Western Trips

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fascinating Model Railroad Exhibits

model railroadsOne of the most fun things when touring the western United States is visiting old train depots. While old train stations are today in a variety of conditions, many have been beautifully restored and turned into museums which tell the story of a community and the railroad that once passed through it. When touring one of these stations don't be too surprised to come across some fascinating model railroad exhibits.

Often we've come across model railroad layouts that recreate an old rail yard and it's buildings that at one time stood in the town but have been lost to the decades. These exhibits are in the greatest detail possible and have obviously taken a long time and a lot of work to create. They also show you what at one time was the heyday of the railroad industry and just how important the railroad was to many communities nationwide.

Below we've listed some of these railroad depot museums with a look at the type of displays you'll see.

Ennis Texas

model train museums
Ennis Texas, established in 1872, is located about 35 miles south of Dallas along Interstate 45. The town, like many towns, was named after a railroad official. Cornelius Ennis was a railroad official with the Houston & Texas Central Railroad as well as the Houston Tap and Brazoria Railroad and one time mayor of Houston.

Here you will want to make a stop at the Ennis Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum. Inside the museum is a railroad display showing the original Ennis rail yard. Also on display is a station master's office, railroad dining car china, local historic artifacts and photos and an amazing large glass case collection of vintage locomotives and rolling stock. If you love model railroads this is a display you don't want to miss seeing. The Ennis Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum is aptly located near the rail tracks at 105 NE Main Street.

model train layouts
Belen New Mexico

Belen New Mexico is all about the history of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. Belen is located about 36 miles south of Albuquerque along Interstate 25. The railroad museum with it's very large model railroad layout is located in the old Fred Harvey House Dining Room on the east side of town along the rail tracks.

Belen New Mexico, once a Spanish fort in the 1700's and later a town, to this day remains a busy railroad town being a major refueling and maintenance station for the BNSF railroad. The town is the site of the Belen Cut-off which connected Amarillo Texas to Belen beginning in 1907. The Belen Cut-off is a very busy route for freight traffic today connecting Belen to Clovis New Mexico on the Texas border.

The model railroad layout in the old Belen Harvey House is so large that it takes up three rooms. The model train and rail yard display was created by the Belen Model Railroad Club and if you're traveling in the area it's well worth the visit. The Belen Harvey House and Museum is located at 104 N. First Street.

model trains
Clovis New Mexico

Clovis New Mexico, like Belen, was and still is a very important railroad town. The AT & SF Railroad built the train depot and Clovis in 1907. This was part of the creation of the Belen Cut-off route.

The train station in Clovis not only handled passengers but also served as a division office for the railroad. Also, similar to Belen, Clovis sees about 100 trains pass through it daily. With increased rail traffic a Harvey House was also established in Clovis along the tracks.

The Clovis train depot now serves as a museum which includes an operating telegraph station along with a very impressive train layout and much more. There are four different  railroad scale layouts inside the museum...two O scale layouts, a standard gauge layout, an N scale layout and an S scale layout. The Clovis Depot Model Train Museum is located at 221 West First Street.

Two additional Western Trips articles you may enjoy are on the links below...

The Famous Santa Fe 5000 Steam Locomotive which is the world's largest

Northern California's Niles Canyon Railway

new york central model railroad
In addition to the sites listed above, some very creative model railroad exhibits can also be found at the Frisco Heritage Museum in Frisco Texas, a northern Dallas suburb. This museum is also the new home for the Museum of the American Railroad, a very comprehensive exhibit of old locomotives and rolling stock once located in Dallas. 

Another favorite is the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, covering 28,000 square feet, and which is the world's largest operating model railroad museum. This amazing model railroad museum is located at 1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Visit a Rocket Museum in New Mexico

If you want to view a large variety of military rockets the National Nuclear Museum of Science and History is the place to visit.  It's a museum of everything nuclear from the birth of nuclear science to the future.

navy terrier missile
Navy Terrier surface to air missile
A visit to this fascinating both indoor and outdoor museum allows you to view planes, missiles, rockets and more plus a German V-2 Rocket from World War Two. Add to this a tail from the former U.S. nuclear submarine James K. Polk. The outdoor area of the museum occupies five acres.

The National Nuclear Museum of Science and History was originally chartered by Congress in 1969. It was first known as the National Atomic Museum prior to it's name change and was located at Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque New Mexico before it's move to the current location a short distance north of the base.

Redstone Missile 

The Redstone Missile was developed in 1951 and was intended to be a surface to surface mobile rocket. The Redstone represented the United States' first large rocket and was produced by the Chrysler Corporation. It was liquid fueled burning alcohol and liquid oxygen. The rocket's first test launch occurred in 1953 at Cape Canaveral Florida. More test launches followed over several years and the Redstone was deployed in West Germany in 1958. 

redstone missile
Redstone Missile exhibit in Albuquerque
A good deal of the technology for building the Redstone was acquired by the U.S. after World War Two when they collected German rockets and the knowledge of German scientists. In fact, rockets made by the U.S. immediately after the war were based largely on German V-2 technology

The Redstone Rocket was mainly developed by German scientists including Werner von Braun

The U.S. found itself in a race against the Soviet Union who also wanted to collect as much German rocket technology as possible. The German missile experts that the U.S. could recruit were brought to Huntsville Alabama.

Jupiter Missile 

The Jupiter Missile similar to the one shown in this article was first deployed by the U.S. in Turkey in 1960 during the Cold War. These type missiles would also be deployed in Great Britain and Italy. The missile was designed by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and succeeded the Redstone Missile. The first operational squadron for the Jupiter was created in 1958. 

jupiter missile
Jupiter Missile exhibit
The rocket was a single stage and liquid fueled built by the Chrysler Corporation. The rocket was stored vertically and could be fired with about fifteen minutes notice and had a range of about 1,500 nautical miles. 

Jupiter Missiles came close to helping NASA with their Mercury space program. Eventually the Mercury-Jupiter program was dropped in favor of the Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Atlas programs. Later on the Jupiter Missile did participate in NASA's Apollo space program

The Titan II ICBM 

First activated in 1962, the entire purpose of the Titan II ICBM program was to act as a deterrence. The missile's goal was to prevent a war not start one. The Titan II was designed with a warhead that could travel over 5,500 miles and with accuracy. It was a two stage liquid propelled rocket. The rocket's second stage carried a flight control and inertial guidance system. Dimensions included a length of 103 feet and a diameter of 120 inches. At launch the rocket weighed 327,000 lbs. The Titan II was the largest ICBM built by the United States.

titan II missile
Stage of Titan II Missile exhibit
As decades passed and treaties were entered into, the Titan II missile program was deactivated during the 1980's. 

The Western Trips photo article on the link below features a few additional exhibits at the museum.

The Nuclear Museum

Visiting the National Nuclear Museum of Science and History

The National Nuclear Museum of Science and History is located in southeast Albuquerque New Mexico at 601 Eubank Avenue SE. The museum is located south of Exit 165 on Interstate 40.This quite unique museum is a fun and educational venue for the entire family. There's a great many things to discover at the National Nuclear Museum of Science and History.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)


Monday, October 21, 2013

Cattle Drives and the Fort Worth Stockyards

Visiting the historic Fort Worth Stockyards in Fort Worth Texas is a western adventure in itself. Add to that the cattle drives which take place twice daily at 11:30A and 4P.

fort worth stockyards
Fort Worth Stockyards
During these cattle drives the drovers, real cowboys, drive their longhorns along East Exchange Avenue past the front of the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange Building for what is a real trip back to the 1800's.The best place to view these daily cattle drives is in front of the stockyard's Visitors Center.

Fort Worth Texas was established in 1849 on a bluff overlooking two forks of the Trinity River. The fort became the last large settlement of civilization along the famous Chisholm Trail. The settlement was referred to as "Cowtown" beginning in the 1860's.

The area of the Fort Worth Stockyards was a stop for cattle heading from Texas to the Kansas rail heads.This was a regular stopping off point along the Chisholm Trail.The stockyards was also a major sheep and hog marketing center considered the largest in the southwest.

The Fort Worth Herd

The Fort Worth Herd is made up of fifteen Texas Longhorns, each steer representing one decade from Fort Worth's colorful past. Yes, there are indeed stockyards still existing at this historic site. When the herd is not being driven down Exchange Street they are kept in the expansive wooden stockyards north of the Cowtown Coliseum.

the stockyards in fort worth texas
The stockyards at the Ft. Worth Stockyards
Today's Fort Worth Stockyards is a National Historic District. In a big way the stockyards give you the feel of what small town America once look like. Things to do in the stockyards are geared for people of all ages.

The Fort Worth Stockyards are located  at the intersection of Main St. and Exchange Avenue about four miles north of the downtown area.

The Fort Worth Stockyards and the Railroad

A cattleman must get his herd to market. When the Texas and Pacific Railroad reached Fort Worth Texas in 1876 it made the town an important cattle herd destination. This same combination, cattle and railroads, built earlier towns such as Abilene, Wichita and Dodge City Kansas. Ten years after the railroad's arrival, Fort Worth had four stockyards doing business near the tracks.

Packing plants were built to go along with the stockyards including those from Swift and Armour. It was said that the Swift Company plant in Fort Worth, constructed in 1904, employed about 1,700 people during it's busiest years. The ruins of the old Swift packing plant are located east of the stockyards behind chain link fences. Each of the packing companies received a one third interest in the stockyards. The first decade of the twentieth century was the time of the stockyard's largest growth.

fort worth stockyards livestock exchange
Livestock Exchange Building
Another interesting fact about the Swift packing company is that it's founder, Gustavus Swift, invented the refrigerated rail car. The Swift packing plants were considered to be state of the art at the time being highly insulated. For instance, the upper floors of the Fort Worth structure had double brick walls.

The Armour plant, adjacent to the Swift plant, was the first of the two to close in 1962. The Swift plant closed in 1971.

The Decline and Rebirth of the Stockyards

The decline of the Fort Worth Stockyards went hand in hand with the closing of the Armour and Swift packing and processing plants. What happened to this area after the plant closings is a fascinating story.

During the 1970's Fort Worth created a restoration committee to plan for redevelopment of the district.Both public and private funding would be sought. Today, the Fort Worth Stockyards is promoted by the North Fort Worth Historical Society.

stockyards hotel fort worth
Stockyards Hotel
Events are held in the stockyards all year with two of the biggest being the Chisholm Trail Days each June and the Pioneer Days each September. The Fort Worth Stockyards holds many historic markers, is filled with unique restaurants, shops and museums. The Stockyards Museum was opened in 1989 in the Stockyards Exchange Building. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 10A to 5P.

At the Stockyards Station you'll want to visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. This museum's stated goal is to honor the men and women who have shown excellence in the business and support of rodeo and the western lifestyle in Texas. This museum also exhibits the Sterquell Wagon Collection which consists of over sixty horse drawn coaches and wagons.

Below are links to more Western Trips articles you may enjoy...

Revisiting the Old West Cattle Trails

Remembering the Shawnee Trail

See One of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona

A West Texas Adventure in San Angelo 

texas cowboy hall of fame
Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame
While the packing plant workers and the herds are gone, what remains today is a living museum of cowboy and ranching culture. Historic buildings are a big part of a stockyards walking tour as are ongoing events.

In addition to viewing the twice daily cattle drive there are opportunities to sit on a live steer and have your picture taken. What can be more western than that? The Fort Worth Stockyards make an ideal trip stop for the entire family.

If your Texas vacation or weekend trip includes visiting Fort Worth you'll want to add the stockyards to your trip planner.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Visit to the Saints Roost Museum / Texas

In this article we want to highlight a very interesting western ranching museum which has it's roots in the legendary JA Ranch, one of the largest cattle ranches in the Texas Panhandle.

saints roost museum texas
Old Adair Hospital, now the Saints Roost Museum
The Saints Roost Museum located in Clarendon Texas will take you back to the days when Texas meant big ranching and cattle drives. Clarendon is located on U.S. Highway 287 about 60 miles east/southeast of Amarillo Texas. The cattle and farming industries still are key economic drivers.

Why Was the Settlement Called Saints Roost?

The answer to the question of how Saints Roost got it's name has everything to do with a Methodist  reverend in 1878.

 Reverend Lewis Henry Carhart wanted to establish a settlement where drinking, gambling and everything that went with it was frowned upon. A Christian utopia of sorts that defied the reputation of many western towns. The town was named Clarendon in honor of the Reverend Carhart's wife, Clara. An interesting side note to the story is that Clara spent little time in Clarendon opting to reside much of the time in Dallas.

cattle brand ja ranch
The JA Ranch cattle brand
The town was officially named Clarendon but the local cowboys struck on the name "Saints Roost". The cowboys said it was the place where the saints roosted. The virtues of Clarendon were promoted to settlers and eastern capitalists as a place to make home and do business.As it turned out the reverend Carhart didn't make Clarendon a permanent home.

The Saints Roost Museum

The building that serves as today's Saints Roost Museum was at one time the Adair Hospital.The hospital was both built by and named for Cornelia Adair, the wife of broker John Adair of Ireland and the Adair of the JA Ranch. The ranch was operated beginning in 1877 as a partnership with Charles Goodnight, the legendary rancher and Father of the Texas Panhandle. Goodnight told Adair all about the Palo Duro Canyon, south and east of today's Amarillo. As far as Charles Goodnight was concerned, the Palo Duro Canyon was an ideal spot to raise cattle. There was good water in the summer and the canyon provided some shelter for the herd during the winter months.

Cornelia Adair was known as a prominent philanthropist donating to several Clarendon and Donley County area charities and projects. Cornelia Adair also built the first YMCA in Clarendon. In her latter years Cornelia Adair spent time at her late husband's residences in Ireland and England.

old cowboy bunk house
Cowboy bunk house from old JA Ranch
When Cornelia Adair, a naturalized British subject, passed away in 1921 at the age of 84 she willed money to help support the Adair Hospital as well as money to a children's home in Dallas. Money was also in her will to JA Ranch cowboys and several Irish church groups.

The Saints Roost Museum will give you a good glimpse of the history of the Texas Panhandle as well as Donley County Texas. Exhibits include pioneer and Indian artifacts and local Clarendon culture.There are also several excellent exhibits and photos regarding rancher Charles Goodnight.

On the grounds of the Saints Roost Museum is also the old 1887 Fort Worth & Denver Railroad depot. You'll see some interesting photographs showing how the train depot was moved from the tracks to it's current location.

texas cattle brands
Collection of various Texas cattle brands
The big fundraising event to support the Saints Roost Museum is the annual Charles Goodnight Chuckwagon Cookoff held each September. It was Charles Goodnight who invented the chuckwagon.

The Adair Hospital

In 1887 Cornelia Adair assumed her late husband's role as partner in the JA Ranch with Goodnight.

Cornelia Adair built the Adair Hospital in 1910 for the care of Adair Ranch cowboys. In 1917 the JA Ranch covered some half a million acres.

Below are links to more Western Trips photo articles you may enjoy...

Goodnight Ranch House

The Fascinating Panhandle-Plains Museum in Canyon Texas

Battle of Gonzales / Start of the Texas Revolution

fort worth and denver railroad depot
Old Fort Worth & Denver Railroad Depot

Texas Ranch Country

If you want to visit several interesting Texas cattle ranching museums, Saints Roost Museum being one of them, the stretch of highway between Wichita Falls Texas and Amarillo, U.S. Hwy 287, is a good road to travel.

The famous Waggoner Ranch which was located around and just east of Witchita Falls is highlighted at the Red River Valley Museum in Vernon Texas, along U.S. Hwy 287 and about 50 miles northwest of Wichita Falls. The Waggoner Ranch had it's beginnings in the 1850's.

Another good stop along this highway is the newly restored Goodnight Ranch House which is in Goodnight Texas about 43 miles southeast of Amarillo. Goodnight Texas is just north of Palo Duro Canyon. Add to this a stop at the Armstrong County Museum in Claude Texas, on U.S. Highway 287 about 30 miles east of Amarillo.

If you have time while traveling through Amarillo you'll want to make a stop at the Panhandle-Plains Museum in Canyon Texas, about 18 miles south of Amarillo on Interstate 27.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Art and History of Arroyo Seco New Mexico

Arroyo Seco New Mexico is located in beautiful Taos County just seven miles north of the city of Taos and nearby Taos Pueblo. The village of about 1,500 residents is also only nine miles from the popular Taos Ski Valley. Arroyo Seco in Spanish translates into "dry creek". There were two streams running through the area that was the settlements source of water.

arroyo seco new mexico
Picturesque Arroyo Seco NM
This unincorporated community at an elevation of 7,634 feet was first settled in 1804 over a Spanish land grant. Two brothers, Cristóbal Martínez and José Gregorio Martínez, moved to the area at that time and began planting crops. Shortly afterwards they built homes. This would have been during the time of Spanish rule over Nuevo Mexico. The Spaniards had settled Santa Fe to the south some 200 years prior.

Today, the economy of Arroyo Seco is predominantly from tourists and the area has a lot of vacation homes.

The Art and Events of Arroyo Seco

You'll find more than half a dozen very interesting art galleries in the little village of Arroyo Seco and is home to many artists and environmentalists. New Mexico art is one the state's biggest tourist draws. Along with visiting the galleries make a stop at Arroyo Seco Mercantile, a store first opened in 1895. Among other things there are wood carvings by local artists and Indian jewelry.

For a good meal stop by at Abe’s Cantina y Cocina. This is a market grill and a bar and a favorite of the locals and very affordable.

arroyo seco nm art
Mural on Arroyo Seco building
The biggest event of the year is the town's traditional Fourth of July Parade. People travel from all over to attend this event. At that time the village is closed off and almost everyone living in the town participates, some in costumes. You may well see burros and horses among the many automobiles. Featured in the parade are colorful floats and banners which all translate into a small town Fourth of July full of fun and very family friendly.

Northern New Mexico offers a fine collection of art galleries and Arroyo Seco is no exception.

Church of the Most Holy Trinity

The Church of the Most Holy Trinity was built in 1834 and has been restored during the 1990's. The church was built on what had been the land granted in 1745 by Joaquin Codallos y Rabal. An interesting historical fact is that the land had originally been granted to General Lucero de Godoy by the Viceroy of Mexico. He however never settled on the land. The town was not settled for another sixty years and where the church stands was at the site of the old plaza.

arroyo seco nm church
Restored Church of the Most Holy Trinity
The Church of the Most Holy Trinity was built by the famous La Fraternidad de Los Hermanos Penitentes de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno along with their families and community members. These families arrived at Arroyo Seco in 1824.

The architecture of the church is quite impressive. Adobe walls are five feet thick at their base and about three feet on top. While many churches in New Mexico were built in the "Mission" style, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity would correctly be classified in the Mission Revival style. A Mission style church in New Mexico would have been one constructed in a pueblo. Some also refer to the architecture as Mission Revival and Northern New Mexican.

The church has an altar screen that dates all the way back to it's founding.

The church operates under the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and is open for mass.

The Abominable SnowMansion

The only hostel in the Taos vicinity is located at Arroyo Seco as the The Abominable SnowMansion. This hostel is in the former Gusdorf grocery. The hostel is very laid back and gives you the impression that you're staying in someone's private home. The prices are affordable, the rooms are comfortable and the kitchen is well stocked. Being so close to the Taos Ski Valley the hostel has visitors all through the year.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips photo articles on the links below...

New Mexico Pueblo Pottery

New Mexico Attractions

arrolyo seco nm hostel
Abominable SnowMansion Hostel
Lucero Peak

Lucero Peak stands over Arroyo Seco. This 10,780 foot peak is the location of a cave which was the inspiration for D.H. Lawrence's story The Woman Who Rode Away. Lawrence had visited the area and the cave in 1924 with Mabel Dodge and others.The short story written by Lawrence follows one woman’s religious quest in Mexico.

If you enjoy mountain hiking you'll find several excellent trails in the Lucero Peak area.

A visit to Arroyo Seco New Mexico makes for a very pleasant and picturesque day trip. Being located only seven miles north of Taos, there are plenty of fun things to do and interesting places to visit in the immediate area. Taos is home to many art galleries, unique shops, the Taos Plaza, historic landmarks and the Kit Carson Home and Museum. Taos Pueblo is another excellent place to stop at. Taos Pueblo is the world's only living Native American community designated as a World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

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Friday, October 11, 2013

The 100 Year Old Interurban Trolley / Fort Worth TX

In downtown Fort Worth Texas, among the modern Amtrak trains that pass through the Intermodal Transportation Center daily is a 100 year old trolley that tells a big story of the Cow Town's past.

fort worth railroad car number 25
Car Number 25
This particular trolley on display traveled between Dallas and Fort Worth Texas from 1924 to 1935. Service between these two cities started in 1902. Passenger rail travel has been important to the towns of north Texas both big and small. This historic streetcar was part of that history.

All of us are fortunate that all of the old electric railway cars from the early 1900's were not destroyed. Some have been restored to their original grandeur.

On permanent display at Fort Worth's Intermodal Transportation Center since 2001, this trolley was taken over and restored in 1995 by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. and has been on permanent display the Intermodal Transportation Center at 1001 Jones Street in downtown Fort Worth Texas.

From Mules to Electricity

The first streetcar appeared in Fort Worth in 1876 when the Texas and Pacific Railroad came to town. Fort Worth experienced such a boom at that time that the trolley system was a necessity. People had to have a way to get from the train station to the central square. Until the year 1880 all streetcars were pulled by mules.

The first electric rail line grew out of the Fort Worth Trolley System that began service in 1890. The old electric cars look more like traditional train cars but were powered by an electrical motor like a trolley.In 1924 these trains were updated with bright red colors and new upholstery.

north texas traction company
North Texas Traction Company car
The trolley car featured in this article, Number 25, was operated by the North Texas Traction Company. The trolley car was built by the St. Louis Car Company. After it's restoration the car was delivered to the Intermodal Transportation Center where it remains on display. Restoration included new paint and polished wood. The Number 25 was built as a motorcar which meant that it carried passengers as well as a trailer car in the rear. This particular car, the Number 25 carried passengers between Dallas and Fort Worth from 1913 to 1934.

The Crimson Limited

The Crimson Limited series of train cars began in 1924 and due mostly to the competition with the automobile. The North Texas Traction Company promoted the theory that it's mass transportation system was needed for community development.

  Express service was offered which meant that there were no local stops between the two cities. These were the cars with refurbished interiors to add comfort to travel. The number 25 Limited Express features two types of chairs...the Salounge Chair and the Parlor Chair. Quite different than the earliest trolley cars.

Interestingly enough, you might find the interior of cars like Number 25 a bit different than you would expect. Included inside was a kitchen with range, refrigerator and cabinets.The Number 25 was operated as a limited train without stops between the two big cities.

old north texas railroads
Speed and Comfort

What was offered by the Crimson Limited was speed and comfort. This was a necessity when competing with the automobile. No traffic jams and interior refinements were the rule. The rail line between the two cities was 35 miles long.

Schedules of the Crimson Limited

The times below will give you an idea of how often these historic trolley trains ran between Fort Worth and Dallas.

The trolley left Fort Worth daily at 10:30A, 2:30P and 6:30 P. Dallas departures were at 8:30A, 12:30P and 4:30P.

The Year 1934

Big changes for the interurban railway between Fort Worth and Dallas Texas occurred in 1934.

The right away that the rail line enjoyed was about to be turned over to the automobile. In other words, the right of way was to become a highway. What was proposed by officials was that a super highway would be built between the two large cities.

north texas traction railroad
Crimson Limited electric rail car
What To Do With the Rolling Stock?

When the demise of the Fort Worth to Dallas express rail line was realized, rolling stock was either hauled off and used for storage or became diners. All of us has seen one of these trolley diners at one time or another. The plan was to eventually sell off these cars if and when a buyer could be found. The railroad ties would be taken up and sold for firewood. The market for steel rails was not healthy so these were essentially put into storage waiting for better times. In the case of car Number 25 shown in this article, it was taken to a farm at Eagle Mountain Lake north of Fort Worth

Some of the cars taken out of service were actually made into houses by adding a new roof and siding. This would have all occurred during the years of the Great Depression.

Below are additional Western Trips photo articles you may enjoy ...

The Interurban Railway Museum

Northern Electric Railroad in California

electric trolley interiors
Restored seating in Car 25
Trolley Car Displays in North Texas

In addition to the display of car Number 25 at the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center there is an excellent trolley railcar museum located in Plano Texas, a northern Dallas suburb.

The Interurban Railway Museum in Plano Texas has done a terrific job of explaining just how these electric railroads operated before the automobile caused their decline. The rail museum has an array of exhibits that explain just how these railroads operated. The Interurban Railway Museum is located at 901 E. 15th Street in downtown Plano Texas about five blocks east of US Hwy 75. Located just in front of the museum building is a fully restored Texas Electric railway car. The exhibits are very in depth and paint a very interesting picture of what it was like to not only operate the system but also to ride on it.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cowboy Gear For Round Ups and Cattle Drives

The cowboys on the western ranch and those who participated on the historic round ups and cattle drives had their own set of unique equipment and clothing. Their vocation and to a great extent much of their equipment and wear was derived from the Spaniards and the Mexicans who ranched the southwest long before the American cowboy. This of course is a story in itself.

cowboy chaps
Western Chaps
It's interesting to note that while the American cowboy inherited a great deal from the Spaniards and Mexicans, he also carved out a niche of his own which will never be duplicated. 

While many will describe cowboy wear as being picturesque, the purpose was anything but that. What the cowboy wore was what was best suited for his work. While today we might consider cowboy outfits as being fashionable in their own right, each piece of clothing worn had it's own specific purpose and was designed with that in mind. Because of the utility of cowboy ranch wear the clothing is used today just as it was one hundred and fifty and more years ago. It is probably the only vocational clothing that will never go out of style and remain quite popular.

When you explore some of the museums and venues we will list near the end of this article, you'll also come to see a regional difference in cowboy attire and equipment. Main regional differences will be seen when you compare the ranch cowboy of Texas to those of the southwest and the northwest. Ranching and cattle drives were big in all these areas yet there was a distinction that each brought to the vocation of cowboy. These might include how a hat is shaped, how a lariat is used and how a saddle is cinched.

western chaps
Fancy western chaps designs
Cowboy Chaps

One of the more conspicuous piece of clothing worn by the cowboy were his "chaps". The term "chaps" is taken from the Spanish word "chaparejos". These were overalls however in piecemeal fashion that covered the cowboy's trousers. Not really difficult to make, they look like the product of taking a pair of pants, cutting out the seat plus cutting the seam between the legs.

The earliest examples of chaps were actually called "armas" which means shield and covered the front portion of the horse. The armas was made of cowhide and covered both the horse's chest and the riders legs. Chaps worn by the western cowboy on the ranch and on cattle drives were essentially smaller less cumbersome versions of the armas and solely covered the cowboy's legs.

Offering much utility, the cowboy's chaps were used to protect a riding cowboy from his mount rubbing past a fence, cactus, rock or other horse. They came quite handy when riding a horse through any brushy terrain. If the cowboy happened to be thrown from the horse the chaps would offer a level of protection. Cowboys have also utilized chaps to offer some comfort in cold and windy weather.

Chaps were made of cowhide, some with long hair or wool added which the old west cowboy felt would add even greater protection. .

Interestingly enough, it was said that the old west cowboy might even wear his chaps to social events since they were so distinctive and in some cases as shown in the photos above could be quite fancy. Not that they weren't bulky and perhaps heavy but at a social gathering they might make the cowboy stand out in a fashionable way and maybe catch the attention of females.

Cowboy reata or lariat
The Reata

Here again we go back to the Spaniards for what we might call the cowboy's rope. Reate in Spanish means rope. The word "lariat" is a contraction of the Spanish term "la reata"

When the cowboys reata was not in use it would normally be coiled in a loop about a foot and a half in diameter and hang below the base of the saddle horn.

During the earliest days, the cowboy's rope was typically made of buffalo hide and later with rawhide and even hemp. The hide ropes were generally about half an inch in diameter and the hemp varieties three quarters of an inch. The length of the rope might be fifty or sixty feet. There were differences in rope length based on which region the cattle round ups and drives occurred. The Texas cowboys were known to have the longest lariats however only about half the length was used.

cowboy saddle
Cow Saddle or Western Saddle
Cow Saddle 

The western American cowboy for the most part used a "cow saddle" while riding the range. This can also be referred to as a working saddle or western saddle. The design of these saddles go all the way back to the Spanish vaqueros of the southwest. Horns and seats could be of different sizes and cinches holding the saddle on the horse could vary. There are several variations of this western saddle but all of them have a similarity to the first saddles the Moors brought over to Spain from Africa over three thousand years ago.


Spurs were another part of cowboy equipment that originated with the Spaniards and Mexicans and were adapted to the American west cowboy. The word spur has it's roots in the Anglo-Saxon word spora or spura and means to stimulate or urge.

cowboy spurs
Spanish western spurs
Spurs were once used by the Celts and were used during the times of the Roman Empire. A piece of equipment as old as this became an art form in itself with various designs.

The western cowboy spur was typically a round metal toothed wheel. The wheel was about the diameter of a quarter coin. The western spur was an essential piece of cowboy gear in as much as it was used to direct a horse to move forward or laterally. Cowboys would learn to use their spurs very effectively. Directing one's horse correctly was important to any cowboy being involved in round ups or cattle drives. The spurs and the reins are like today's gas pedals and steering wheels on motorized vehicles.

The links below are to additional Western Trips photo articles you may also enjoy... 

The Old West Cattle Trails

History of Cowboys 

Frontier Museums 

Cattle Drives and the Fort Worth Stockyards

Some Great Venues to Explore American West Cowboy Gear

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is northeast of downtown Oklahoma City in an area known as Persimmon Hill. As a side note, the Persimmon Hill Garden Club has the distinction of being the oldest neighborhood garden club in the state. The street address of the museum is 1700 N.E. 63rd Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Museum hours are 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Daily. The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's

okalhoma cowboy museum
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
The Red River Valley Museum- The Red River Valley Museum is located in Vernon Texas and is all about the cattle ranching days in north Texas. A terrific display of artifacts are exhibited with a room dedicated to the old Waggoner Ranch which occupied much of the area. Frontier firearms, carriages, musical instruments and much more are exhibited.

Fort Sumner Museum in Fort Sumner New Mexico.This is the museum located at the site of the old Ft. Sumner Military outpost and at Billy the Kid's grave site. You can appreciate the barrel length of the Long Rifles looking from top to bottom. The top rifle is has a 40 plus inch barrel and the one under it just about three inches shorter.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Santa Fe Ski Basin / New Mexico

One of the best things about driving up to the Santa Fe Ski Basin from the city is the absolutely gorgeous drive getting there. The total distance from where the road begins (Washington Street and Artist Road) is about 15 miles. This is 15 miles of winding road where you'll have some great vistas and some excellent photo opportunities. 

new mexico cross country ski trails
Cross Country ski trails
The road to the Santa Fe Ski Basin  passes directly through Hyde State Park which is about 7.5 miles up the mountain. 

Another 7 miles on the road past Hyde State Park and you're at the ski area. When you arrive at the top you'll find a very large parking area and a trail head if you're wanting to hike into the high mountain back country. 

The Ski Santa Fe area is located within the Santa Fe National Forest and is one of the largest in New Mexico along with the Ski Taos Resort about 2 1/2 hours north of Santa Fe.

One of New Mexico's Most Popular Ski Areas

During the winter months the Santa Fe Ski Basin is popular with both local skiers and skiers from across the country and the world. Because Santa Fe is a days drive from many points in Texas, you'll see plenty of Texas license plates in the parking lot, especially around winter holiday times.

The Santa Fe Ski area is situated high in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The elevation at the Ski basin base is 10,350 feet above sea level. This elevation makes the Santa Fe Ski Basin one of the highest ski areas in the United States. In addition to that, the Millennium Triple Chairlift will take skiers to a height of 12,075 feet. That is truly high.

Ski Equipment Rentals

Ski equipment and snowboard rentals are available at the base lodge and lessons are always available. There are also ski equipment rental companies in the city of Santa Fe as well as a rental facility at Hyde State Park. If you wish to avoid the early morning lines at the Ski Basin rental facility then renting your equipment before driving to the slopes is possible.

The lodge building also has food and beverages, lockers and a ski accessory and clothing shop. Also a great Bunny Trail for the youngsters.

santa fe ski basin
Santa Fe Ski Basin chairlifts
Another thing that has always made the ski area popular is it's close proximity to the city of Santa Fe and it's good selection of lodgings and dining. There are no overnight accommodations on top of the mountain so people stay overnight in the city and enjoy the Santa Fe sights and entertainment.

Exploring the Ski Basin During Non-Winter Months

There are many things to do at and near the Ski Santa Fe area during non-winter months. Chair lift rides are available in the fall to take in the great scenery and change of colors. The mountain is filled with a mixture of Aspens and Firs and when fall arrives and the Aspens change to a golden color it's quite beautiful. Another very popular endeavor all over the mountain is trail hiking. Hyde State park itself has numerous hiking trails with a good mixture of easy and not so easy hikes.

La Piedra Trail is 1.6 miles long and connects with the popular Dale Ball Trail North to the Little Tesuque Creek Trail. The trail took two years to construct and opened in may of 2012.

The La Piedra Trail meant that for the first time people are able to get on Santa Fe trails near downtown and hike, bike or run all the way up to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. "You no longer have to go on paved road [Hyde Park Road] to get to the mountains," said Charlie O'Leary, executive director of the Santa Fe Conservation Trust. A good deal of the land needed for the trail was donated to the Trust.
“Since the founding of Santa Fe over 400 years ago, trail access to the mountains and nature has been important to residents and visitors alike," O'Leary said - See more at: http://www.santafe.com/article/first-major-trail-connection-in-over-a-decade-set-for-santa-fes-sangres#sthash.qR7Kaaqm.dpuf

“Since the founding of Santa Fe over 400 years ago, trail access to the mountains and nature has been important to residents and visitors alike," O'Leary said - See more at: http://www.santafe.com/article/first-major-trail-connection-in-over-a-decade-set-for-santa-fes-sangres#sthash.qR7Kaaqm.dpuf

The Trust had a Madrid NM firm called Anasazi Trails design and construct the trail.In addition to the trail building company many volunteers donated their time to help in it's building. The new la Piedra Trail is open to hikers, mountain bikers and snow shoe enthusiasts.

Below are links to additional Western Trips articles you may enjoy...

Hiking in New Mexico

Hiking Along the California Coast

santa fe hiking trails
Sangre de Cristo Mountain hiking trail
Hikers and Mountain Bikers Head to Santa Fe

Because the Santa Fe area has so many good trails it's recognized as one of the best places in the country for runners. The trail system around Santa Fe is divided into three sections: north, central, and south. The most challenging of the three sections, the southern area trails can turn your run into a hike. Don't let that discourage you because the views of the mountains are well worth it.

The trail systems can be accessed from Hyde State Park halfway to the Santa Fe Ski Basin or they can be accessed on the southern portion just a few miles east of the Santa Fe plaza on Upper Canyon Road

Another system of trails you should be aware begins at the Cruz Blanco Trailhead, southeast of downtown Santa Fe. This trail offers access to the 1.45 mile Dorothy Stewart and the 2.8 mile Atalaya Mountain trails.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

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