This branch was constructed in the 1880s as a spur from Santa Fe's Albuquerque-El Paso line. A junction was built at Socorro, and the branch headed generally west (and uphill) to Magdalena. Magdalena had zinc mines in the area; it was also used as a railhead for shipping livestock from the ranches in the area. One of the last big cattle drives in the west occurred in Magdalena, in 1972. The branch was also abandoned that year, due to declining mineral traffic from the mines. (Livestock shipments had moved to trucks sometime earlier.)
As recently as 1999, a segment of the branch remained in service within the city limits of Socorro, including a grade crossing over US Route 60. West of Socorro, some parts of the abandoned right of way can be seen parallel to US Route 60 to the north.