The Alamogordo and Sacramento Railroad
from the Sacramento Mountain Historical Museum

Lumbering in the Sacramento Mountains on anything but a small scale was not possible until Charles Eddy built his El Paso and Northeastern and the branch line, Alamogordo and Sacramento Railway, in 1898-99. There had been other mills such as La Luz Saw Mill at Tularosa in 188l and the Penasco Lumber Company in the 1890's but the absence of transportation limited sales to local markets.

Station_WEB.jpg (15159 bytes)With the building of the A & SM, the picture changed as the railroad provided access to outside markets. Though a number of companies have operated logging railroads around Cloudcroft since 1898, they can be divided into two groups, each composed of several companies with one succeeding the other. Like the A & SM, all the tracks were of standard gauge.

The earliest group had its beginnings as the Alamogordo Lumber Company which was formed in May 1898 by men identified with the Lackawanna Lumber Company of Pennsylvania as well as the Mississippi Central Railroad and lumbering in Mississippi. During the summer of 1898, while the A & SM was under construction, the lumber company built a boarding house for 50 employees and began work on its lumber manufacturing plant at Alamogordo, said to be the largest built in the Rocky Mountain region up to that time.

First logging tracks of the Alamogordo Lumber Company were Built from Cox Canyon when the A & SM reached that point in 1899. Four years later, when the A & SM stretched to Russia Canyon, a few miles away, the lumber company built tracks into the woods from that terminal. In all, logging mileage totaled about 15 miles in 1915 and tracks were located and relocated into new timber cutting areas as needed. Logging cars moved over the logging spurs to Russia where the cars were switched into A & SM trains destined to the sawmill at Alamogordo. From here the finished lumber was shipped to market.

The fortunes of the Alamogordo Lumber Company waned after 1914 and in 1918 the sawmill and other property was taken over by the Sacramento Mountain Lumber Company. Adversities continued, the new company suffered the loss of the big mill at Alamogordo by fire only a few months after the change in ownership.

Two years later, the new company was acquired by the Southwest Lumber Company which also purchased the remaining property of the Alamogordo Lumber Company. Southwest rebuilt the mill at Alamogordo where production began in May 1921. Camp Marcia, about 6 miles south of Russia, was logging headquarters with repair shops and offices. The locomotive roster listed Shay and Heisler locomotives which had been passed on from one corporate ownership to the next.

The Southwest Lumber Company, under the management of Louis Carr of North Carolina, utilized the logging railroad in its operations until 1942 (part of it was not dismantled until 1945) with tracks running in and out of the canyons south of Marcia all the way down to Agua Chiquita. East of Marcia, the Southwest railroad went down Penasco Canyon for about ten miles with important spurs reaching into Dark Canyon and Willis Canyon. Reports as to the length of tracks operated in 1927 vary from 16 to 24 miles but, in any event, Southwest Lumber, employing 300 men was a major factor in Otero County. Much of the production from their mill on Eighth Street in Alamogordo was in the form of railroad ties. Conveniently adjoining the mill was the railroad tie treating plant, dating back to the early days and continuing in service until about 1958.

The second succession of lumber companies began in 1920 when Ben Longwell and C.M. Pate formed the Cloudcroft Lumber and Land Company to cut timber in the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation under a contract.

TrainWreck_WEB.jpg (16477 bytes)From Cloudcroft, the new company built a logging railroad in a northerly direction over the range then into the timber areas along Silver Spring Canyon in 1924 and eventually to Elk Canyon. Unavoidable delays in the commencement of lumber operations placed such a heavy strain on the company's finances that it was forced into receivership in 1926. The property was sold to the George E. Breece Lumber Company which operated in the Zuni Mountains in western New Mexico as well as in Louisiana. The Breece management built a new mill, planing mill and box factory on 14th Street in Alamogordo in 1926-27 and extended the railroad into Elk Canyon and some of its tributaries.

 

Even before the depression of the 1930's, the lumber business of the Southwest did not enjoy as much prosperity as had been anticipated. The new Breece mill operated only a few years before it was shut down, most of it taking on a ghostly appearance as only a portion was active during the 1930's. Dismantling of the railroad took place in 1940 and the remaining property was acquired the next year by the M.R. Prestridge Company. The latter company, which purchased the Southwest Lumber Company in 1945, found trucks more suitable for its operations which were continued in the Sacramento Mountains for another fifteen years.

Tales of horrendous operations over multi-laced switchbacks, runaway cars, boiler explosions and adventures in the woods- some comic, others tragic- are, all part of the great days of logging in the Sacramento Mountains. Though lumbering still continues in these mountains, the shrill whistle and the sharp bark of the engine exhaust has not been heard for almost a generation - but they will remain as a part of the heritage of New Mexico.