All Aboard The Best Train Rides In New Mexico
1 July 2022
While we certainly love getting around on skis or a snowboard, we’re also big fans of seeing the world by train. And by “world”, we mean the beautiful state of New Mexico. There are few experiences that can be both as relaxing and as exciting as a good train journey. You know the feeling—you climb aboard, sit next to the window, watch the scenery pass by, and welcome the melodic sensation of the train wheels turning on the track below.
Not only is a train ride a practical way to get across the stretching landscape of New Mexico, but it’s also an adventure in itself. Whether you’re traveling with kids, taking a romantic vacation, or sightseeing solo, these are the train trips that should be on your itinerary for the Land of Enchantment.
CUMBRES & TOLTEC SCENIC RAILROAD Arguably the best train ride in the United States, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad chugs its way between Chama in Northern New Mexico, all the way to Antonio in Southern Colorado. The train is one of the largest functioning steam engines and was built back in 1880. And not much has changed on the train since then, engineers still have to shovel 3.5 to 4.5 tons of coal every day to keep it moving.
This mighty behemoth goes over elevations of more than 10,000 feet and follows a special narrow-gauge railway that enables it to move through different landscapes. And yet, it never exceeds speeds of 20 mph, making it an incredibly smooth ride. Along the way, passengers can soak in the changing foliages of the fall season, rocky mountains, lakes, and a couple of Harry Potter-esque bridge crossings.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad only runs from the end of May to the end of October. Riders can choose a half-day, full-day, or sunset train trip. Select and buy your tickets here.
SKY RAILWAY Previously known as the Santa Fe Southern Railway, the Sky Railway only began its daily departures in 2021 but is already a firm favorite among train goers. The track starts in Santa Fe and runs along the 18-mile AT&SF stretch to Lamy, showcasing New Mexico’s stunning desert landscape, complete with sandy plains, plenty of cacti, and picturesque sunsets all within the 70 minutes journey.
The carriages are more than a hundred years old and have been split into two sections, one painted as a wolf, and the other side as a dragon. Inside, passengers can enjoy live music, food and drinks, and performances like a staged train robbery and a murder mystery show.
The train leaves from the restored depot on 410 South Guadalupe Street in Santa Fe. You can buy tickets for the Sky Train here.
THE NEW MEXICO RAIL RUNNER EXPRESS Just like the Sky Railway, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express departs from the Santa Fe Depot, where it roams south to Belén. The style of the train mirrors that of the Super Chief trains that were famous in the Southwest, easily recognizable by their red front and silver carriages.
This train is especially cool because of its double decker carriages, where passengers can sit up top and take in different perspectives of the Río Grande.
You can buy tickets for the New Mexico Rail Runner Express here, or you can visit any of the train stops and purchase a ticket on board.
AT&SF 2926 STEAM ENGINE Although not yet rolling its way through the state, the AT&SF 2926 Steam Engine is currently being restored back to operational status. Once complete, the train will be the biggest 4-8-4 locomotive to transport passengers in the whole of the country. The train previously ran a million miles in the American Southwest before retiring, and only last year made a short revival for the first time in 66 years.
Visitors can come to the restoration site on Wednesdays and Saturdays for a free tour, beginning at 9 am and running until 2 pm. Group tours are also available any day by appointment. For updates on the restoration progress, visit the New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society.
These are just some of the wonderful train tours and experiences available in New Mexico—the state also has multiple train museums like the Toy Train Depot in Alamogordo and the Tucumcari Railroad Museum. So, when you’re not gliding down the slopes, why not hit a different type of track to experience our incredible state?