Rail Trail brochure highlights Hub City’s railroad history

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Henry Rau is using the tools at his disposal to encourage visitors to stop in the Land of Enchantment — especially in the Hub City.

Rau created The New Mexico Rail Trail brochure, which is available in visitor’s centers and chamber of commerce office’s throughout the state.

News-Bulletin file photo: Belen, also known as the Hub City, has a long railroad history.

“I’m trying to do what little I can to put Belen on the map,” said Rau, a railroad enthusiast.

The hope is that this brochure will encourage visitors to stop at railroad-related areas in the city and state.

But the brochure is designed to appeal to more than railroad fans. One portion of the brochure contains railroad related information about movies filmed in or around New Mexico.

A second portion outlines a seven-day, self-guided tour visitors could take without using a car. The tour utilizes passenger trains, such as the Amtrak and the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, to transport tourists to destinations such as Belen, Gallup, Santa Fe and Lamy.

Another portion of the brochure highlights areas where visitors can learn about the state’s railroad history.

Over the past 10 years, Rau has watched as businesses and residents have packed up and left Belen, so he combined his skills, knowledge and interests to counteract that, he said.

“My feeling is that if people do nothing, Belen could slowly die and that would be a shame,” he said. “So many small towns have died. I’m trying to do what little I can, with limited resources, to help the town become vibrant and successful.”

On top of that, Rau has learned from individuals he’s met on trips that most folks either pass straight through New Mexico or stop just for a bite to eat.

Trains play a large part in the American economy and have an impressive story to tell, especially in New Mexico, he said.

“In general, people don’t realize or appreciate how important (trains) are and have been for 150 years, especially here in New Mexico,” he said. “Until trains arrived in New Mexico, it was really hard to get here … The Santa Fe Railroad opened up the state to travel for people back East.”

As avid sightseers, Rau and his wife collect brochures from their trips throughout the world. During a trip through West Virginia, Rau came across a brochure with detailed information about trains in West Virginia.

Later, he stumbled across the New Mexico Wine Trail outlining wineries and vineyards in New Mexico. This made Rau think about how there isn’t one place where railroad fans can gather such information about trains in New Mexico.

“A combination of seeing a brochure like (the West Virginia one) and seeing the New Mexico Wine Trail is what led me to create this, that highlights different railroad related things in New Mexico,” Rau said.

The brochure was funded through a $3,500 Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway grant. The project was completed in conjunction with Belen Main Street Partnership, which Rau is the treasurer.

Along with the Rail Trail brochure, Rau created a Walking Tour for Belen brochure and a Rail Fan Guide to Belen brochure, which highlights public locations throughout the Hub City visitors can watch trains pass by.

Rau also finished putting together a 10-minute slide show introducing visitors to the Harvey House Museum’s history before they embark through the exhibits in the two-story building.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.