Reach for the Sky - Albuquerque Journal

Reach for the Sky

The brightly-colored Sky Railway carves a swatch through the high desert of the Galisteo Basin. (Courtesy of Sky Railway)

Specialty railroads in the region are not anything new, with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad having both been entertaining visitors for years.

Their long and winding paths through rugged mountain scenery are worth every effort to hop aboard.

But the new Sky Railway linking Santa Fe with Lamy is taking somewhat of a new tact, which is not too surprising since one of the principals in the endeavor is local novelist-icon George R. R. Martin, whose signature work became the ultra-popular HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

“They wanted to create a unique and immersive-focused train,” said Steve Wilson, Sky Railway director of entertainment. “Something that is not happening in country right now.”

So, yes, the various themed rides become more than a simple sit down in a railcar, watching the countryside slip away. Which, by the way, is equally captivating as the southern tail end of the Sangre de Cristos and the rolling, rugged terrain of the Galisteo make for pretty fancy viewing.

But also be prepared for theatrical extravagances worthy of a Land of Enchantment movie set.

“Other excursions are long trains, pretty scenery, some piped-in music and enjoying the nostalgia of the train,” Wilson said. “We’re combining a little of both, with the nostalgia of the old rail life and entertainment that you would not normally get for a short line.”

The railway was born in 2020 after Martin and local film producer and entrepreneur Bill Banowsky and Catherine Oppenheimer, over margaritas, thought it would be a great idea to restore the Santa Fe Southern Railway line that had been shuttered since 2015.

While the train itself may be one that makes old guard traditionalists shake their heads, the whimsical whirlwind of color pays homage to many of Martin’s future-vision works and was created by Joerael Numina, an internationally acclaimed, Santa Fe-based artist activator.

Among the many regular themed-excursions, Lore of the Land is perhaps the most popular, Wilson said.

“We utilize docents from the New Mexico Historical Society and the deputy historian of New Mexico talking about the history of the land, history of the rail line, the geology of the area,” he said. “They’re all very knowledgeable and great partners.”

The Sunset Serenade also is a popular excursion centering around one of the New Mexico’s extraordinary dusks.

“We’re going to do our best to guarantee a tremendous sunset with amazing live music. We’re using local artists so (we’re) getting them back to work,” Wilson said. “We have hand-crafted specially-crafted cocktails designed just for us that guests enjoy and it’s a way to get out and do something a little different if you’re visiting or even if you’re local.”

Live, local musical artists are part of the lure of the Sky Railway that runs from Santa Fe to Lamy and back. (Courtesy of Sky Railway)

The Exodus Experience is a rolling theatrical experience brought together by Santa Fe’s The Exodus Ensemble.

“They created 17 sketches especially for us,” Wilson said. “Think ‘Saturday Night Live’ crossed with ‘The Twilight Zone.’ It’s not something that’s ever been done before.”

In the development stages, the Murder on the Lamy Line is scheduled to make its debut in April and will feature a mysterious death for visitors to solve.

“We have a really quirky company that just created a unique library of very fun, comedic, fast-paced whodunits,” Wilson said. “Two people play a variety of characters and really involve the audience, giving them parts in the show. It’s not really a Sherlock Holmes-type of murder, but more of a comedic take on a certain theme. For instance, one of their first ones is called ‘The Offing of Ferris Bueller.’ ”

And what would a themed train ride in New Mexico be without the threat of a train robbery?

That’s the thinking behind the Wild West Express scheduled to begin in May.

“We tell our guests that when they get on they could be transported back in time. We tell them that the area between Santa Fe and Lamy can be like the Bermuda Triangle and strange things can happen out here in this part of the desert,” Wilson said.

“The train finds itself back in the 1870s and when outlaw gangs might be riding and there might be a train robbery, messing with dynamite and small explosions and super cowboy stunts to bring the old Wild West back to life.”

The fun continues in Lamy, “where there be a bar fight, a bank robbery heist,” he said. “We tie in the type of action that happens in Lamy and really involve and engage the audience. And we have a barbecue while watching it all.”

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