Sunday, January 05, 2014


Weather: More cool mornings and warm afternoons; last snow 12/22/2013.

What’s still green: Juniper and other evergreens, prickly pear; leaves on Apache plume, German iris, yuccas, garlic, hollyhocks, winecup mallow, Saint John’s wort, vinca, coral bells, cheat grass; rose stems green.

What’s red: Cholla, Oregon holly and coral beardtongue leaves.

What’s grey or blue: Four-winged saltbush, snow-in-summer, pinks, golden hairy aster leaves.

What’s yellow or brown: Arborvitae.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Small birds.

Weekly update: Foundations probably are one of the less obvious contributions the railroads made to local construction techniques.

Low adobe buildings, like the one above, could be built directly on the ground.

General knowledge of foundations, which existed in México, apparently was limited. Camilla Trujillo says that, when the south tower of the Santa Cruz church collapsed in 1999, they found the original foundations were sandstone like that used for the original sanctuary floor.

Railroads reintroduced stone foundations in much of the country. Steel rails were laid on wooden cross ties. In the early years, the ties were laid on beds of local soil. When those washed away or collapsed from the weight of the increasingly heavier freight cars, engineers studied the properties of rocks. Poorly constructed beds were replaced with harder rocks that could be carried over the rails from quarries opened by the roads.

When the first of the transcontinental roads was built in the 1860s, the Union Pacific used two crews. One built the bed, the other laid the tracks. They hired whoever they could, but mostly relied on Irish immigrants. Farther west, Chinese were used. After Congress limited Chinese migration in 1882, railroads recruited Mexicans in El Paso.

The construction crew was supplied daily by a train that traveled the freshly laid rails. It brought rails, ties, spikes, and food to the men, who lived in rail cars.

The grading crew lived in primitive conditions, camping on the land. It probably had a few highly skilled men with surveying skills who oversaw the cutting, filling, and, through the mountains, blasting. Most of the laborers executed their instructions with picks and shovels.

The Denver and Rio Grande was less well financed that other national roads. Camilla Trujillo has a photograph of the road in Velarde where the rails are covered with dirt, not rocks.

The Texas, Santa Fe and Northern, which continued the line from Española to Santa Fé, was even less well endowed. One picture she includes, does not have full ties. Instead, small pieces are laid under the rails, with no rock or dirt fill. In one from the 1920s the ties extend the width of the bed and are covered with dirt.

No doubt, both roads hired local men, especially for the less skilled bed work. Once the roads were completed, they hired local men to repair wash outs. The Velarde picture includes Luis Borrego and another man with shovels and picks doing maintenance.

Men repairing the roads already were using lentils above window and door openings. They would have observed the similar role played by ties on the ground that spread the weight of the trains. They also would have learned about the importance of stone underpinnings.

An adobe building in Chimayó has a wooden sill and frame for its second story.

An adobe building on the road to Angel Fire not only has a wooden beam supporting the second story,

but it also has a still log under the adobe wall built on uneven, moist terrain.

Stones bases began to be used, at least for freestanding walls. One near the Santa Cruz church has been battered several times.

When you look closely, you can see the original wall was adobe. Once it was stuccoed over, rocks and blocks were used for repairs

Farther along, the stucco does not quite reach the ground. You can see the base was stone.

Incidentally, the church tower didn’t collapse because of the stone. They built it over an existing well in 1867. Rising moisture escaped through the porous mud plaster, until they resurfaced the exterior with hard plaster and stucco in the 1950s. Then, moisture slowly built up inside.

They rebuilt it on a concrete base reinforced by rebar.

Cahill, Marie and Lynne Piade. The History of the Union Pacific (1989)

Trujillo, Camilla. Española (2011)

Photographs: Railroad pictures taken in Albuquerque; others taken over the past several years.

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