Posted by: Brad Nixon | March 14, 2018

Preserved: Las Vegas, New Mexico Train Station

Let us escape our humdrum lives and cease measuring out our lives with coffee spoons. Let’s go to the Wild West, at a stop along the Santa Fe Trail.

Plaza Hotel Las Vegas Brad Nixon 0845 (640x479)

That’s the Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, New Mexico (not Nevada). Las Vegas is on the eastern shoulder of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Today, you can get there by car. Las Vegas is adjacent to Interstate 25, 5-1/2 hours south of Denver, an hour east of Santa Fe.

Las Vegas NM map google

From the town’s founding in 1835 (when the area was still part of Spain), you’d have reached Las Vegas on the storied Santa Fe Trail, whether in a wagon, on horseback or on foot. The town developed as a major stop along the trail, and it attracted a lively crowd, to put it mildly. In its heyday, visitors included Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Billy the Kid and a host of other characters from the history of the Wild West.

Wikipedia quotes the historian Ralph Emerson Twitchell stating that, “Without exception there was no town which harbored a more disreputable gang of desperadoes and outlaws than did Las Vegas.”

In the 1870s, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad arrived, via a route that followed the Santa Fe Trail. The rail line allowed the exchange of produce and livestock from the area with goods from the east. Las Vegas boomed, becoming one of the largest towns in the American southwest. As Las Vegas prospered, it featured a town plaza, lavish hotels like the one above, opera houses, civic buildings and department stores.

In 1899, the Santa Fe RR built a station in Spanish Revival style, which still serves as the Amtrak passenger station.

Restored at considerable expense beginning in 2000, it closely resembles its original form.

Las Vegas NM historic 0786 (640x470)

The station is on the east side of Las Vegas, in the Railroad District, near I-25. Like all of Las Vegas, the district contains numerous historic buildings. The Plaza Hotel, above, is in an older, earlier part of town, so a certain amount of driving and shoe leather are required to see Las Vegas. The station is a good place to start, because you can get your initial orientation and some tips there; it houses the Las Vegas Visitors Center.

Las Vegas NM station Brad Nixon 0797(640x425)

The waiting room preserves some of its historical character (drinking fountains not original).

Las Vegas NM station Brad Nixon 0788 (640x473)

Yes, you can wait for an Amtrak train there. Trains stop, but the station does not have a ticketing facility. Passenger boarding and arrival only.

Las Vegas is worth a visit, especially if you’re spending any time in the Santa Fe area. The hour’s drive through the high desert scenery is all on I-25. In addition to the station, the Plaza area with the hotel (still operating), Las Vegas is large enough to offer several restaurants. There’s a beautiful old Carnegie Library which, it may not surprise you to learn, I wrote about here.

Six miles north of Las Vegas is Montezuma, home of the former railroad resort hotel, Montezuma’s Castle, now a 2-year college, and its remarkable Dwan Light Sanctuary, which I wrote about at this link.

Happy trails, podners.

© Brad Nixon 2018. Archival photo captured from display at Las Vegas, NM Visitor Center. Map by Google.


Responses

  1. This is a test, since my comments seem to be going into spam this morning on everyone’s posts.

    Once I get that straightened out, I’ll be back. Any post that moves from Prufrock to podners has to be good.

    Like

  2. The Santa Fe trail has fascinated me for several years. I spent a three-week vacation traveling part of it through Kansas, down to the Cimarron Grasslands and Point of Rocks, and wrote a three part series about it. But I’ve never explored its history and landmarks in New Mexico. Las Vegas looks like a wonderful destination — and who doesn’t like an old train station?

    I wondered if Stephen Watts Kearney’s expedition had come through Las Vegas on its way to Santa Fe, and indeed it did. Pages 30 and 31 of this monograph have some details. Kearney got there on August 15, 1846 — helping to ease the way for some of those desperadoes you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda. I’ve not seen much north if LV. I’ll read your link. Move ’em out!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting little small town, So many towns have train stations like this, but they are all very interesting.

    Like

    • Thank you, Shawn. Yep, one could spend a lifetime visiting them. Lots of variety.

      Like


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