Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Lamy Train Station

Our son Hunter decided, despite the pandemic, he wanted to come and visit us with his wife, Mallory, and our 8-month-old granddaughter, Boroughs, to celebrate his birthday and Father’s Day. Investigating the various methods of coming from Los Aneles they decided that the best and safest would be to take the train, which leaves Los Angeles around 7pm and arrives at Lamy, New Mexico the next day around 1pm.

To make sure we would find Lamy, we did a dry run and missed the turnoff. Why? Because I could not believe that the road to such a historic place, named after the first Bishop of Santa Fe, Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy (1814-1888) was so non-descript. What was little more than the width of a horse path led to the station and as we approached the station, we saw these signs ...

New Mexico became a State in 1912 and the 1920 Census shows Lamy’s population at 289 and in the last recorded census a population of 218 so Lamy was never a large town. We passed a scattering of well-tended adobe houses but little to indicate a town beyond an old boarded-up church and newly repainted 1880’s The Legal Tender Saloon. The small railroad depot was built in 1909 with the red tile roof and shady arcaded porch of the Spanish Mission Style then popular in California and the Southwest. 

Lamy was no more than a waystation for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line that was key to westward expansion. It originated in Kansas City, later extending to Chicago, and ran to Los Angeles.  The Harvey Company started building eateries and hotels along the route, but nothing remains of the Harvey hotel in Lamy, called El Otiz, which closed in 1938 and was torn down in 1943. Despite the name of the line, the railroad never made it to Santa Fe because engineers considered the grade to Santa Fe too steep. Eventually, an 18-mile spur line was constructed from Lamy to Santa Fe.

In 1943 Lamy figured in the recruitment of scientists by J. Robert Oppenheimer, charismatic head of the Manhattan Project, to live in the top-secret facility of Los Alamos. They were let off the train with their families in the little village of Lamy. From there they were driven up to Santa Fe where they expected to live and work. In the office at 109 Palace Avenue, they were told they had another 35 miles to go before reaching the Atomic Labs. This short video will give you an idea of the Lamy station at the time.  The actual distance to Los Alamos is often quoted differently!

Today, Amtrak would like to cancel the stop at Lamy altogether but there is push back. In 2018 Allan Affelt acquired the Legal Tender Saloon and it had just re-opened when the Covid-19 hit. It will surely open again as it looks like Lamy has a future.  For more on Allan Affelt and his preservation of the Harvey Hotels ...

Just weeks ago, it was announced that three investors from Santa Fe lead by George R. R. Martin, known for the Game of Thrones series, have bought the bankrupt spur line. They plan to restore the track and the historic railroad cars making the line a center for entertainment with live music on the trip and a brewpub at the depot.

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