Mexican Canyon Trestle – An Engineering Marvel
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Mexican Canyon Trestle – An Engineering Marvel

August 14, 2019


**Train Whistle Blows** In 1966, Congress passed the National Historic
Preservation Act to preserve important cultural resources. On the Lincoln National Forest, one of the great successes of this law has been the preservation of the Mexican Canyon Trestle. railroads came to southern New Mexico in 1897 when Charles Eddy began building a line for
his El Paso and Northeastern Railway Company northwards from El Paso, in hopes of ultimately
joining the Rock Island Railroad line, which was then installing track across Kansas. If successful, Eddy’s line, called the White
Oaks Route, would provide a critical link in a freight route that stretched from Chicago
to Los Angeles. By June of 1898, Eddy reached what is now Alamogordo,
a town he founded. It became the headquarters for Eddy’s rail company. From Alamogordo, Eddy built in two directions. First, the El Paso and Northeastern continued
north to the town of Carrizozo, and then east to Coalora, near Capitan, where two of Eddy’s
coal mines provided fuel for his locomotives. The other line, built by Eddy’s newly created
Alamogordo & Sacramento Mountains Railway, was constructed eastward into the Sacramento
Mountains to Cloudcroft, a town founded by Eddy in 1899. This line was built to provide Douglas fir to Eddy’s Alamogordo Logging Company to turn into railroad ties and bridge timbers needed for railroad construction. The line carried millions of board feet of
lumber out of the mountains between 1898 & 1938 when transportation of lumber shifted to trucks. Besides removing timber and hauling freight,
the railroad also brought vacationers during the summer months from 1900 to 1930. The village of Cloudcroft, located at over 8000 feet, became a popular destination for El Pasoans wishing to escape the summer heat. The line from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft was
an engineering marvel designed by H.A. Sumner and became known as the “Cloud –
Climbing Railroad,” rising in elevation over 4,700 feet in less than 35 miles. In the process, the workers had to construct 58 trestles. The two most impressive trestles were the
S-trestle, at 60 feet high and 338 feet long, and the Mexican Canyon Trestle, at 52 feet high and 223 feet long. The Alamogordo & Sacramento Mountains Railway
operated until 1947, when it was abandoned. Rails and ties were removed and the trestles
were left to deteriorate in place. The right of way was returned to the US government
and to the private property owners through whose land the line passed. Most of the trestles along the rail line collapsed
or were scrapped for lumber. The sole exception is the Mexican Canyon Trestle. Mexican Canyon Trestle was one of the 27 trestles
located on the 5.2 mile section between Toboggan Canyon and Cloudcroft. It came to be seen as an icon of the local community, important to understanding their history and sense of place. But by the late 1960s, the trestle was beginning to deteriorate. It was sagging and many of the timbers were rotting. By 1968, the state of New Mexico and the Forest Service began collaborating on ways to preserve the trestle and create an interpretive program to explain its history and role in the development of local communities. In 1970, the Mexican Canyon Trestle was placed on the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties
and the state placed the first historical marker at the site. The trestle was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. In 2007, the Village of Cloudcroft, Congressman Steve Pearce, New Mexico Rails-to-Trails Association, Mescalero Forest Products, and numerous other individuals and organizations, began working together to restore the trestle. Federal, state and private funds
were used to restore and preserve the Mexican Canyon Trestle, and build the interpretive overlook. In 2012, the work was completed and open to the public. After more than 40 years of effort to preserve
and interpret the Mexican Canyon Trestle, it is now one of the most visited sites on
the Lincoln National Forest and is a testimony to the unfailing commitment by the local community, the State of New Mexico, Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico Rails-to-Trails, and many passionate people to save our past.

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