Mexican Canyon Trestle: An Engineering Marvel

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.

By June of 1898, Eddy reached what is now Alamogordo, a town he founded and headquarters for Eddy’s rail company. One of two railroad lines built by Eddy included the newly created Alamogordo & Sacramento Mountains Railway, which was constructed eastward into the Sacramento Mountains to Cloudcroft, a town founded by Eddy in 1899, and beyond. The line carried millions of board feet of lumber out of the mountains between 1898 and 1938. Vacationers boarded the railway during the summer months from 1900 to 1930. The Village of Cloudcroft, located at over 8000 feet, became a popular destination for El Pasoans who wished to escape the summer heat.

The line from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft was an engineering marvel 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. One of the most impressive trestles was the Mexican Canyon trestle at 52 feet high and 323 feet long. 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 suffer from neglect. It was sagging and many of the timbers were rotting.

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. It was not until 1979 that the trestle was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, in the late 1990s, the Forest Service commissioned an engineering evaluation of the trestle and by 2004, the environmental analysis for preservation and interpretation was completed. In 2007, the Village of Cloudcroft received a Statewide Transportation Improvement Program grant and began working with a consortium of interested parties.

Finally, with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the Forest received grant money from the federal government. This money enabled us to proceed with the restoration to move a portion of Highway 82, install a protected turnout, build an interpretive overlook, and completely refurbish the trestle.

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 our Forest and 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.