Las Cruces Railroad Museum

More From New Mexico

Four peaceful spirits of various ages still have business here.


Mission: “The mission of the Railroad Museum is to preserve the heritage of railroading through a series of miniature representations of New Mexico railroads, as well as research and preserve the history of model railroading.”(

Las Cruces Railroad Museum makes its home in the old 1910 Mission-style Santa Fe Depot, and is a beloved landmark of Las Cruces, being part of the Alameda-Depot Historic District. The museum’s home, the Santa Fe Depot building, is on the National Register of Historic Places, NRIS Item No. 85000786.

It is a long, rectangular structure that was built to replace the original depot, that had become too small to handle the number of travelers and freight trains that were using it. The depot was built to last, and is a very handsome building that fits the traditional architecture of the town of Las Cruces.

Tom and I arrived five minutes before the museum closed but the docent was nice and let us look around and take photos. Though it is smaller than a regular train station, it is well thought out, with no wasted space and is just the right size for the community around it.

The visitor enters the front door of the main service room, where passengers once waited on benches for their trains, or for someone to return to Las Cruces. The benches are still there. The old telegraph office and baggage room have exhibits from the era on display.

Visitors can examine historic artifacts such as: A telegraph key with wet-cell battery * 1944 teletype * 1900 sewing machine * steam whistle * tools * scales * trunks, and baggage carts. All kinds of historical information is hung on the walls, giving the feeling of stepping back in time.

Visitors can walk through the other rooms that are full of interesting displays for all ages, many of which are hands-on, such as the three model electric railroad trains, and a wooden train for little ones. They provide interactive experiences, as visitors can operate the trains.

Though smaller than some train terminals and depots whose stories are found on our website, there is still room in the museum for community activities, making it a popular spot for Las Cruces citizens and their children.

Local folks enjoy the book club, attend the coloring club for adults, the model-building classes for train enthusiasts, the story time for preschoolers, and the Brown Bag Lecture series in which speakers explore topics of local interest for history buffs.

An annual event called Train Day is a lot of fun where the depot’s history is told through the use of historic re-enactors, and educational booths as well. The stories about train travel and about those who were involved in the running of the depot are shared in interesting ways that draw in participants. Live steam demonstrations explain how steam trains got their power and what it was like to use steam.

During the first weekend of the Christmas season, there is an open house where Santa makes his appearance, arriving by train to visit the Las Cruces children who flock to see him!



The story of the state of New Mexico started when the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the Mexican-American War. The land became the U.S. New Mexico territory. The southern towns, such as Mesilla, were technically still part of Mexico, until they were added to the New Mexico Territory in the following years. Many hoped that the New Mexican Territory would soon be annexed to be part of the United States.

However, it wasn’t an easy journey for the New Mexico Territory to become a state.

There were many disputes that became road blocks to statehood. The state constitution, boundaries, people’s real nationality, and slavery were issues that needed time to be worked out.

While lawmakers struggled with these thorny questions, progress in other areas was made.

Success and growth began when Cyrus Kurtz Holiday started the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. While the people of Mesilla at first were on the fence about having the Santa Fe Railroad coming through their town, Las Cruces enthusiastically agreed, giving the railroad the farmland west of town to do so, after the Las Cruces Town Company had bought it from the farmers.

In 1881, the Santa Fe Railroad ran from Rincon, New Mexico, to El Paso, Texas, delivering both passengers and building materials for new homes. After the Las Cruces Town Company laid out a forty-two block area for development, area doctors, lawyers, merchants and others with some means began building their homes using fourteen different architectural styles.

Commerce and opportunity boomed as the railroads also brought agricultural and New Mexico cultural items to eastern markets, helping Las Cruces to enjoy healthy economic development.

The original Santa Fe Depot in Las Cruces was “a wooden frame building measuring 16-by-34 feet.


Because this small depot was struggling with overwhelming business in 1898, the Santa Fe Railway built a new depot in Las Cruces in the “county-seat” design, with a “Southwestern flair.” This design gave the depot men’s and women’s waiting rooms at one end, and a freight room at the other end. The agent’s office had bay windows overlooking the tracks, so he could see arriving trains.

By 1912, regional leaders had gotten all their ducks in a row, which led to New Mexico becoming the 47th state when President William Taft signed the New Mexico statehood bill.

The people of New Mexico were strong supporters of the United States’ wars, at a rate much higher than any other state. The New Mexican Calvary were deployed to fight with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.

“By the end of the first World War, New Mexico ranked fifth in the nation for military service, enlisting more than 17,000 recruits from all 33 New Mexican counties. The war claimed the lives of 501 New Mexicans.” (

Nine percent of New Mexico’s men again answered the call to serve in 1941 as they were among the first forces sent to the front line. The 200th Coast Artillery of the New Mexico National Guard were sent to the Philippines in September of 1941. They shot down eighty-six, low-flying aircraft during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, and covered the withdrawal of Filipino and American forces during the Battle of Bataan.

Being the last to leave, many wound up experiencing the Japanese death march and brutal work camps.

By the end of WW2, New Mexico suffered over 2,200 military casualties, more than any other state, if you look at the proportion of state population to men killed. During both World Wars, the Santa Fe Railroad transported soldiers to deployment, and back home again. Some came back in caskets.

As each era passed, the depot was used less and less, until passenger service stopped in 1968, while the freight service continued until 1988. However, it wasn’t allowed to be forlornly deserted for long, being a much-loved landmark. Just four years later, the city of Las Cruces bought the old depot, and turned it into the Las Cruces Railroad Museum, much to the delight of local citizens.


We don’t know who the two male spirits, the female spirit and the little boy spirit were in life, but if we look at other haunted depots and places, and study the paranormal activity, some educated theories may be presented.

Why would spirits continue to reside in a train depot, the reader may ponder. The spirits must feel a connection to this historic place and can’t let go, or are connected perhaps to something on display.


People who really enjoyed their job’s duties while alive, sometimes want to continue as spectral employees, trying to be helpful. They may see the depot building as it was when they were alive, or they may be reality-based, enjoying all the exhibits, and watching the activities that happen for the community.

Cleveland Grays Armory Museum, OH (The spirit of a long-time caretaker who died in the drill still makes his rounds doing his job, not quite ready to retire).

Kennebunk Inn, ME (The spirit of a retired poet, and the inn’s former security guard, keeps an eye on the living, and has expanded his former job into more areas).

Stanley Hotel, CO (The spirit of a dedicated maid does her best to take care of guests and keeps an eye out for hanky panky between unmarried people!).

Las Cruces Railroad Museum, NM (There is definitely one male spirit employee, maybe two, who are spending their afterlives here. Since no trains stop here anymore, the spirits have given themselves new jobs looking after the exhibits, helping the living docents. They may be attached to some piece of equipment, like the telegraph key and its equipment and/or the 1944 teletype).

Couples in love who are permanently separated by sudden death sometimes try to find each other in places that they both knew. Because they are not on the same spectral plain, they may be in the same place but can’t always see each other. Sometimes one spirit will stay and wait for the appearance of the significant other.

Daytona Playhouse, FL (The owners, Alice Beckwith and Andre Doern, lived together happily in this one-time private house, until Andre became inspired and went to Spain to fight in the 1930s Civil War, where he died in battle. After he left, Alice found that she was with child, and began to slip into a deep depression, which led to her suicide. Both spirits have come back to try to find each other with no success).

Edgewood Plantation House Bed and Breakfast, VA (The spirit of Lizzie Rowland suffered terribly in the loss of her beloved in the Civil War. Even after her death, her eternal hope is that he will return for her).

Magnolia’s Vineyard Building, PA (During the Civil War, a young woman named Magnolia found a wounded Confederate Soldier and hid him. They fell in love while she nursed him back to health. He vowed to return at the end of the war. Her spirit is still waiting for him).

Las Cruces Railroad Museum, NM (The spirit of the woman may be waiting for her beloved to come back from war on the train, as they had planned. The other male spirit, instead of being a former employee, may be her returning soldier, come back to find her, but they can’t see each other without help from a medium).


The spirits of children who died because of disease or accidents, sometimes are drawn to places where they loved to be while alive, or to places that have their favorite objects on display.

Altoona Railroaders Museum, PA (The spirit of a little girl who died nearby or in the building, likes to play with the gift shop items that she enjoys, leaving them on the Gift Shop’s floor. Another spirit, that of a young boy, enjoys playing in the museum’s Children’s Playroom).

Orpheum Theatre, TN (A twelve year old girl was hit by a car on the street just outside this theatre. Her spirit now resides inside).

Ashley’s Of Rockledge, FL (The spirits of a girl and a boy reside in this building. The girl was run over by a car in the front, and the boy was killed by a train when he stood on the tracks that once were behind the restaurant and pub).

Waverley Plantation House, MS (Young Susan Hamilton, a member of the Young Family, suffered a fatal fall down the steep staircase in 1874. Her spirit still plays on the stairs in a place where she felt loved).

Las Cruces Railroad Museum, NM (The spirit of a young boy who may have been hit by a car in front or by a train, has moved into the museum because of his love for trains).


Sometimes, the spirits of parents decide to stay with the spirits of their children who won’t leave this world, especially if they feel responsible.

Saint James Hotel, NM (The spirit of Mary Lambert, the innkeeper’s wife, has chosen to stay to try to get the spirit of her two-year old son, Johnnie, to leave with her. Johnnie died from a hot water accident, and so far is still a handful).

Shanley Hotel, NY (The spirit of the Barber’s daughter who fell down the well and drowned resides here, as well as her father’s spirit, who keeps an eye on her).

Levy Mansion, NV (A tragic accident resulted in two restless spirits. One spirit is an active youngster who suffered a fatal fall. The second is the guilt-ridden uncle or father, who was supposed to be keeping the child safe).

Las Cruces Railroad Museum, NM (The spirit of the woman may be the mother of the spirit of the little boy who has chosen to be with her son. Perhaps he was killed when she looked away for just a minute).



I Know Better

The spirit of a former male train depot agent has tried to find ways to help the docents on site.

Items from displays are moved to other spots because of the discerning spirit’s opinion.

He has become visible to the docents, perhaps letting them know that he is working with them.

He may watch the visitors to make sure they don’t take anything.

He may guard the museum after it closes.

The Spirit of the Small Boy

He may be five or six years old and makes personal appearances.

He loves to run around the train museum.

People have probably heard his small footsteps all over the building.

He must love to play with the train sets.

They may hear his voice as he plays, as small children, alive or dead, have loud voices while playing actively.

Maybe He will Come!

The spirit of a woman may be waiting for the spirit of her soldier boyfriend to come on a train to reunite with her.

Her spirit has been seen in the depot’s old waiting room.

She probably looks out the windows, and goes outside to wait on the platform.

The Spirit of a Mom

If this female spirit is the Mom of the little boy, she may be following the little boy spirit around the train station, supervising him, hoping to keep him safe this time.

The Second Male Spirit

He may be a soldier who was killed overseas, and has come back to meet his beloved as he had planned.

He may be another depot worker who may be attached to something on display, or still loves his job here.


The spirits who reside here are not shy about making visual appearances in front of the staff.

Their paranormal activity has been seen mostly by staff members, though a few visitors may also have personal experiences.

I can find no hard evidence shared online, because the city doesn’t want paranormal investigations done here, as such events may push their benign, friendly spectral residents into more aggressive behavior if they are annoyed.



Yes indeed!

Despite having no hard evidence that has been made public, there have been a boatload of paranormal activity since 1992 that the staff couldn’t help but notice.



351 North Mesilla Street
Las Cruces, NM 88005

The Las Cruces Railroad Museum can be found on N Mesilla Street, with the front of the museum located near the corner of W Las Cruces Avenue and N. Mesilla Street. The building sits right in front the railroad tracks that still carry trains that barrel right through the area.


    Las Cruces History: The City That Knew It Could, Written by Bud Russo, Originally published in Neighborsmagazine
Haunts in New Mexico