It’s one of the most relaxing, affordable and memorable ways to get to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

And thanks to a new federal grant, the Amtrak Southwest Chief will continue transporting Scouts to Philmont for the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday, the Department of Transportation announced a $16 million grant to replace segments of aging rail line on which Amtrak’s Southwest Chief operates. That money will be combined with millions of dollars in state and corporate investments to make the necessary fixes.

That means Scouts along the route, which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, can continue traveling to Philmont in style.

The Southwest Chief line runs from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Philmont and the train

Train travel has been part of the Philmont experience since the start. In 1941, Scouts visiting what was then called Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp were told that the railroad was “the best method for travel as it provides for greater personal comfort.”

These days, 80 percent of Philmont’s 22,000 summer visitors arrive by car or bus or plane. But the other 20 percent — about 4,400 Scouts and Scouters — choose the train.

Those traveling to Philmont make up half the boardings and exits at the Amtrak station in Raton. From Raton, it’s about an hourlong bus ride to Philmont’s gates.

Scouts ride the Amtrak train to Raton, N.M. Photo by Kaitlyn Chaballa.

The impact on New Mexico

All those Scouts and Scouters need to eat and buy souvenirs. They might choose to stay a night or two at a hotel or campground in New Mexico.

When they do, they benefit the local economy, which is a big reason the grant was awarded.

“Every summer, the Southwest Chief transports thousands of Boy Scouts from across the country to Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, generating economic activity for businesses in these rural areas along the way,” said U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

Photo by Kaitlyn Chaballa

Share your memories

Have you ridden the train to Philmont? What was your experience like? Sound off in the comments, if you please.

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