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.
|Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway|
|Docket: 26424||11/12/1970||Section: 1(18)|
|Application for authority to abandon a line of railroad in Socorro County, New Mexico, extending from MP 1/2500, at Socorro, New Mexico to MP 27/1918, at Magdalena, New Mexico, a distance of approximately 25.89 miles.|
|Length: 25.890 miles||Citation:|
There is still ample evidence of this grade as you travel on US60 west from Socorro to Magdalena, NM. In Socorro, a small portion of rail still exists connecting to the main line. The abandoned grade is still clearly visible in many locations (on the north side of US60) as are few trestle remnants and the old stop at Water Canyon. This line hauled minerals (primarily lead & zinc)from the Kelly Mine District (south of Magdalena from which there was also a short rail spur). Magdalena was also a market shipping point for cattle brought over from ranches in SW New Mexico and eastern Arizona.