Over one hundred years ago, in June of 1899, a plat of the proposed “Place of Cloudcroft” was filed and things quickly began to happen. Actually, things began to happen in June of the year before, when the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad – organized by the Eddy brothers, Charles Bishop and John Arthur, and ably assisted by their attorney, William Ashton Hawkins – arrived in the newly founded town of Alamogordo, with plans to continue northward to the mining town of White Oaks and beyond. They realized the need for timber and railroad ties, and began eyeing the nearby Sacramento Mountains as a possible source. A survey crew was sent into the area to determine the feasibility of laying a railroad line up to the summit. In the fall of 1898, a report was given that such a line was not only possible, but the beauty of the region could attract visitors from a wide territory, and the name of “Cloudcroft” – a pasture for the clouds – was suggested. The report was accepted and work on the line soon began.
By the end of 1898, the line had been extended as far as Toboggan Canyon, and construction was started on a “Pavilion” at the summit, which would provide accommodations for the anticipated tourists, once the line was completed. It consisted of a dining room, kitchen, parlor, entertainment hall, and 40 tents, set on wooden platforms, for guest sleeping. In June of 1899, the Pavilion was formally opened by John Arthur Eddy and tourists, who rode the train as far as Toboggan and finished the trip by stagecoach. They were royally entertained on their arrival. Glowing reports of the new resort of Cloudcroft were in El Paso and other area newspapers, and people began to flock to the mountains. The Pavilion burned twice in the 1920s, but was rebuilt each time to conform to original plans.
The railroad line finally arrived in Cloudcroft in early 1900 and construction of a depot was begun. It was located about 250 feet west of the Pavilion. The building was occupied in June of 1900, and “meeting the train” became a daily festivity in the Village. In the beginning, three trains a day arrived in Cloudcroft, some to haul logs down the mountain and others to carry mail and passengers. Because of competition from the increased use of automobiles and trucks, the line began losing money. The last passenger train climbed the mountain in 1938, and the last freight train went down the hill in 1947.
Cloudcroft hasn’t changed much over the years. There are more summer homes than before, but the permanent population has not grown substantially, and the Village still maintains a small-town atmosphere that is so appealing to the tourists who come from every state in the Union and many foreign countries. They appreciate the attitude of the locals and the laid-back feeling of the community as contrasted to the high-speed life in the big cities.
For more historical information about Cloudcroft and the Sacramento Mountains, please visit the Sacramento Mountains Museum www.cloudcroftmuseum.com and Pioneer Village in Cloudcroft, on Highway 82, across from the Chamber of Commerce.