The Santa Fe Southern Railroad may have stopped offering rail trips in 2012, but trains are now running again under different ownership – and the trains absolutely must be seen to be believed.
The revival comes thanks to work by novelist and screenwriter George R. R. Martin, along with fellow Santa Fe, New Mexico, entrepreneurs and artists, including author Douglas Preston, National Dance Institute of New Mexico cofounder Catherine Oppenheimer, artist Gary Oakley, and Bill Banowsky, who owns Violet Crown Cinema in the Santa Fe Railyard.
Working together, they formed Sky Railway in 2020. The trains, which provide what’s called “entertainment adventure rail trips,” began running their new routes last month.
“We need to be bold, wild, and exciting, with something different up our sleeve,” George R.R. Martin, head of the creative development team, said. “In the long run, we need to try things that other railroads would never dare attempt.”
A New Beginning
When the successor to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway announced it was closing the spur in 1991, the Santa Fe Southern Railway was formed to buy the right of way along with the buildings and equipment needed to run the operation. It then ran passenger trains to nearby Lamy until 2012.
Martin and his partners acquired the railway in 2020 and promptly set to work “restoring and refurbishing the cars, repairing the tracks and trestles, replacing old seats, fixing broken windows, even installing a new engine into one of our old locomotives,” Martin recalls.
“We had two big, old diesel locomotives, so right off we decided we would run two trains: The Wolf and the Dragon,” Martin explains. “And to paint them, and give each its own character and a look unlike any other train in the country, we hired Santa Fe’s own Jorael Numina, an amazingly gifted muralist and graffiti artist.”
An Adventure, Not Simply A Ride
The 18-mile trip from Santa Fe to Lamy takes about 75 minutes. While travelers certainly can look out the train’s windows along the way, that’s not the point of a trip on Sky Railway.
Consider, for example, the “Sunset Serenade,” which begins running January 12. On this trip, travelers are invited to “Let us soothe away your day while you enjoy our hour and a half chill train, sipping unique cocktails, while being pampered by our First-Class attendants,” Sky Railway explains.
Then there’s “Lore of the Land,” a 4-hour trip that begins making runs on January 15.
“Bring your family for a unique journey through the history of New Mexico and the Santa Fe Southern Railroad. Let us take you back in time with stories of the land and the rails as told by our knowledgeable Docents from the New Mexico Historical Society,” Sky Railway explains. “Or hear from Native American storytellers as they share stories of the land, the sky, and their relationship with the land as handed down through the ages.”
You can learn more about these adventures, including how to buy tickets, here.
A Look Ahead
Martin explains that Sky Railway also plans to launch several larger, more extravagant trips.
“We’re planning murder and mayhem on some of our trains, and unless Hercule Poirot buys a ticket, the passengers will have to solve the mysteries themselves,” Martin explains. “Some of our trains may well be robbed because there are gangs of outlaws down by Lamy. You can also expect ghosts and zombies next Halloween, and maybe even a hanging.”
Indeed, Sky Railway has already announced it will begin running its “Wild West Express” later this year. The trip is expected to take about 4 hours.
“Mysteriously travel back in time as you and your family ride the rails to the historic town of Lamy. Keep your eyes open and your six-shooter handy as Billy the Kid saves you and your fellow travelers from the notorious Lamy Gang,” Sky Railway explains. “Exciting action, horse chases, and gun fights put you and your family into the heart of the action in this true adventure on the plains.”
And as Martin noted, Sky Railway will soon begin offering its 3-hour “Murder on the Lamy Line” as well.
“Grab your detective hat and your magnifying glass! Someone has been murdered and it’s up to you and your fellow travelers to sleuth out the culprit,” Sky Railways notes. “This murder mystery excursion to the dark and mysterious Galisteo Basin is sure to bring the detective out of you!”
You can learn more about these rail adventures, including how to buy tickets, here.
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