For the last few years, we have been talking about taking Amtrak from the Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas New Mexico to La Posada in Winslow Arizona. There were strong rumors, due to funding cuts, the service was going to be discontinued through Las Vegas. Instead of regrets, we said let’s do this. Fortunately between the time we committed and the trip, the funding was secured. This sounds pretty goofy, but there’s a reason for it. We got into our car and drove from Tucson to Las Vegas to take the train back to Winslow. We had two good reasons. We were meeting up with friends from Post Texas and we knew we didn’t need a car for our one day in Winslow.
The railroad station in Las Vegas has been beautifully restored. The waiting room for Amtrak is bright, clean, has the old benches and wonderful pictures on the walls. It now houses the Visitor Information Center and the Las Vegas Main Street program. Back when trains replaced the covered wagons, it was a stop in the vibrant city of Las Vegas. Guest could enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and an overnight stay at Fred Harvey’s Castaneda Hotel, just a few steps away. The hotel ceased to exist over 60 years ago, but is now in the process of being restored, along with many of the buildings on Railroad Avenue.
One of my new Las Vegas friends, Everet Apodoca, sent me a pair of Mimbreno pottery earrings. That’s me on the right. We thought it would be fun for all the women to wear a pair. On the left is Rosa Latimer and Kathy Beach in the middle, both from Post Texas. Before we boarded the train we went to Rough Riders Antiques, across the street from the depot, to make the purchases. It was several days later I learned the story of how these earrings came to be. That’s a story for another time. We need to catch a train.
Here it comes down the track, less than 15 minutes late. Look who’s joining us on the train, Allan Affeldt! Allan, along with his wife Tina Mion and Dan Lutzick, saved La Posada in Winslow and are in the process of doing the same for the Castaneda in Las Vegas. Affeldt commutes on Amtrak between the two cities, his chance for a little quiet time and to catch up on his many projects. Las Vegas is not a regular Amtrak station. So you better be ready to board. There were seven of us this day and we hustled to get on the train before the doors were closed and it was off to the next destination.
There was no need to be there an hour ahead of time, no invasive security checks, the cars were clean, the seats comfortable, leg room oh my it was nice and the views were incredible. The journey had begun.
Here’s part of the gang in the observation car. Swivel seats, tables and chairs and scenery passing us by like a movie. Here’s Jim, Rosa and Kathy. Cannot believe we never thought to have someone take a pic of the four of us together.
Lamy was the first stop. There were quite a few people boarding here. The train never went to Santa Fe, so the residents need to drive here if they want to ride. This was the site of another small Fred Harvey, Mary Colter designed hotel, the El Ortiz. Sadly, it burned down. This is a pretty little village. For awhile there was an excursion train from Santa Fe to Lamy, but that has ceased to run too. The two restaurants are now both closed.
Next stop Albuquerque. This is a full service Amtrak, a Rail Runner stop and Greyhound bus station. Here you can get off the train, get a quick bite to eat and walk around a bit. This was the site of the amazing Alvarado Hotel, another Fred Harvey property. Sadly the citizens of Albuquerque were unable to save it and today this building stands in it’s place. The city and Fred Harvey/Mary Colter enthusiasts continue to mourn the loss. Here, Amtrak personal clean the windows, refuel the train, restock food and take care of the bathrooms.
Back in the day of train travel, the Harvey company promoted the purchase of Native American made pottery, jewelry, rugs and more. The local pueblo people would set up their wares on blankets placed on the grounds. As passengers arrived or departed on the train they could take home a memory. Today this is what you find. Most are restrung beads, but it’s priced for the tourist who wants to buy an inexpensive memento.
It’s time to head to our next destination. A quick stop in Gallup. The original Harvey House, El Navaho, is no more. Another replica is in it’s place. There was no time to explore. We will need to save this one for a road trip. Next stop Winslow.
We left Las Vegas around 1:00 pm and pulled into Winslow a little after eight that evening. Arizona isn’t on Daylight Savings Time, so we gained an hour crossing the border. The train, which had originated out of Chicago was headed to it’s final destination in Los Angeles. Along the way it will have brief stops at former Harvey House destinations or by pass them completely. Today you can arrive in Winslow and stay in the restored La Posada Hotel. The entrance to the hotel once faced the train tracks. Today it has been relocated to the south side of the building to accommodate the arrival of cars. We have been visiting La Posada for almost 20 years. This time we would make our entrance from the train. Exactly how Mary Colter envisioned it.
La Posada is a special place, in our hearts, in history and for the town of Winslow. Each time we enter the doors, we feel like we are coming home.
We arrived a little tired from the long day, but stress free. I fell in love with train travel. We have been on many excursion trains and thoroughly enjoyed them. Maybe it’s time to explore more of our nation by letting the endless movie stream by as we cross the states and our country. It was wonderful to see parts of New Mexico and Arizona hidden from the freeways and local highways. We are ready to do this again.
Have you been to La Posada? Are you familiar with Fred Harvey and Mary Colter? If you would like to keep up to date on what is happening in the revival of this part of our Western History, please join me on Facebook at https://facebook.com/harveycolter.
If you have Amtrak experiences to share, would enjoy reading them too. Look forward to your comments.