1st Street Train Cars

The Santa Fe Railway in Winslow
The first transcontinental railroad began operating from Omaha to Sacramento in 1869. President Andrew Johnson soon chartered the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (A&P) to build the nation’s second cross-country line along the 35th parallel. Cyrus K. Holliday founded what became the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, better known as the “Santa Fe,” in 1859. The Santa Fe was a major player by the time it entered into the Tripartite Agreement with the A&P and the St. Louis and San Francisco (Frisco) Railroads in 1880. The agreement made the A&P a subsidiary of the Santa Fe and charged a joint board of trustees with the development of the 35th parallel line.

In late 1880, the A&P laid out a new townsite near Clear Creek, which would supply water for the coming steam engines. The first rail line arrived in the new town, named for Frisco executive Edward F. Winslow, on December 3, 1881. Winslow was designated a major division point in the A&P’s Western Division, which ran from Isleta, New Mexico, to Needles, California.

 The Santa Fe bought the A&P outright in 1897 and transferred Western (later Albuquerque) Division headquarters from Gallup to Winslow. The influx of infrastructure and employees transformed the railroad boomtown into a major stop along the principal rail line to the West Coast. Winslow’s subsequent location as a livestock, trading post goods, and lumber shipping point also contributed to its growth and stability. Railroading dominated the lives of most Winslow residents during the first half of the 20th century.


Winslow’s Railroad Buildings
Roundhouses were buildings that allowed for the inspection, repair, and storage of locomotives and boxcars. Inside, large turntables were used to reverse their direction as well as to move them to specific bays in the repair shops. Winslow’s first roundhouse burned in 1895, destroying eight valuable steam locomotives and putting the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad in financial jeopardy. Winslow’s second roundhouse was rebuilt on the same site, just east of present-day La Posada Hotel. Winslow’s third and final roundhouse was built on the west end of town in 1913 for $425,000 ($13,000,000 today).

As an alternative to saloons and brothels, the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad established reading rooms where its employees could read, rest, and enjoy camaraderie with their coworkers in between shifts. The C.A. Fellows Contracting Company, which built Winslow’s third roundhouse that same year, constructed the two-story, brick-and-stucco Santa Fe Reading Room for $21,000 ($647,000 today). The first floor housed a reading room, billiard room, card room, office, and lavatory. On the second floor were eighteen rooms with beds, baths, washstands, and toilets, to be used only by railroad employees. The building was torn down in 1964.

Santa Fe Read Room

In 1930, La Posada was the last of the Harvey grand hotels to open, soon after passenger rail travel had begun its long decline. The hotel closed in 1957 and escaped the wrecking ball when the Santa Fe decided to convert it into its new Albuquerque Division headquarters. The Santa Fe produced a promotional brochure describing the new offices that “reflect the ancient cultural heritage of the Southwest combined with modern technological advancement . . . fash­ioned from what was the colorful, luxurious and relatively new La Posada Hotel . . . The architectural beauty and magnificence of the structure remains despite extensive alteration and modification . . . Only the interior has changed.”

Santa Fe Offices

The End of an Era
The Santa Fe Railroad, and its presence in Winslow, eventually came to an end. The ongoing conversion to diesel after World War II and the loss of passenger operations in 1971 continued to reduce jobs throughout the industry, and Winslow’s Santa Fe workforce was no exception. In 1995, the merger with the Burlington Northern created the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, the largest rail network in North America at that time. Winslow continued to serve as division headquarters until those were moved to Belen, New Mexico, in 2001. The company was renamed BNSF Railway in 2005 and purchased by Berkshire Hathaway in 2010. Today the BNSF, which serves the western two-thirds of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico, is still one of the largest employers in town.


Entry submitted by OTM Director Ann-Mary Lutzick.
Visit the Old Trails Museum to discover more of Winslow’s rich history: www.oldtrailsmuseum.org