Raton Pass was chosen for the location of the model railroad for several reasons. Santa Fe Railway history is deeply rooted in Raton Pass as far back as 1878, and the development of Santa Fe’s locomotives, especially steam, was greatly influenced by the steep grades of Raton.
At first the Santa Fe built a switch-back system of track to get trains over the pass. The switch-back was an incredible 6% grade on both side of the pass. No railroad today can imagine such a step grade for a Class 1 railroad. When the tunnels were built the grade was reduced to 3%. Even then, the grades of Raton Pass are the steepest in the United States for a Class 1 railroad.
This model railroad represents the steep grades of Raton in HO scale and is the perfect location to tell the Santa Fe Locomotive Development story. The real pass is located between Raton, New Mexico and Trinidad, Colorado. The distance between the two towns is just under twenty-three miles. Our test model railroad of course is much shorter distance, but the model railroad is built with the 3% grades. This will test the endurance of the model locomotives as they climb and then descend the pass.
The Santa Fe’s Raton Pass Model Railroad is about much more than merely having fun with scale trains. The concept of this model railroad is to fine tune the Society’s modeling skills in order bring history to life. The model railroad will also provide the Society with a testing and proving ground for the donated model railroad equipment in the Dean Collection and other collections we may acquire in the future.
Photo Credit: Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum, John McCall Collection