Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Amtrak service has been reduced from once a day to three times a week on many routes around the country, including one that goes through central and northern New Mexico, and it could affect one of the biggest economic drivers in the northeastern region of the state.
The Southwest Chief – which runs from Los Angeles to Chicago, making stops in Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy, Albuquerque and Gallup – has been operating only three times a week since October, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.
The westbound train to Los Angeles runs Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and the eastbound train to Chicago runs Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. There is no service Monday, Thursday or Saturday.
Magliari said he believes the biggest effect in New Mexico will be on the Philmont Scout Ranch, near Cimarron in Colfax County, which is the biggest training and camping center in the country for the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts mostly use Amtrak trains to get people to Raton and bused to the ranch.
Shelley O’Neill, director of business operations at Philmont Scout Ranch, said the reduced schedule could affect whether scout groups around the country make plans to visit the ranch, since the ranch operates on specific arrival and departure dates. She said they are expecting 24,000 campers this summer and the ranch rivals any ski area in the state in terms of how much money it brings to the local economy.
“Hitting that three-day window from either east or west is going to be difficult,” O’Neill said. “Some crews do hit that date spot on and it isn’t going to be a problem, but there are others that it’s going to affect.”
But, she added, “we are going to do everything we can to make sure they continue to ride the train and get here.”
Amtrak is asking Congress for over $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2021 to recall the 2,000 employees who have been furloughed since Oct. 1.
In September, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded Amtrak a $5.6 million grant for track and infrastructure improvements between Trinidad, Colorado and Lamy. Magliari said those improvements are still moving forward.