Amtrak’s Sunset Limited currently runs just three days a week between New Orleans, LA and Los Angeles, CA. There continues to be a lot of interest in making this a daily train, and I hope that happens soon.
The Sunset Limited stops at 22 cities and towns. These are listed below, with stops having a station building and waiting room shown in bold.
New Orleans, LA
New Iberia, LA
Lake Charles, LA
San Antonio, TX
Del Rio, TX
El Paso, TX
Palm Springs, CA
Los Angeles, CA
As you can see, the Sunset Limited makes only two stops in the great state of New Mexico, and both of them are small towns (Deming 14K, Lordsburg 2.4K) without a station building.
Las Cruces, home of New Mexico State University, is by far the largest city in southern New Mexico, with a population of 103K and a metro area of 218K. It is not served by passenger rail.
Currently, if you want to utilize the Sunset Limited from Las Cruces, you need to board a Greyhound bus in Las Cruces at 1:20 a.m., and after you arrive at the Greyhound station in El Paso at 2:30 a.m., you need to take a cab or walk 0.4 miles in the middle of the night to the Amtrak station where you’ll have to wait until 1:22 p.m. to catch the westbound train or 3:10 p.m. to catch the eastbound train. Or later, if the train is not on time.
Returning to Las Cruces from El Paso involves arriving by train westbound at 1:22 p.m. or eastbound at 3:10 p.m., taking a cab or walking the 0.4 miles to the Greyhound station, and then waiting for the 3:25 a.m. bus to Las Cruces, where you will arrive at 4:30 a.m.
How’s that for convenience?
Would it be possible for the Sunset Limited to make a stop at Las Cruces between El Paso and Deming? Yes, but…
In order for the Sunset Limited to make a stop in Las Cruces without building a new rail line, it would have have to leave Union Pacific track and take BNSF track to Las Cruces, then on to Rincon, where it would take Southwestern Railroad track through Hatch and down to Deming where it would rejoin the Union Pacific track, adding 41 miles and some additional time to the trip both eastbound and westbound.
Other option would be to connect Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to the Sunset Limited by adding a new passenger route between Albuquerque and El Paso, with stops in Socorro and Las Cruces along the way. The rail between Albuquerque and Belen is owned by NMRX, and between Belen and El Paso by BNSF. Alternatively, the new passenger route could run entirely on BNSP track if you took the Rail Runner Express from Albuquerque to Belen with the new passenger route running between Belen and El Paso.
Yet another option would be to add a short passenger route like Rail Runner between Las Cruces and El Paso along 42 miles of BNSF track.
The best non-rail option would be to have a dedicated Amtrak thruway bus between Las Cruces and El Paso that would be in sync with the Sunset Limited train schedule and take you directly to and from the Amtrak station in El Paso. (The wonderful Van Galder bus service that runs multiple times per day between Madison, Janesville, South Beloit, Rockford, and Chicago serves as an excellent model as to what can be done by a well-run bus company.)
Finally, a shuttle between Las Cruces and El Paso in sync with the Sunset Limited train schedule could be offered, similar to the RoadRunneR shuttle that runs between Lamy and Santa Fe for the Southwest Chief stop at Lamy.
4 thoughts on “Amtrak’s Sunset Limited and Las Cruces”
1. Does the Sunset Ltd have an organization, similar to the advocacy group for the Southwest Chief?
2 Lordsburg; how did it become an Amtrak stop. Does it generate sufficient ridership to so continue?
Rail Passengers Association (RPA) is currently the only group I am aware of advocating for the Sunset Limited, and the primary effort has been to push going to daily service instead of the thrice weekly service that exists currently. Bruce Ashton in Texas seems to be the currently leader of these efforts, though I also see that Chuck Larrabee in New Mexico and Roger Clark
& Michael R. Garey in Arizona are also on the RPA Council of Representatives.
The most recent New Mexico fact sheet from Amtrak shows that in FY 2019, only 624 passengers got on and off the train in Lordsburg, and 1,295 at Deming. Compare that to 14,362 at El Paso and 25,695 at Tucson. Going to daily service would substantially raise all those numbers, and providing a stop and station in Las Cruces would substantially increase ridership as well.
Another problem with the Lordsburg and Deming stops: there is no place to rent a car after you get off the train! Think that might have something to do with the low ridership?
I think the only reason Lordsburg is a stop at all is because in times past it was a major railroad town and a crew change point about halfway between El Paso and Tucson.
I travel to New Orleans at least twice a year. I live in Las Cruces. I have to take the bus to El Paso and have to walk to the station with all my luggage and hope to make it on time. The bus schedules and the train schedules are never in sync. One is always later than the other. It would be nice to offer a shuttle that coincides with the train.
Thanks for your comment, Norma. In the short term, an economical shuttle to and from Las Cruces and the El Paso Amtrak station aligned with the train schedule is needed, but the eventual goal should be to provide Amtrak service to Las Cruces. I have family living in Alpine, TX, and for our move down here a year ago from the Midwest, our first choice was Las Cruces, but since it has no Amtrak service, we opted for Tucson instead.