In the second half of the 19th century, the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF) began making it’s way into New Mexico. The plan was to lay track into Santa Fe and then south. At the time, those brave enough to embark on the perilous trip across country traveled by wagon train, horse and buggy by way of the famous Santa Fe Trail. After the Civil War, the country was ready to be united by train, the first Transcontinental Railroad in the United States.
In 1880, the first AT&SF train cars steamed into the Territorial Capitol (a “territory” until 1912 when New Mexico became the 47th state). But not the way AT&SF had envisioned. Primarily because of the steep grades and highly mountainous terrain, the main line could not actually be brought into Santa Fe.
Fearful of their commercial center being bypassed altogether, the town citizens of Santa Fe, including Bishop Lamy, spearheaded the building of an 18-mile spur from Galisteo Junction (later re-named Lamy) north to Santa Fe. Efforts by the residents of Santa Fe quickly bore fruit and construction began immediately. The rails reached Santa Fe on February 9, 1880, and regular service began on February 16. The railroad also built a telegraph line, and that was in service by the 12th of the month. Santa Fe was now in direct touch with the rest of the country and the world. Later in that decade, the Santa Fe main line was extended to California destinations.
Regular service on the 18-mile branch line commenced with twice daily freight and passenger trains. These connected at Lamy with the Chicago-to-Los Angeles and -San Francisco trains, which meant travelers could visit Santa Fe and then continue on to their destinations. In time, the Santa Fe would recognize the importance of this branch by constructing impressive facilities at each end of the line. The original station in Santa Fe became a freight building, and the railroad built the present depot in 1909, which is still in use. The choice of California Mission-style for the depot's design was a way for the railroad to proclaim to all visitors that they had, in fact, arrived in the West.
Santa Fe is known worldwide for its large art community and the railway had a tremendous influence on its establishment. Early on, the wealthy railroad barons of the east realized the great potential of fortune to be made in trains. They hired artists to journey out west to paint large posters of the beautiful high desert scenery for advertising, enticing travelers and adventurers westward. Many artists discovered the unique light and atmosphere in New Mexico inspirational to creating great works of art and stayed on, making a home in Santa Fe. Today, Santa Fe has more galleries per capita than most other cities in the U.S.
A sleepy village eighteen miles south of Santa Fe, Lamy was once a boom town thanks to the AT&SF trains.
The Lamy depot was built in 1880 and has undergone numerous alterations, the most visible of which was its Mission-style re-vamp in 1909 to match its sister Depot in Santa Fe and to boldly proclaim to visitors that they had indeed arrived in the West.
The restaurant just across from the Lamy Depot is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1881 shortly after the AT&SF mainline came through the town, it was originally a saloon and brothel, then became a general store for 27 years. Again a saloon in the 1950s, it became a successful restaurant known as The Legal Tender in 1969. The restaurant closed for many years, but has recently re-opened and is available for train riders and special charters. Many say they have seen the ghosts who frequent the building.
Shortly after the turn of the last century, famous hotelier/restaurateur Fred Harvey built a small but luxurious hotel in Lamy, the El Ortiz, to house and feed passengers wishing to spend time in the area.
Fred Harvey brought a high standard of food and lodging to many of the places AT&SF stopped, compared to the days of rushed, fly-ridden meals and rancid bacon!
The El Ortiz was demolished in the late 1940s due to declining rail travel, but those wishing to visit one of the few surviving Harvey Houses with original Mary Colter interior design can visit La Fonda Hotel in the heart of Santa Fe’s historic Plaza district.
The best parking option is to park in the underground parking structure next to REI.
On Sundays, visitors can park in the Tomasita's parking lot (but only on Sundays when the restaurant is closed) free of charge.
Metered spaces are available on the streets near the depot. You do not have to feed the meters on Sundays. Elsewhere, there are central pay stations.
Please talk to our friendly reservations staff if you need further assistance with parking.
If you are planning a trip to our community, there are plenty of lodging options within a short walk or drive from the Depot. Hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts abound, as well as scenic campgrounds on the city's outskirts.
There are also vacation timeshares available. Renting a timeshare is a great option if you are visiting with a large group or with young children, as they offer more space and flexibility than typical motel rooms. Many of the timeshare resorts in Santa Fe are also conveniently located within walking distance of the city's many museums, galleries, restaurants and shops, and within just minutes of recreational attractions like the Santa Fe National Forest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
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