Steins - A Railroad Ghost Town
This old railroad and mining town south of the Peloncillo Mountain Range,
got its start as a small stop on the Birch Stage Line in 1857. A year
later, Birch was replaced by the Butterfield Overland Stage Company, who
continued to use the station. At that time, it was called Doubtful Canyon,
for the nearby pass by the same name, called such because of the constant
Indian attacks. In 1873, another such skirmish occurred in the canyon
Indians and the cavalry led by Captain Enoch Steins, who was killed in
the attack. Afterwards, it was called Steins Pass.
When rich mineral deposits of gold,
silver, lead and copper were found several years later, in the
Peloncillo Mountains north of the pass, the area began to crawl with
Called the Kimball Mining District, a number of mining
camps, with names like Kimball, Pocahontas, and Beck, sprang up along
the base of the Peloncillo Range.
In 1878, the Southern Pacific Railroad began to blast away at the rock
bluffs of the area, developing a quarry and taking away tons of rock
for a new railroad bed. During this time, some 1,000 Chinese railroad
workers lived at the foot of Steins Peak.
Welcome to Steins Ghost Town, photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2014.
Available for Prints and Downloads
By 1880, the railway was complete through the area and the railroad
stabled a station at Steins Pass. In 1888, a post office, called
Doubtful Canyon, was established on the main wagon road to serve the
mining camps. For more than a decade, the area was dotted with little
more than ramshackle cabins and prospector tents, though Beck’s Camp
sported a store and a hotel, with buckboard service to the Southern
On December 9, 1897, the mining camps were bursting with excitement
when the Southern Pacific Sunset Limited was held up at Steins Pass by
the Black Jack Ketchum Gang. In the robbery attempt a trainman named
Edward Cullen was killed, and the bandits were able to escape;
however, they made off with no money.
In 1902, the Doubtful Canyon had only 35 registered voters, but sported a
schoolhouse for the children. A few years later, the Southern Pacific
Railroad built a new station a few miles east of the older one and the
town of Steins grew up around it. Soon, the Doubtful Canyon Post
Office was transferred to the new "town.” By 1905, the settlement
boasted about 100 people, a mercantile store, a restaurant, and a
saloon. Acting as a headquarters for a few of the mining companies,
the town grew to about 200 people, most of who worked in the nearby
mines or in the rock quarry.
However, it is estimated, at its high
point in 1919, the surrounding area supported more than 1,000
residents. By this time, the town also had a boarding house, two
bordellos, a dance hall, more stores, two more saloons, and a hotel.
But, for those early pioneers, life was tough in the desert region, as
there was no source of water and had to be brought into the area on
the train, selling as high as $1.00 per barrel.
But, for Steins (pronounced 'steens'), prosperity would be
short lived. In 1925, the rock quarry closed putting dozens of men out
of work and at the end of World War II, the Southern Pacific Railroad
discontinued its stop in Steins, giving the town notice that it would
no longer deliver water and the station would be closed.
Spelling certain death for the town,
the railway offered the residents free transportation to wherever
they might like to go and the vast majority of its inhabitants
took the offer, leaving many of their possessions behind. In time
Steins was completely abandoned. The post office was discontinued
in 1944. In 1964 a fire destroyed many of the historic deserted
Around 1976, a man by the name of
Warren Garrison says he took on the task to "rebuild" Steins,
after his parents purchased the land. About his experience in the
1970's Garrison wrote 'I remember the very first morning I
stayed there, a man came up and sat down in the window. "Good
morning, how you doing?" and I was just waking up. "So what's
going on, what are you doing here?" I said, "well I've always
wanted to do something here and I guess this is it". He kind of
laughed and gave me $5 and said he'd check on me again some day
when he passed through again and left. That was the first bit of
encouragement that I got from anyone. During that first night a
rattler had crawled into the room and my little dog Spooky had
barked and tipped me off, kinda scary but I got up and I do
remember having a flashlight so I got it and put it in a big
barrel that was there at Steins.'
Garrison says during the next 13 years
he worked many days at nearby
Shakespeare for Manny and Janaloo Hough in order to get money
to support his renovation project, building a following for the
Ghost Town along the way. He tells us that after a while he
had three to four hundred visitors a week coming in to experience
the "Old West" realism he had created.
Warren Garrison with, we presume, his
dog Spooky, in Steins, NM in the mid to late 1970s.
Photo courtesy Warren Garrison.
Mercantile, Kathy Weiser, February, 2008. Available for Prints and
1988 Garrison decided to sell the place to Larry and Linda Link,
and says since then the Link's managed to write him out of Steins
history. Indeed, while researching this article, some describe
Garrison not by name, but only as "a mysterious fellow who lived
there alone". Regardless of the feud between Garrison and the
Links, Steins continued to host tourists until the Links retired in 2008,
continued tours by appointment for another few years.
of 2011, Larry Link was murdered, a crime that as of this writing,
is still unsolved.
Link was shot five times by an unknown assailant who left an
untraceable gun behind. Police think it was a break in gone
wrong that potentially involved drug cartels, but Pamela Link,
Larry's daughter, told
ABC Television affiliate KVIA in May of 2015 she thinks it was
someone local who knew him.
In June of 2013 family members
announced they would no longer open the ghost town to the public
on a regular basis. We've also seen other websites indicate they
could not reach the Link's to book a tour, although Steins website
is still active.
What’s left of the community includes
several adobe ruins and about ten restored buildings, including a
tack shop, a community kitchen, and "Girdie’s Garter.” Nearby is
an old cemetery that is dotted with a few worn and weathered
Though its many residents are gone, the Southern Pacific
locomotives still make their way past the town daily, whistling
away to remind the coyotes and its two residents of a more
Steins is 19 miles west of Lordsburg,
New Mexico, just off I-10 at Exit #3, just east of the
of America, updated June, 2015 with edits on Garrison by Dave
More information see:
Stein's Railroad Ghost Town Official Site
Black Jack Ketchum
The Railroad in the American West
Towns of New Mexico
New Mexico Ghost Towns Photo Print Gallery
Much of Steins has been reduced to
ruins today, Kathy Weiser, February, 2008. Available for Prints
Steins town site, Kathy Weiser,
February, 2008. Available for Prints and Downloads
Warren Garrison along
with an unidentified Professor from New Mexico State University and his
girl friend during Garrison's time at Steins. Photo provided by
From Legends' General Store
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