Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Southwest Chief

Last week I rode the Southwest Chief, the Amtrak line that connects Chicago and Los Angeles, although I only rode from Lamar, CO to Albuquerque, NM, and back. Here's a photo of the Chief climbing Raton Pass (courtesy of the Crewten web page):

On the way south, the train announcer gave us details about the Santa Fe Trail, the Dick Wooten Ranch, Glorieta Pass, and so on. He directed our attention to a gravemarker near the Wooten Ranch - the Cruz Torres gravesite. His story was that the tombstone simply said, "He stole the payroll." I don't think that's right - here's a link to a picture of the tombstone. This epitaph says, "Murdered" and something about the 1st N.M. Cav.

On the return trip, a couple from Farmington, NM who were riding the train from Albuquerque to somewhere in North Carolina told the story of how Raton Pass got its name. According to them, travelers along the old Santa Fe trail were overwhelmed? disgusted? amazed? by the numerous marmots along the trail. Somehow, the marmot population transposed into generic rodents (in the minds of the pioneers), and eventually the area was known as Raton Pass.

On the way back our fellow passengers included an Amish family, a group of tough-looking young men with buzzed hair and tattoos who seemed bored more than anything else, and a large group of African-American youth and older women, going up north to Chicago.

The trip in both directions was a quiet, peaceful journey that included gray overcast, a snowstorm, rain, clear sunny skies and the beginning blooms of mountain wild flowers and cactus blossoms. In terms of wildlife, I didn't see all that much from the train except for a small herd of antelope north of Santa Fe and in Southeast Colorado a group of buffalo. My only complaint was that I couldn't read in the swaying train - can't read in cars or busses either.