AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #40a -- Los Angeles, California to El Paso, Texas
Part 7 - Lordsburg to El Paso
Tucson to Lordsburg
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665.5 LORDSBURG station, Center Street & S P Boulevard.  Elevation approximately 4258 ft.  This is a flag stop for the Sunset Ltd, and the station building has been demolished.  The town was founded on October 18, 1880, when a small group of railroad employees, stage drivers, cowboys, gamblers, and others watched the first train come into town from the West.  The town was most likely named after Delbert Lord, Construction Engineer for the Southern Pacific.  Others claim that the town was named after New Yorker Dr. Charles H. Lord, who came west after the Civil War and eventually began Lord and Williams, a wholesale banking and distributing center in Tucson, Arizona.

          Lordsburg is the birthplace of the official New Mexico State song, “O Fair New Mexico,”  written by Lordsburg resident Elizabeth Garrett, the blind daughter of famed sheriff Pat Garrett.  In 1917, Governor Washington Ellsworth Lindsey signed the legislation making it the official state song.  During World War II, Lordsburg was home of the Lordsburg Internment Camp, which held as many as 1500 Japanese-American for a while.  In 1927, after the famous New York to Paris flight, aviator Charles Lindbergh made a stop in Lordsburg on his famedSpirit of St. Louis airplane, to dedicate the new airport here.

          Lordsburg was the final destination in the 1939 film “Stagecoach,” starring John Wayne.

          Lordsburg is currently known as the “Gateway to Enchantment,” and is a popular place for travelers to overnight on their way to the nearby attractions.

670   Pass through Ulmoris, which was the loading point for Japanese detainees taken by the U.S. Military after the Japanese attack on Pearl; Harbor, on December 7, 1942.  The internment camp was located near here, and is also the site of the Lordsburg Killings, in which two elderly Japanese men were shot and killed by Pvt. 1st Class Clarence Burleson, as the Japanese were being marched to the camp, and the 2 victims had walked off the road, likely to relieve themselves.  Burleson was charged with murder, but was later acquitted when it was determined that he in fact had been following the accepted military protocol of the time.

677    Enter GRANT County, which was founded in January, 1868, and named after General Ulysses S. Grant, who later became the 18th President of the United States.  The county seat is Silver City.

          On the left (eastbound), the Burro Mountains are visible on the horizon.  These mountains are composed primarily of Proterozoic-aged granite intruded by Tertiary volcanic rocks, and also contain the Tertiary-aged Gila Conglomerate, which is composed of conglomerate which originated as stream bed deposits from the various mountain ranges from which streams flow into the Gila Valley.  Copper, lead, and zinc mines have been developed in the Precambrian (Proterozoic) parts of this range.

683.5 You may see some Gila Conglomerate (see MP 677 above) exposed in the shallow streambed we cross here on either side of the railroad.

685    Pass through Separ, which was named after either a former railroad construction camp called Camp Separation, or from the Spanish word ”cepas,” meaning “tree stumps.” At this point, the Janos Trail crosses the railroad and the highway.  The Janos Trail was established in 1803, and led from the copper mines at Santa Rita, New Mexico, to the copper smelters in Chihuahua in Sonora, Mexico.  When the railroad first came through in the 1880’s, Separ was an important cattle loading point.  All that is left is a couple service establishments for motorists on I-10.

688    Cross Burro Cienega.

692.5 The small hill in the distance on the left (eastbound) are composed of sedimentary rocks of undifferentiated Cambrian through Silurian age (approximately 500-400 million years old).

697    At Wilna, we enter LUNA County.  The county was created on March 16, 1901, from a part of Grant County.  It was named after Solomon Luna, a prominent rancher.

698.5 At this point, believe it or not, we are crossing the Continental Divide, which separates the rivers which flow west toward the Pacific Ocean, from those that flow east toward the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. The elevation here is approximately 4564 ft, and it is the lowest crossing of the Continental Divide of any AMTRAK route.

702-703 On the right (eastbound), the Victorio Mountains are visible.  These fault-block mountains are composed of a wide variety of sedimentary rocks ranging in age from Cambrian (500 million years old) through Cretaceous (100 million years old) age, which are overlain by volcanic rocks of Tertiary age.  Silver, lead, zinc, and gold have been mined from this small range.

705.5 Pass through Gage, named after William Gage, a miner who developed mines in the Victorio Mountains.  The community was settled in 1880, and soon became a shipping point for ore from the mines in the Victorio Mountains.

711    In the distance on the left (eastbound) is a petroleum piping facility.

716    The prominent hill to the south of the railroad (right if eastbound) is Red Mountain, a small volcanic cone of Upper Oligocene age (25 million years old).

718    Between here and Deming, we are crossing the Mimbres Valley, which was settled in the 1880’s by farmers brought here by mining companies to produce food for the miners.  The valley is very fertile, and water is supplied from deep artesian wells here (see MP 600 above); however, due to overpumping in recent years, some land subsidence due to excessive withdrawal of ground water has taken place.  The word “Mimbres” is Spanish for “willows.” It has always been an agricultural and mining region, and produces cotton, pecans, peanuts, and beans, as well as other foods.

721.5 On the right (eastbound) is the Luna Rossa Winery, one of the newest wineries in the State.  It is also one of the largest wineries in the State, and produces from 100% New Mexico grapes.

725    DEMING station, 400 E. Railroad Blvd.  Elevation approximately 4342.  Deming is named after Mary Ann Deming, the daughter of a sawmill owner in Indiana.  Eventually Mary Ann married railroad magnate Charles Crocker.  Deming is the Luna County seat.

         The Southern Pacific Railroad arrived here in late 1880, and the town of Deming was founded in 1881, but not incorporated until 1902. In 1881, a silver spike was driven in the rail bed here to commemorate the joining of the Southern Pacific and Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (ATSF) Railroads, as the second transcontinental rail route in the Nation.  The area has always been a rich agricultural area, thanks to the Mimbres River and the ability to draw water from the underground aquifer through flowing artesian wells.

         Prior to the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, Deming, which is located only 33 miles north of the Mexican border, was an important port of entry on the U.S, border.  The city was originally known as “New Chicago,” since it was anticipated that the community would eventually resemble a smaller version of Chicago.

          Because of its dry warm climate, Deming has become a retirement community in recent years.  It is also the home of the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, which depicts the history of the Southwest.  Near Deming are the City of Rocks State Park, which contains interesting volcanic rock formations, and Rockhound State Park, which offers mineral & rock collecting opportunities.

         Each August, Deming hosts the Great American Duck Race, which features wet and dry duck tracks, hot air balloons, and a Tournament of Ducks Parade.  In addition, a Duck Queen is selected, based largely on her ability to waddle like a duck!  Prizes are also awarded for best-dressed duck, most elegant duck, wackiest-dressed duck, and other categories.

728.5 Cross Mimbres River

732   On the right (eastbound) are the Little Florida Mountains (pronounced “Flor-EE-dah,” unlike the state).  The Little Florida Mountains have a core of Precambrian-aged granite overlain by a thick sequence of sedimentary rocks of diverse ages, with faulted, tilted, Tertiary-aged volcanic rocks at the top.  Rockhound State Park (see MP 725 above) is located in the Little Florida Mountains.  The small hills north of the railroad (left if eastbound) are also volcanic peaks.

          We are now traveling through the Rio Grande Rift, a large structural feature which began developing approximately 30 to 35 million years ago, during the Tertiary Period.  The Rift Zone consists of several basins, all bounded by faults, which have slowly “pulled apart” from each other over geologic time, and resulted in downdropped graben basins, similar to today’s Mid-Oceanic Ridges. The modern Rio Grande River flows from north to south through the Rift Valley.

736    Pass through Carne siding. In the early 1900’s, Carne was the home of the Mimbres Farm Company.

743    At Myndus siding, a major Rio Grande Rift fault crosses the road and railroad; however, it is not discernible from the train.  The mountains to the northeast (left ahead if eastbound) are the Goodyear Mountains, composed of Tertiary-aged sedimentary rocks intruded by volcanic rocks, also of Tertiary age.

745.5 South of the railroad (right if eastbound) is the Akela interchange on I-10.  Akela is primarily a rest stop on the highway now, but the Akela Trading Post is apparently still in existence here.  The name “Akela” means “eagle” in some Native languages; however, Akela was also the leader of the wolf pack in Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli” stories.

748    Pass beneath Interstate 10.

751.5 At Cambray, pass beneath Highway 549.  This site was a former watering station for trains on this SP route. The name “cambray” refers to some types of fine linen, but the connection to this former railroad station is not known.

753    Enter DOÑA ANA County, the second most populated county in the State.  The county was created in 1852 by the Territorial Legislature. The original county seat was Doña Ana, but in 1853, the county seat moved to Las Cruces.  The name is Spanish for “Madam Anna,” and was likely chosen to honor a well-known Spanish or Mexican matron.  The name of the county is generally pronounced “Doñana.” This will be the last county we will pass through in New Mexico.

755    From Doña siding, thee low hills visible on either side of the railroad are the Potrillo Mountains, which are a series of low Tertiary- to Quaternary-aged volcanic cones.

758-759 The small hills on the right (eastbound) are volcanic peaks of Tertiary age.

760-762 All the hills visible on the right (eastbound) are composed of Tertiary-aged volcanic rocks.

764.5 At Aden, we are crossing another of the major boundary faults of the Rio Grande Rift Valley (see MP 732 above).  Notice the abundance of small volcanic cones in the area, including the prominent Mount Aden on the right (eastbound).

         Aden was created as a water stop for the SP Railroad. The settlement, as well as the hills and other natural features of the same name, may have been named after the famed Rock of Aden, on the sea route between the Suez Canal and India.

771.5 At Kenzin, note the abundance of lava flows on the right (eastbound).

774    Yet more Quaternary-aged lava flows are now visible on the right (eastbound).

776.5 Afton siding was likely named after the Afton River in Scotland, as many of the early railroad workers who built this railroad were of Scotch-Irish ancestry.

779    More Quaternary-aged lava flows are visible on the right (eastbound).

782   A few miles to the right (eastbound) is another volcanic crater known as the Kilbourne Hole or the Kilbourne Maar.  A maar is a low wide volcanic crater formed by multiple shallow explosive eruptions driven by water superheated by shallow magma.  Depending on the pressure beneath the maar, sometimes steam explosions are associated with these landforms..  Some maars may be filled with water.

          In the distance on the left (eastbound) is Black Mountain, a volcanic cone composed of Quaternary-aged andesitic lava flows.

787    Pass through the ghost town of Lanark.

794   Pass through a large modern Union Pacific Railroad yard (not shown on accompanying topographic map)

795-796 On the left (eastbound)sis the Doña Ana County at Santa Teresa Airport.

797    Pass through the former town of Strauss

798-799 We are now dropping lower into the valley of the Rio Grande River.

801.5 The railroad cut here exposes the Tertiary- to Quaternary-aged Santa Fe Group, which is a mixture of Tertiary- to Quaternary-aged sandstone and volcanic rocks.

805-806 To the left (eastbound) is the city of Sunland Park, incorporated in 1983, when it was combined with the smaller communities of Anapra and Meadow Vista.  The city was originally known as Anapra, but was later changed to reflect the name of the Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.  This venue was constructed on the New Mexico side of the Texas-New Mexico state line, since neither the sale of alcohol or pari-mutuel betting was allowed in Texas for many years.  The word “anapra” is believed to be a Spanish word meaning “this side of the river.”

         The Rio Grande River was the boundary between Texas and New Mexico which was established by the Gadsden Purchase in 1854.  However, over the years, in times of heavy rains followed by extended drought, the course of the Rio Grande has shifted; however, the legal state line border remained the same.  Because of this, the area of Sunland Park around the casino and racetrack are still legally in New Mexico, although they are actually located on the east side (the “Texas side”) of the Rio Grande River now.

807   The fence on the right (eastbound) close to the railroad, marked by white fence posts, is the international border!  The small community of shacks visible beyond the fence is located in a slum area of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico called Puerto de Anapra, in the Mexican State of Chihuahua.  This is the closest point any AMTRAK train will get to the Mexican border.  Now and then, you may see illegal aliens attempting to cross into the United Sates, who often hide behind trees or boulders, or beneath bridges.

         At Anapra siding, the westbound and eastbound tracks diverge for a couple miles.  If you are westbound, you may see the eastboundSunset Ltd parked on the other track waiting to get into El Paso.  If you are eastbound, you may see the westbound train on its way out of the El Paso area.

808    The large hill adjacent to the railroad on the right here (eastbound) is Sierra de Cristo Rey. Atop the peak is a large statue of Jesus Christ on the Cross, which is one ft taller than the Christ the Redeemer of the Andes in South America, on the Argentina-Chile border.  The statue is accessible from a hiking trail, and from the peak, there are good views of El Paso, New Mexico, and Mexico.  The mountain was formerly known as Mule Driver’s Mountain.

         Sierra de Cristo Rey is composed of Tertiary-aged intrusive quartz monzonite, which also contains volcanic intrusive rocks.

810   Cross the Rio Grande River and enter EL PASO County, TEXAS, and pass through Smeltertown.  El Paso County was created in 1850 from a part of Santa Fe County.  The name El Paso is actually a shortened form of ”El Paso del Norte,” (“The pass of the North”), which refers to the pass of the Rio Grande River between the Franklin Mountains of Texas and the mountains in New Mexico.  The original county seat was San Elizario; however, the City of El Paso is now the county seat.

         Smeltertown came into being in 1887 with the construction of the Kansas City Consolidated Smelting and Refining Company, today a part of American Smelting and Refining (ASARCO).  The plant has always hired primarily workers from nearby Mexico.  In 1970, the city of El Paso filed a $1 million suit against ASARCO, later joined by the state of Texas, charging the company with violations of the Texas Clean Air Act.  In December, 1971, the El Paso City and County Health Department found that the smelter had emitted more than 1,000 metric tons of lead between 1969 and 1971, and in early 1972, tests found that 72 Smeltertown residents, including 35 children who had to be hospitalized, were suffering from lead poisoning.  In May 1975 an injunction ordered ASARCO to modernize and make environmental improvements, which eventually cost some $120 million. Against their wishes the residents were forced to move; their former homes were razed, leaving only the abandoned school and church buildings to mark the site of El Paso's first major industrial community.

          To the north (left if eastbound), the Franklin Mountains are visible. The Franklin Mountains are another fault-block mountain range, the fault being on the eastern end of the range.  The range is composed of primarily Cambrian- through Pennsylvanian-aged sedimentary rocks, overlying a core of Precambrian-aged granite and quartzite.

812   On the left (eastbound) is the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). The University was founded in 1914 as the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy.  With a student population of approximately 23,000, UTEP is the only major college in the Nation with a Mexican-American majority student population.  With 7 colleges, UTEP offers 71 undergraduate degrees, 76 master's-level degrees, and 20 doctoral degrees.

          The UTEP Sun Bowl Stadium is visible one the left (eastbound).

812.5 On the left (eastbound) is the residential suburb of Sunset Heights.  Across the river on the right is Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

813    EL PASO Union Passenger Depot, 700 San Francisco Street.  Elevation approximately 3733.  El Paso shares its namesake with the county, the words meaning “the pass.”  El Paso is the county seat of El Paso County.

          The first Spanish explorers to come through this area were Don Juan de Oñate and 500 of his followers from Mexico, in 1598, where he celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass here on April 30, several years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts.  On May 4, 1598, they crossed the Rio Grande River into what is now El Paso, and called the place “El Paso del Rio del Norte” (the pass across the river of the north).  Oñate continued northward toward Santa Fe, along “El Camino Real,” the King’s Highway.  Meanwhile, in 1659, the Tigua Indians were living in a western suburb of Ysleta here, and the Spanish friars built a mission called Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (“Our Lady of Guadalupe”) on the south side of the Rio Grande in what is now Juarez, Mexico.  In the 1680’s, El Paso, on the north side of the Rio Grande, was the temporary base for the Spanish government of New Mexico, of which the El Paso region was a part at that time.  In 1848 the region was ceded to the United States, and became part of Texas after the Compromise of 1850, which admitted California as a State, and also set the boundaries of Texas.  In 1859, Anson Mills stepped off the Butterfield Overland Mail stage here at a stop called Franklin (named after developer Benjamin Franklin Coons), and surveyed what would eventually become the downtown area of El Paso.

         In 1881, the railroads arrived here and the area changed forevermore.  Many settlers came to the area, and, like many other towns in the Western United States, El Paso became a violent, lawless frontier town, complete with saloons, gamblers, prostitutes, and gunfighters, as so well presented in the famous 1959 gunfighter ballad by Marty Robbins ,”El Paso.”

                                                                                               El Paso today is a popular winter tourist destination due to its warm climate and international appeal.  It is also a major agricultural, financial, and international trade center, as well as a military, oil & gas, government, and health care center.  It is also a major shopping destination for Mexicans from Juarez, across the Rio Grande River.  It is the home of the Chamizal National Memorial, which depicts the old boundary dispute between Mexico and the United States, which is only briefly alluded to above. It is also the home of the El Paso Centennial Museum, the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, the Hueco Tanks State Historical Park, the Tigua Indian Reservation and Pueblo, and the outdoor music production “Viva! El Paso.”  El Paso also hosts the Amigo Airsho, the KLAQ Great River Raft Race, the Fiesta de las Flores, and other community events.