On Monday I gave you a little of the Lincoln-area history, with an emphasis on the infamous — Billy the Kid. Today we’ll take a look at history more closely associated with Cloudcroft. At 8,668 feet/2,642 meters above sea level, Cloudcroft is one of the highest villages in the United States. As with many Old West towns, the railroad is what built Cloudcroft and it’s the timber that brought the railroad to this lofty locale. In the late 1890s the El Paso and Northeaster Railroad reached Togaggan Canyon just outside present day Cloudcroft, and by 1900 Cloudcroft — “Pasture in the Clouds” — was born with the completion of a train depot.
This section of the rail was called the Cloud-Climbing Railroad because the trains frequently entered into dense fog on the trek to and from Cloudcroft. It was far from a safe journey, however. The Cloud-Climbing Railroad climbed and descended along a steep 5.2% grade that navigated some 330 curves, and the rails ran over 122 box bridges and 58 timber-framed trestles. The tallest trestle, towering 60 feet/18 meters above the terrain, was over Mexican Canyon. The Mexican Canyon Trestle also spanned some 323 feet/98 meters. How dangerous was this trip? As former train engineer Tom Shorten so eloquently put it, ““Well, if I go too slow the logs jump off, and if I go too fast the cars jump off.”
While timber may have brought the railroads, it was El Pasoans and other nearby desert dwellers seeking to escape the summertime desert heat that helped to sustain it for many decades. The average high temperature in Cloudcroft during June and July is 73.5°F/23.1°C (June) and 71.2°F/21.8°C (July). At night those average temperatures plunge to a refreshing 44.2°F/6.8C (June) and 47.3°F/8.5C (July). Tourism became a major factor for Cloudcroft’s economy, and still is to this day. But by 1938 roads and automobiles brought an end to passenger rail service, and the Cloud-Climbing Railroad closed for good by 1948.
After snapping some pictures of Mexican Canyon Trestle, Ursula and I escorted David Williams back to El Paso in preparation for our next excursion the following day (more on that next week). On this week’s Fun Photo Friday I’ll present my favorite shots from this portion of our David Williams Tour and our return through Transmountain Pass within El Paso’s Franklin Mountains. Until then, here’s a view from Transmountain Road of West El Paso looking into neighboring both Old and New Mexico in the distance:
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