Colfax to York Canyon

The York Canyon Branch

Picture Point of Interest

GOOGLE MAPS no longer available: With apologies, I am unable to continue showing Google Maps. Google has forced my hand by increasing their map usage fee from nothing/free to OVER $300 A MONTH for the Abandoned Rails website! This is an expense that I simply cannot afford. Rest assured I am looking at available open source alternatives, so maps should be back online soon!

Greg Harrison

Showing of

Looking northwest from the US Route 64 grade crossing, the line is seen heading to York Canyon. It is evident that the line was only recently abandoned. Photo by Mike Palmer, May 2009.

This abandoned railway line runs through a sparsely populated area of northern New Mexico, and was used to access coal mines along York Canyon. The coal mines closed during the 1990s, leaving no customers along the line.

At Colfax, the York Canyon Branch is still in irregular use, as it is currently used for car storage. The line branches from the mainline at French, NM; the tracks around the area are also used for car storage.

Also at Colfax, this line crosses the also-abandoned line bewteen Koehler Junction and Ute Park.

According to CTC Board/Railroads Illustrated, the stored cars on this line were removed in October 2009. This line, along with the BNSF line from Albuquerque to the state line near Raton, were sold to the state of New Mexico.

Mike Palmer
Torrance, CA


There is a nice DVD from Pentrex which has some footage of coal trains running on this branch before the mines shut down. The coal was contracted from a power plant in Wisconsin, I think. The previous comment is correct. The line from Albuquerque (and maybe even from Belen) is owned by the State of New Mexico. The "Roadrunner" commuter train runs from Belen to Santa Fe on the former BNSF line. The line from Belen to Raton, sees only two Amtrak trains a day and a couple of BNSF manifest trains from La Junta, CO to Barstow, CA twice a day, mostly at night.

Paul Noble
Edgewood, NM


I read that this mine closing down is now causing serious issues for the Amtrak Southwest Chief. Since the mines closed down, the only user of the tracks between Lamy, NM and Newton, KS is the Amtrak Southwest Chief. BNSF stopped all freight over Raton Pass, Southern Colorado, and Western Kansas. Now, Amtrak and the states must find financing to keep the Amtrak Southwest Chief running or more could be abandoned.

San Diego, CA


Hi folks, I'm originally from VA; then Oakland, CA; then Albuquerque, NM prior to move to Australia. Maybe I can help out here (and correct me if I'm wrong): coal from York Canyon was vital to the operation of the Kaiser Steel plant at Fontana, CA for many years. Delivery via ATSF all-the-way typically used Thrall coal liners and either RSD15s or SD24s or both. Usually had a mid-train helper and some also included an F7B (or F3B?) unit converted to a radio control car. SD45-2s may have pulled this train in the last years of operation. This operation is somewhat overshadowed by the UP-DRGW-ATSF coal operations to Fontana from the Sunnyside mine, Utah. During the main years of operation these trains also used Thrall coal liners and usually had a mix of SD45s from the three roads as pooled power...and I think pool cabooses were also used. Not sure about later deliveries - maybe Wisconsin is correct after Kaiser Steel closed down. Cheers, Greggo.

Greg Lumpkin
Richmond, VA


The State of New Mexico did not purchase the York Canyon Branch or any BNSF line beyond the Lamy Station. There was discussion of the State buying more than it eventually did.

David Nelson
Santa Fe, NM


Just curious what the state of this right-of-way is. I've viewed it from above on Google Maps and it seems like a good amount of the track is still intact. I've been looking into the "rail bicycling" hobby where people modify bicycles to ride on abandoned/semi-abandoned trackage. This looks like a pretty picturesque area for it and not too far from where I live.

Adam Spaulding
Clovis, NM


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Do you have any pictures or information about The York Canyon Branch? Please . You will get credit for anything you contribute.