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The Ozark Trails, New Mexico — Railroad Mountain Road

In 1926, U.S. 66 snapped up much of the Ozark Trails network in New Mexico, including the Northern Route from Clovis to El Paso.

This segment morphed into U.S. 366, the Mother Road’s third — and nearly orphaned — child.

Never a strong contender, 366 was decommissioned in 1937, with the stretch between Clovis and Roswell re-designated as a link of U.S. 70, a transcontinental highway connecting North Carolina to Los Angeles.

Constantly upgraded over the years, only a few segments of the historic Ozark Trails/U.S. 366 corridor remain.

Railroad Mountain Road

South of Portales, at the tiny community of Kenna (pop. 14), begins a rare and unaltered stretch of the original Ozark Trails.

Named for an igneous dike that looks like a railroad bed, the highway opened in 1921 as the “new route” between Kenna and Roswell.

Roswell road boosters boasted it would “reduce the running time and do away with much of the winding” of the earlier highway, NM 18.

Between 1926 and 1940, Ola and Will McCombs ran a two-pump gas station along the road at Lone Wolf. No other services existed.

When the road was upgraded into U.S. 70 it bypassed Railroad Mountain Road altogether.

Today, only a lone Federal Aid Project marker and a dozen concrete culverts prove this cow trail once carried a U.S. highway.

Railroad Mountain Road is a bumpy, dusty ride across wide-open cattle country, and 23 miles of gloriously unaltered ca. 1920s highway.

The Midway Service Station, Kenna

In the late afternoon of June 11, 2000, a freight train rumbled down the tracks of the AT&SF towards Kenna.

Two miles west of town, one of the older engines started spitting sparks, igniting wide swaths of dry grassland into swelling fires.

Fire departments from surrounding communities and faraway Roswell rushed to the scene. But before they arrived, the fire had crawled across tiny Kenna, burning almost all that remained of its early homestead boom days.

One building, built of brick, survived the inferno.

Incorporating an earlier homestead-era bank, the Midway Service Station, with its attractive brick design, opened in 1938 offering a full line of Phillips products, café fountain service and “Certified Rest Rooms.” For years, the gas station boasted the longest service canopy in New Mexico.

The Midway no longer pumps gas, but it is Kenna’s only business, serving as store, community center and post office.

Stop by, grab a soda, talk to postmistress Maurene Howard about Kenna’s past — and if you can, try to decipher the old ghost sign across its rear.

Copyright © 2006