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Taos Junction
Taos
Embudo
Espanola
Santa Fe


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Santa Fe Branch
  
Antonito to Santa Fe

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The "Chili Line"

Railroads loved colorful names for the routes and engines they operated, it helped to attract riders. The Chili Line was named for the now popular ristras (bunches of red chili peppers) hanging on the front porches and walls of the houses along the route. 

It was always General Palmer's the intent for the Denver & Rio Grande to reach Mexico. Even after court rulings with the AT&SF limited the D&RG expansion to 90 miles south of Conejos, a close neighbor of Antonito, the railroad continued its effort to reach Santa Fe. Construction of the Chili line coincided with construction of the branch line to Durango in 1880. Some records indicate there were more resources allocated to the Chili line than the Durango route.

Espanola, New Mexico was the end of the line for the D&RG name. Santa Fe, a scant 34 miles away, could not be accessed directly without General Palmer forfeiting his exclusive rights to the rich ore districts in the Colorado mountains. Therefore, a separate railroad was established in Santa Fe, to connect with Espanola and extend south to Albuquerque, NM. 

The from Santa Fe was first named the Texas, Santa Fe and Northern. In 1886 the TSF&N was in deep financial trouble and was reorganized before completing construction to Espanola in 1887. Shortly after completion the railroad was again in foreclosure and then operated as the Santa Fe Southern until purchased by the Rio Grande & Santa Fe (a wholly owned subsidiary of the D&RG) in 1896. 

The D&RG eventually bought the line to Santa Fe and incorporated it into the Espanola Branch in 1908. However, no great wealth was ever freighted out of the route to Santa Fe. One of General Palmers grandest schemes became a dud. The Espanola Branch was basically a low traffic passenger route with services to the neighboring farming communities. During 60 years of operation the routine changed very little. In 1941 the narrow gauge Chili Line was closed due to low usage.

 

References: 18, 19, 20, 21, 49

 

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San Antonio Peak c1880

 

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Taos Pueblo c1920

 

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Rio Grande crossing near San Iidefonso Pueblo c1880.

 

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Santa Fe Plaza c1900

 

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