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The El Paso and Northeastern Railroad began building north from El Paso in December 1897 and reached Alamogordo, NM in June 1898. A branch line to Cloudcroft supplied all of the timber for the rest of the construction. At Carrizozo the line turned east and reached the coal mines north of Capitan in October 1899. It was soon discovered that the coal was mixed with too much volcanic rock and slate.
Construction north of Carrizozo resumed in January 1901 under the name El Paso & Rock Island Railway. At about the same time the Rock Island began building southwest from Liberal, KS. The lines met just south of Santa Rosa on February 1, 1902. The EP&NE then began working on constructing a line northwest from Tucumcari to coal mines in the Dawson area west of the Santa Fe mainline at French. This line was completed in July 1903. The El Paso and Southwestern Railway purchased the EP&NE in July 1905. The EP&SW was leased by the Southern Pacific in November 1924. The line to Capitan was removed in 1937. The branch line between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft was removed in 1948. The Dawson Railway (SP Roy Branch) was abandoned between Tucumcari and French in 1954 and between French and Dawson in 1961. Just four years later the Santa Fe constructed the line to the York Canyon Mine over some of the right of way of the former Dawson Railway.
Improvements such as automatic block signals came to the El Paso and Southwestern slowly. In 1911 EP&SW installed Hall 2 position upper quadrant automatic block signals between Pastura to Los Tanos 25 miles. 1912 the railroad installed Hall upper quadrant automatic block signals from Duran north through Vaughn to Winkle, 30 miles. By the end of 1912 the EP&SW had installed 59 miles of automatic block signals and planned to add another 40 miles in 1913. The EP&SW continued adding Hall automatic block signals south of Duran toward Three Rivers in 1913. The average block length was 1 and 1/4 miles. In 1920 EP&SW was installing automatic block signals Winkle to Guadalupe 12 miles and Carrizozo to Temporal 38 miles. It is interesting that the SP replaced all of these upper quadrant signals with US&S lower quadrant signal after the SP took control of the railroad in 1924.
In 1929, SP installed 33 US&S semaphore signals between Temporal and Carrizozo 35 miles. The following year it planned to add 142 signals between Temporal and El Paso 99 miles. In 1930, it ordered 72 one arm and 19 two arm semaphore signals from US&S to be installed between Santa Rosa, NM and Tucumcari 55 miles.
In 1942 there were train order stations at Montoya, Cuervo, Santa Rosa, Pastura, Vaughn, Duran, Corona, Ancho, Carrizozo, Three Rivers, Tularosa, Alamagordo, Orogrande, and Newman. The average siding length was about 71 cars and a few could hold 100 or more. There were wyes at Santa Rosa, Corona, Carrizozo and Orogrande for turning locomotives. Steam engines could take water at Montoya, Cuervo, Santa Rosa, Pastura, Vaughn, Duran, Gillinas, Ancho, Coyote, Carrizozo, Oscura, Three Rivers, Alamagordo, Orogrande, and Newman.
There were 33 sidings and eight train order stations between Carrizozo and Tucumcari. By 1983 the number of sidings had been reduced to 17. By 1983 this had been reduced to two train order stations and by 1985 these were gone since operations were converted to Direct Traffic Control during June 1984. Later that summer Direct Traffic Control was extended to El Paso ending all train order operations between El Paso and Tucumcari. CTC was installed in 1999.
During the 70s there was very little traffic on the Tucumcari Line, maybe one to three freight trains a day. Then came deregulation and the Cotton Belt took over the former Rock Island line from Tucumcari to Topeka, KS. Traffic rose to about tens trains a day in each direction. The thing that kept me coming back was the semaphore signals still in operation between Duran and Carrizozo. For reference, I've added a timetable for the Carrizozo Subdivision. Pictures are on disks 58 and 59.