appeared in SANTA FE MODELER, Volume 12, Number 1, First Quarter, 1989
Late in the summer of 1897, president E. P.
Ripley of the Santa Fe Railway received an inquiry from east coast financiers
concerning a railroad project in eastern New Mexico. It seemed that once-powerful
capitalist James John Hagerman had been soliciting funds to extend his Pecos Valley
Railway. Hagerman had lost a fortune in the Pecos Valley and others were reluctant
to follow his example. However, Hagerman's successful earlier career was something
in his favor. Therefore the money men directed questions towards Mr. Ripley.
years before, the Santa Fe had purchased the Colorado Midland Railway from Mr.
Hagerman. The purchase had later turned out to be a mistake, so Ripley may have
hesitated to become involved. Nevertheless he requested data from James Dun, his
Dun reviewed Santa Fe survey reports in the area, finding
that the Pecos River Valley had tempted the railroad for years. In 1878, the company's
first charter in New Mexico had included a route southwards from Las Vegas and
along the Pecos to Texas. Other Santa Fe charters and surveys over the years had
called for various lines into the valley. None were used, but interest had continued.
In the mid-1880s, surveyor Phillip Smith had run several lines radiating from
the Roswell area. The latest examination had been made in 1891 by B. F. Booker
from the Santa Fe's railhead at Panhandle, Texas, to Fort Sumner in New Mexico.
Dun also recalled surveys that had been made under his supervision while
he had been employed by the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. These had been
for a planned railroad along the 35th parallel. The "Frisco" had not been able
to build the line, but Dun had not forgotten the project. Hagerman's line appeared
to be a step towards completion of the greater plan.
Dun's report to Ripley
claimed that Hagerman's project was feasible. Ripley set to work, and in January
of 1898, the Santa Fe, the Pullman Palace Car Company, and others agreed to back
Hagerman, who had experienced difficulty in paying his New York
hotel bill, was overjoyed. The Pecos River Valley had been an oppressive weight
The notion of irrigating the Pecos Valley had been conceived
by retired lawman Pat Garrett, of Billy the Kid fame. Garrett enlisted other ranchers
in the project but eventually left New Mexico. Charles B. Eddy assumed promotional
duties. Garrett retained a minority interest in the corporation.
trail led to Colorado Springs, where J. J. Hagerman had retired after a successful
career in mining and railroading. Eddy was a born promoter and soon Hagerman,
to his wife's alarm, was under an almost hypnotic spell. The siren song of the
Pecos claimed the remainder of his life.
It claimed the bulk of his wealth
as well. Much of it went towards land purchases and excavation of an extensive
network of canals. Much more went into building the railroad. By 1891 the Pecos
Valley Railway stretched from Pecos, a hamlet on the Texas and Pacific Railroad
in Texas, to the town of Eddy, which would later be known as Carlsbad. After brief
travail, the tracks reached Rowswell in 1894.
A nationwide depression took
its toll in the Valley. Hagerman gave financial aid to settlers. Then a drought
ended with a flood. Many of the Valley's improvements were destroyed and the railroad
fell into bankruptcy. By then the partners had quarreled and Eddy had departed.
The now almost penniless Hagerman probably recalled his wife's fears as he traveled
to New York in search of funds.
The key to prosperity, he figured, was
a northern connection for the railroad. Fruit was the Valley's principal crop.
The market was in the north, but the railroad connected to southern markets. Therefore
Hagerman tried to finance a connection with either the Rock Island or the Santa
Fe. After months of rejection, he was glad to take Santa Fe money.
the Santa Fe was financing the new line, that company insisted on choosing the
route. Hagerman wanted to build to Amarillo, but there was an alternative. The
Santa Fe had long planned a line from Panhandle City to Washburn and beyond, passing
south of Amarillo.
However, by 1898 the Santa Fe felt that it would not
be wise "to leave out a live town like Amarillo if we can conveniently take it
in." This "live town" had resulted not only from the energetic promotion of H.
B, Sanborn but also from the location of Palo Duro Canyon. This great gash in
the flat terrain cut the southern plains trade area from Washburn. The first railroad
location reached after going around the head of the canyon was Amarillo, and the
town's future looked bright. Santa Fe officials were undecided whether to take
it in or to kill its trade by building south of the town. Then a town promoter's
arrogance settled the matter.
When the Santa Fe had abortively attempted
construction to Canyon City back in 1891, R. E. Montgomery of Washburn had offered
to donate half of his town site to the railroad. Now Hagerman asked for a renewal
of the offer plus $20,000. It was a small price to pay to become the junction
of rail lines in four directions. Montgomery, however, felt that the railroad
had nowhere else to go. He would only give land for the right of way and for terminal
facilities. Sanborn at Amarillo promised the $20,000 and the Santa Fe took the
bait. The Santa Fe-affiliated Southern Kansas Railway of Texas leased operating
rights over the Panhandle Railway to Washburn, then to Amarillo over the Fort
Worth and Denver City Railway on April 20, 1898.
Southwest of Amarillo
there was a choice of a direct route passing north of Canyon or of a longer line
through that town. Landholders at Canyon and southwards threatened to deny water
to the railroad if it missed Canyon, so the longer route was chosen.
Hagerman created the Pecos Railway Construction and Land Company to reorganize
and extend the Pecos Valley Railway. A block of securities was used as collateral
for a loan of $750,000 from the Santa Fe and another block secured a bank loan
of $200,000. Transportation of construction materials over the Santa Fe was paid
for with bonds. More securities were placed on the open market.
10, 1898, New Mexico granted a charter to the Pecos Valley and Northeastern Railway.
This company exchanged its securities for total control of the Pecos Valley Railway,
but the majority of PV&NE securities went to the Construction Company. In payment
for control of the new railroad the Construction Company had to perform specified
tasks,, including building the line in New Mexico, supplying rolling stock, retiring
the debts of the PV, and surrendering to the PV&NE all securities of the Pecos
and Northern Texas Railway.
The Pecos and Northern Texas Railway had been
created on March 19 in Texas to comply with a law requiring railroads in that
state to be Texas corporations. In return for building the line in Texas, the
Construction Company would receive the P&NT's securities, which would then go
to the PV&NE.
This web of legal prestidigitation gave Hagerman and the
Santa Fe control of the Construction Company, which owned the PV&NE, which in
turn owned the P&NT and the PV. Within a year, sale of Construction Company securities
on the open market would allow retirement of all loans.
The Santa Fe wanted
someone on the ground to see that the railroad's loan would be properly applied
in construction. Several men were considered before Santa Fe eyes fell upon a
man already on the scene. Howard C. Phillips had been with the engineering department
of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad before going west for his health.
In 1898 he was working for Hagerman in Roswell. James Dun interviewed him, hired
him, and immediately loaned him to the PV&NE as consulting engineer.
the Santa Fe cut new construction projects into short segments and awarded these
to a variety of contractors. This permitted construction in several places at
once and an earlier completion date. However, this was not done on the Amarillo
-- Roswell line.
On April 14, the Construction Company hired Mallory, Cushing
and Company to build the entire railroad. Work began on the eastern edge of Amarillo
on the first of May, and a material yard was built just south of the Fort Worth
and Denver City connection. Tracks were laid directly on un-graded soil and cars
were moved about by mule power until locomotives arrived. About 35 cars of construction
material arrived daily and the yard was in chaos. Phillips' investigation of the
situation revealed that the material agent was perpetually drunk.
soon found another problem. The contractor did not have enough men at work. With
urging, Mallory-Cushing subcontracted the first few miles out of Roswell to Mendenhall
Construction Company. This included 25 miles of roadbed and 15 miles of track,
including the Pecos River bridge. By mid-July, new PV&NE rolling stock began arriving
at Amarillo. The locomotives could take water at the 50,000 gallon water tank
that had recently been erected by Fairbanks, Morse and Company and puff southwards
for 8-1/2 miles.
Two factors delayed the opening the railroad to Canyon.
One reason was that a cut north of town broke into harder rock than expected.
The other reason was the tie supplier. The logger had filled out his contract
for oak ties by purchasing inferior wood from other suppliers. Mallory-Cushing
accepted delivery without question, but Phillips and the Construction Company
ordered the ties lifted from the roadbed and returned to the supplier. Several
hundred cars enroute to Amarillo were halted and sent back. Gruff words passed
between railroaders and foresters. Phillips traveled to the woods of Arkansas
to investigate. In the end, the railroad used few oak ties and settled for the
best pine ties to be had.
On August 18, the PV&NE began operation of a
mixed train "connecting with all trains at Amarillo and with all stages at Canyon
City." A regular freight was quickly added. By month's end, Canyon's stock pens
were loading cattle and within seventeen days 121 cars had been dispatched. The
Santa Fe, long experienced in such things, sent construction material westward
in stock cars, which carried revenue cargo eastward.
but in a poor fashion. On part of the line, tracks were laid on planking set on
raw sod. Then a rail-mounted grading machine rolled over the rails, scooping dirt
under the ties as it went along. Phillips did not like the results and recommended
returning to older methods.
On September 15, four Hicks stock cars loaded
with ties came to grief when a train broke in two on the 1% grade north of Canyon.
At about the same time, a locomotive creeping along at 8 mph over rain-softened
track dropped its tender off the rails.
Santa Fe officials were not happy
and insisted on changes. On September 24, PV&NE chief engineer S., R. Ballard
resigned. His replacement was M W. Wambaugh, a Santa Fe man. Two days later, Hagerman
relieved Mallory-Cushing of track-laying duties and took the task upon himself.
On October 12, general manager E. O. Faulkner resigned and superintendent D. H.
Nichols, a former Frisco employee, assumed double duty. These changes brought
on brief labor troubles.
In October it was found that Amarillo could only
raise $15,000 of the promised $20,000. The PV&NE and the Santa Fe agreed to share
the cost of constructing a permanent yard at Amarillo if expenses exceeded $15,000.
During October, 479 cars of stock were shipped over the incomplete line.
The next ten days saw 261 more and another 90 cars were on order.
construction continued in the rain. Using a primitive track layer, Hagerman's
gang soon was capable of laying 2 to 2-1/2 miles a day. That rate did not last
more than a couple of weeks, after which the crew could work only one or two days
a week. The problem was not rain, but Mallory-Cushing. The track gang, once forty
miles behind the graders, was now breathing down their necks.
Cushing and Company had never put enough men to work. The roadbed was slowly and
poorly prepared. In fact, much work was being left for the track gang to complete.
At one place, a roadside ditch had been omitted, allowing a locomotive's burning
coal to ignite several miles of grazing land.
In contrast, Mendenhall had
worked since September 11 with few problems. The only delay to construction out
of Roswell had been an outbreak of smallpox.
Rain changed to snow and December
15, the originally projected completion date, passed with the railroad far from
Finally there was good news. The Construction Company had sold
enough securities to repay the Santa Fe's loan. Now that he was no longer needed
to oversee the Santa Fe's investment, Phillips lost no time in asking to be relieved
of duty. Dun was impressed with his performance under bad conditions and did not
want to lose the man. Dun invited him to his home for dinner and convinced him
to stay with the Santa Fe. The remainder of the Amarillo-Roswell line, however,
was built without Phillips' watchful eye.
February 11, 1899, dawned cold
on the plains sixteen miles north of Roswell, just east of the Pecos River. Track
men refused to work until the day warmed, so the last rail was not laid until
4:50 that afternoon. Mrs. Hagerman was provided a small hammer with which to tap
the golden spike into a pre-bored hole in the final tie. The hole was too small
and the spike would not go in. Mrs. Hagerman demanded a heavy spike maul and completed
the task to the accompaniment of cheers.
The line opened for business on
March first. In Texas 94.5 miles were owned by the Pecos and Northern Texas Railway,
but were operated by the Pecos Valley and Northeastern Railway. The 113.2 miles
of new line in New Mexico were part of the PV&NE proper.
The Southern Kansas
Railway of Texas had leased the Panhandle Railway from the Fort Worth and Denver
City Railway, and purchase, which would come on January 1, 1900, was pending state
approval. Between Washburn and Amarillo the Santa Fe affiliate used the rails
of the FW&DC. The SK of T and the P&NT moved into the southern part of the FW&DC's
Amarillo passenger station. Despite the FW&DC's cooperation, that company was
not happy. The newcomer tapped the source of the cattle trade, thereby cutting
the FW&DC's revenues.
Joint SK of T and P&NT facilities grew at Amarillo,
including a freight house and permanent yard. A new roundhouse replaced one that
had burned in October.
SK of T's offices moved from Panhandle to Amarillo.
On August 1, 1899, Santa Fe lines west of Wellington, Kansas, were designated
as the recreated Panhandle Division. Two months later, the SK of T was separated
from the new division and given independent, but not divisional, status as the
Texas Lines. Amarillo was headquarters.
Amarillo's rail importance, it
was felt, would only be temporary. All interested parties felt that the long-planned
direct line between Washburn and Canyon would eventually be built. When that occurred,
the shops and offices would be moved from Amarillo to another city. No one knew
what city would emerge with the facilities, but an ample water supply weighed
in Canyon's favor.
Decade-old Canyon was one of the only established settlements
on the new line. As such it received one of the few full-sized depots. Most sidings,
if anything, got only tiny telegraph offices. Little town development occurred,
though a handful of points did become important.
LaPlata, the county seat
of Deaf Smith County, had been missed by the railroad. After a vote, the town
picked up its buildings, including the courthouse, and moved to Bluewater siding.
The name was later changed to "Hereford" in honor of the cattle industry. Hereford's
rail facilities included a telegraph office, stock pens, a section house, and
a well. The railroad was awarded a portion of the receipts from town lot sales.
Before the Harvey House closed in 1904, trains stopped for meals at Bovina.
The train usually had to make a protracted stop there anyway. Cattle habitually
fed on spilled cotton seed at a warehouse siding. The main line was blocked in
the process and railroaders had to drive the bovines away before the train could
proceed. "Bull Town" was the common name for this place, but the official name
was the Latin equivalent "Bovina."
Just to the west of the state line was
Texico. This siding, due to a faulty government survey, lay on land that officially
did not exist. This attracted a rough element and the resulting town was colorful
to say the least. There was no way to enforce a claim on this land. It was not
unusual for one man to build his house in another man's front yard or in the middle
of the street. Houses frequently moved from place to place, sometimes in the dead
of night with sleeping, unaware occupants inside.
Portales was the only
established town in New Mexico east of Roswell and it received a depot similar
to Canyon's. Thousands of years before Portales had come into being, a spring-fed
lake near here had provided good hunting for ancient man. The lake had vanished
and the spring rarely flowed in modern times, so a man peering into the darkness
of the railroad's well was surprised to see water close to ground level. This
inspired him to experiment with ground water irrigation, which would ultimately
create agricultural prosperity for the region.
The halfway point between
Portales and Roswell was Kenna, which was named for a Santa Fe vice president.
This station was in the middle of a long waterless stretch and was an oasis. At
an unknown time long before the railroad came, a spring had been roofed over and
buried. How long the spring was lost, or who covered it, is unknown, but eventually
it was rediscovered. The resulting Hidden Spring Ranch gave much business to the
Further southwest, the rails crossed the unusual geological
feature known as Railroad Mountain. This is a narrow, flat-topped ridge extending
east-west for about twenty miles in an almost straight line. It resembles a giant
railroad roadbed, hence the name.
Improvements to the shops and other facilities
at Roswell were in service by fall.
On January 24, 1901, the Santa Fe purchased
the PV&NE from Hagerman for $2,675,902. The federal government relieved him of
the irrigation projects a couple of years later. In retirement at Roswell, Hagerman
had plenty of time to ponder a lifetime of successes whose fruits had been lost
in the muddy waters of the River. Perhaps someone told him of cattleman Charles
Goodnight's name for the Pecos: "The Graveyard of Hope."
The Santa Fe moved
the PV&NE offices, including the building, to Amarillo. A single set of officers
ruled both the Texas Lines and the Pecos Lines. The PV&NE was still separately
operated and was called the "Peavine" from its initials.
The Santa Fe now
owned a branch line 639.74 miles long that stretched from Attica, Kansas, to Pecos,
Texas. All of it was low traffic line through semi-arid, unpromising land. But
there was hope. President Ripley was now asking James Dun about the possibility
of connecting the Pecos Lines with the Santa Fe's main line near Albuquerque.
This endeavor would become known as the Belen Cutoff.