Monday, August 16, 2010

Railroad Grade

On the way home I took a picture I've been meaning to take for years -- the railroad grade south of Lake Valley.  It's hard to imagine it now, but thousands of miners, families, and service personnel used to live in the Lake Valley-Hillsboro-Kingston area during the late 1800s.  Little trace of them remains.  Back then, you had two transportation choices:  trains, and horse-drawn conveyances (wagons and stagecoaches).  So there was an incentive for the monied interests to build a railroad spur between Nutt, on the main Santa Fe line, and Lake Valley.  This spur, built in 1884, was used to transport people and supplies into the area, and silver ore out.  People living in Hillsboro and Kingston still had to ride the stagecoach to Lake Valley, but it sure beat having to take it all the way to Nutt.

The mining boom didn't last long.  Such booms never do -- the game plan is always to extract the minerals as quickly as possible, in order to make as much money as quickly as possible.  Silver was devalued in1893, which ended the boom, and Lake Valley's "downtown" burned to the ground in 1895.  But the railroad remained in service until the 1930s, at which time the rails were pulled up and moved elsewhere.  The old railroad grade, unmaintained and slowly eroding, parallels the highway to Nutt, and can be easily traced if you know what to look for.  It remains as mute testimony to the one and only time that industrial America sent its tentacles into this isolated area.   


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