New Mexico

Colmor is an abandoned railroad town between Colfax and Mora counties. One road leads to the former community from the highway, and on that road is a single sign—sort of. On one side of the sun-bleached metal is a birdshot-ridden warning that the reader is entering private property. On the other side is an ad for the Brown Hotel in nearby Springer, where Colmorians would collect their mail. I like to think the hotel catered to ghost town enthusiasts, and I may be right.

The personality of the town was established early. Three years after its founding, the Springer newspaper ran the following summary: “July 3, 1890: Colmor is a small town on the southern line of the county; has stores, and is a nice little town. It draws its trade from surrounded ranches.” It was the kind of town you could call small twice without it being conspicuous, a town that clung to the steel tracks like a magnet.

An abandoned ranch on the east side of the tracks. This was not the Colmor Cutoff they were waiting for.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway preceded settlers by eight years and routinely mused publicly about building a mainline track through the town, called the Colmor Cutoff. The route was meant to be a passenger diversion that avoids the famous Raton Pass, which is a steep route that peaks at a tunnel immediately upon the New Mexico-Colorado border. The Belen Cutoff, completed in 1909, helped ease the load on the Raton Pass, but interest in a Colmor Cutoff resurfaced in the 1920s after a 1925 agriculture report that suggested the area had great potential.

In 1929, construction began on the Colmor Cutoff, but only 26 of the 58 miles were complete by the time the Great Depression brought the project to heel in 1931. World War II pulled America out of the Depression, but there was no wartime need for a passenger diversion through mostly rough and unsettled land. The tracks were pulled and reallocated to more important projects in 1942 and the Colmor Cutoff was never revisited.

It must have been difficult for the town, anticipating for decades that it may become a key stop on a major transcontinental rail line. Such a decision by Santa Fe would transform the town overnight. Instead, however, changes came slowly.

For 20 years, this served as the public library. According to blogger, this has been moved to Springer.

The local literary club bought a box car in 1928 for use as a public library, seemingly the only bit of news from the town to be broadcast from coast to coast. The boxcar library was not the only city building; there was also a public school building since at least 1910 that served all grades. On March 4th, 1919, the first school caught fire and, having no fire station, the townsfolk had to watch it burn. That August, construction began on a new brick and stone building, valued at $13,000. It was the largest structure in town, and it is now the largest ruin. The library served Colmor for about 20 years, and it has recently been moved to Springer, NM.

Colmor’s abandonment was quiet, like a shallow well in a drought. In 1956, a highway was built between Springer and Wagon Mound, but it bypassed Colmor, guaranteeing it would become a ghost town. A dozen other bloggers say that there was a local post office in Colmor until 1969, but that is simply not the case. 1969 is when the last resident of Colmor stopped receiving mail, either because they moved or died. Having some experience with ‘last residents’, I assume the latter.

If you choose to visit Colmor, I have two bits of advice and a request. First, watch out for rattlesnakes, which love to spend the day under the walls and floors of the abandoned houses and Santa Fe depot. Second, close the gate behind you, or you may seriously piss off the rancher that owns the land the town is on. The second time I had a gun pointed at my head was when I was photographing a nuclear missile base in the middle of a ranch after I made that rude move. Finally, I hope if you visit that you treat the town site with respect. It has stories to tell, as all ghost towns do, but it needs the help.

The main street of the ghost town is also the maintenance road for the BNSF line that bisects Colmor.