New Mexico Train Tracks: Arteries of History

Train troop in Grants, NM during World War II.

During World War II troop trains on the Santa Fe Railway traversed New Mexico. In Grants the trains stopped for water and fuel prior to heading east to fight the Germans or west to fight the Japanese. The troops traveled in passenger trains. Freight trains followed carrying the necessary accoutrements of war: tanks, trucks, jeeps, artillery and armored vehicles. Initially, the trains were powered by steam locomotives later diesel-powered trains became the norm.

Cibola County

Entering the community of Grants the elevated water tanks became visible. A short distance away the tall coal elevator at the depot fed coal to the big black hungry engines. Some of the troops on those trains were from the area. As the trains crept west the New Mexico landscape faded in the distance. For some soldiers the vast expanse of the New Mexico sky would be their last memory of home. Sixteen million men and women served their country in World War, many never returned.

The Toll of War

When the Germans and the Japanese surrendered in 1945, some of those same trains brought the soldiers home. These combat-weary men returned with serious combat wounds and often severe emotional scars. Their psychic wounds were forever etched in their minds and souls. From the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines to the dogged U-boats in the North Atlantic these memories would never leave the soldiers. The brave men and women of WWII were immortalized in the bestselling book, The Greatest Generation, by Tom Brokaw in 1998. The veterans featured in the book helped to defeat Adolf Hitler and the other the tyrannical fascists of that era. While the soldiers of New Mexico did their part, so did the trains that crisscrossed the state in route to the world stage of war.

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