By Don McAlavy: Local columnist
It has been a long time since I was in Phil Williams’ “Clovis Depot Model Train Museum.”
The old Clovis Santa Fe Passenger Depot now houses Phil’s museum which has been restored. Phil’s museum, to be exact, is at 221 West First St. in Clovis, south of U.S. 60/80 on the BNSF Railroad.
You can’t miss it! Don’t miss it!
On July 17, 1995, Phil Williams and his wife bought the old depot. The depot was restored to its condition in the 1950-1960 era and has displays of historic documents and pictures covering its use since it was built.
A special feature is an operating telegraph station. Artifacts of railroad significance are constantly being added to Phil’s collection.
In May of 1996 the depot was included on the National Register of Historic Places.
The history of the Clovis depot is splendid as Phil Williams relates how the depot and the railroad came about.
At the turn of the century, in 1900, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway was looking for a new route over the mountains of New Mexico. It built a bypass from Belen to Texico, and used existing lines to rejoin it’s mainline in Kansas. The AT&SF built the depot in 1907 and also established the township of Clovis.
The depot served as the division point offices, the passenger station and as a boarding facility for train crews between work assignments. As rail traffic increased, the Harvey House and administration buildings were built to compliment the major yard and engine service facilities.
The Clovis subdivision was the last on the Santa Fe to use steam, and selection of the 50s period for restoration highlights the transition from steam to diesel on the Santa Fe.
Today, the Belen Cutoff is one of the BNSF’s busiest lines and some 75-100 trains pass through Clovis each day.
Phil Williams’ model train museum provides seven working model train layouts, displays toy trains from the United States and Great Britain. The model train museum features railroad memorabilia and historical displays of the development of the railroad in Australia, Great Britain and the American Southwest.
The museum also enables close up viewing of the BNSF Railway along one of the busiest rail lines in the United States.
One of the latest addition to Phil’s displays is an HO scale model railroad depicting the Clovis yard and passenger facilities as well as the city of Clovis in the 1950-60 era. The model trains running on a layout span the history of railroad operations here in Clovis from 1907 to the present.
A reference library on the Santa Fe Railway, especially Clovis and the Belen Cutoff, has been stocked with books, pictures and videos. The library also includes material from Great Britain and Australia, railroads in general, model trains, and toy trains.
Real train operations can be viewed from the platform and from the Dispatcher’s position in the Depot.
The railroad’s communications can be heard over the P. A. system.
Phil’s gift shop in the model train depot provides model railroad hobby supplies, train related gifts and books as well as New Mexico souvenirs.
Phil will tell you that he and his wife sponsor a model railroad club and they are always looking for new members. Phil and his wife Vernah, are a family-run business and not associated with the BNSF.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: email@example.com