Home City Beat THE EL PASO TRAIN SHOW April 20, 2024

THE EL PASO TRAIN SHOW April 20, 2024

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By Woody Bare

Southwest Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society & The Railway & Transportation Museum of El Paso del Norte Riding a train in 1887 was the fastest way to travel from El Paso to San Antonio. One day while taking the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio line the train was stopped just east of El Paso near Concordia cemetery. It was a train robbery; all the passengers were forced off at gunpoint along with the engineer and fireman. The express car was carrying the postal clerks, the U. S. Mail, cash, gold, and silver. The clerks refused to open the door, so dynamite was thrown under the car. The clerks came out guns a blazing and one of the robbers was killed and the others fled.

Imagine being a part of the excitement of a train robbery at the El Paso Train Show on April 20th, the Six Guns and Shady Ladies reenacted the 1887 train robbery on an actual steam powered train. The group had other shootouts and a jail to lock up wandering pistoleros.

The Train Show is held each spring to show off El Paso’s steam locomotive, Southern Pacific 3420, built in 1904 as a coal burner for the El Paso & Northeastern RR (EP&NE). SP3420 hauled coal and coke from the mine in Dawson, NM to copper smelters in Arizona via El Paso. The EP&NE built the railroad line to Cloudcroft, NM. The EP&NE was purchased by the El Paso & Southwestern RR (EP&SW) in 1905. The EP&SW was owned by Phelps Dodge Copper and was built to haul copper from Arizona and New Mexico to El Paso to be refined. After WWI the price of copper dropped dramatically so the EP&SW leased a few locomotives in Mexico. In 1921 SP3420 was leased to the Cia Cervecera de Chihuahua, S.A., and Cia Harinera El Globo, S.A. in Mexico to operate between CD. Juarez and Chihuahua. It is believed that she was running cerveza during Prohibition for thirsty gringos who visited CD. Juarez. Americans were prohibited by the 18th amendment to manufacture, sell, transport or drink alcoholic beverages in the United States from 1920 to 1933. Chihuahua beer has a locomotive on their label. The price of copper continued dropping so Phelps Dodge allowed the Southern Pacific RR to take control of the EP&SW in 1924. In 1956 SP3420 was donated to the citizens of El Paso to commemorate 75 years of local railroad history. In 1980 she was restored to running condition where she operated for the 4 centuries ’81 celebration and a few Amigo Air shows. She has now been in storage for almost 40 years and can only be viewed during the Train Show.

Other train cars at the show were a caboose, boxcar, and diesel locomotive. The public was allowed to climb into the locomotive where an experienced train engineer for steam and diesel explained her history and how she functions. Everyone had a chance to ring the bell. People were also able to tour the caboose where a conductor in uniform talked about the purpose of a caboose and its importance to the operation of the train.

There were model train displays which are fun for kids to watch and big kids (adults?) to play with. There was an N Scale (1:160) from the Southern New Mexico N Scalers Model Railroad Club which is one of the smallest model trains in the world. The National Association of Retired and Veteran Employees had their famous Budweiser train running in circles. The Railroad Museum had a layout of an Arizona mining area and guests also peered into a tunnel of a running model of the New York subway.

The Harvey Girls had a display about Fred Harvey who contracted with the Santa Fe Railway to provide dining service, hotels, and guided tours through rough country and Indian Villages throughout the Southwest. Harvey hired young women to give them an opportunity to work and because men couldn’t get the job done. There were kids games involving a HOBO scavenger hunt by Concordia Heritage Association. HOBOs are migrants who travel by train illegally and leave codes along their route for others to follow like, “HOME AT 114 MESA GIVES FREE FOOD,” or, “THIS AREA IS DANGEROUS.” The honor students from Del Valle High School had kids coloring crossbucks which are train track crossing signs and train related coloring books. Kids of all ages were given a free train hat to wear as an official conductor.

Operation Lifesaver was on hand to teach railroad safety and key chains and coloring books were given out. There were books, whistles, art and T-shirts with a design by Nacho Garcia for sale. Food trucks were available and shuttles on hand to move people around.

It was a lot of fun and I hope everyone had a wonderful time and learned a little history. See you next April.

Southwest Chapter Railway & Locomotive Historical Society

www.sp3420.org

fb: El Paso Railroad and Transportation Museum https://www.facebook.com/groups/201294546940573/

Southern New Mexico N Scalers Model Railroad Club https://www.swmodelrailroaders.org/contact/

Harvey Girls of El Paso

Fb https://www.facebook.com/harveygirlselpaso

Annie’s Adventures on Instagram El Paso Train Show

UTUBE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFQ9orESpOQ&t=9s

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