 2 pm.


The station at the summit of Glorieta Pass is now the town's post office.


Down the east slope, through some small canyons, across some flats, start climbing again. There is a double-horseshoe curve near Ribera that rates mention in the route guide.


By this time, the lounge car had filled sufficiently with train experts that everybody was ready for their snapshots of the second turn to the east.


Passenger loads were fairly heavy. I didn't have occasion to walk through the coaches but did notice large numbers of people strolling at the designated rest stops. The sleepers were sold out. One family disembarked at Williams and another got on ... not much time to change the bedding there. Some passengers expressed a preference for the sleeping cars to the crowding in coach (on western trains, often a rougher crowd) and the trials of attempting to sleep when there is constant traffic through the aisles, even on the long stretches between stops.

Las Vegas 3:48:37 - 3:49:35

A few of the original Harvey Houses remain at trackside. The Castaneda, one of the larger hotels, is derelict. (Albuquerque's bus station complex is a re-creation.)


There's another flat stretch east of Las Vegas before the assault on Raton Pass begins. The Wagon Mound is a prominent landmark. From the sides it looks a little like a stylized wagon and team. Close up, it has the cross-section of a prairie schooner.


Raton 5:30:00 - 5:36:07.

Raton is the station for the Philmont Scout camp, and there were a few uniforms in coach from here east. It was raining rather heavily on the pass and I had a 5:45 dinner reservation (grilled chicken) thus no pictures.

The Santa Fe appears to be using Raton as a staging area for baretables. That is probably the best use of what is to them becoming a superfluous property. Baretable trains and the two scheduled passenger trains can run at comparable speeds. The Pass itself has some of the steeper grades on any mainline railroad, and it is flanked on both sides by tracks once maintained for 100 mph running. The legislation creating Amtrak required Santa Fe and successor companies to maintain the tracks in that condition for 25 years. The line has since been downgraded to a 79 mph operation with automatic block signals, including a few upper quadrant semaphores, and track warrant control. It's likely that Santa Fe will again ask Amtrak for a re-route. Perhaps some compromise in which Santa Fe builds a loop line into Albuquerque from the Transcontinental Corridor and Amtrak provides money for some strategic triple tracking on the Lawrence-Amarillo-Belen (the historic route of the San Francisco Chief) is in the offing. (Yes, and American League pitchers will bat.)

Despite the toned-down schedule, the overall running time is still close to the old Super Chief, and there's again an ample recovery margin coming off the mountain.

La Junta 7:55:34 - 8:25:25. My notes show "2-6-2 1024 on display." A number of these passenger Prairies are preserved along the Santa Fe.


The engine crew had ample time to compare notes and hand over the train and the on-board train crew time for a stretch and a smoke. (I'll have more to say about the on-board service, which was very good, in the final post in the series. For now I note that the car attendants and the snack bar tender have quite an endurance test on a transcontinental train, with the snack bar open from 6:30 to 10:30 and the car attendants potentially subject to call at any time.)

I purchased a half-bottle of wine with dinner, and a quarter-bottle on departing La Junta. All of that put me in the mood for an early turn-in.

Lamar 9:12:18 - 9:16:51. I heard the train crew copy a warrant before we left.

(To be continued)

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