Love Along the Santa Fe series By Tracie Peterson
Whenever I start thinking about a new series to write, I consider the type of stories I want to tell. Generally, I land on intrigue romance in a historical setting.
The historical setting for me has always been a huge favorite and for this series, I could also add a love of trains that I’ve had since I was a little girl. My grandfather and other family members worked for the Santa Fe Railroad and from time to time we went to the depot to pick up friends or family members who had traveled by rail. I loved the sounds and smells of the train platform. I loved watching those big beasts come down the track.
As I began to plot my three-book series, Love On the Santa Fe, I considered all that I learned about the Rio Grande Division of the Santa Fe Railroad in New Mexico. Affectionately called, The Horny Toad line for all those toads making themselves at home along the rails, this area of the Santa Fe was known as the hardest and most difficult across the country. If they wanted to train someone in a special way to be able to deal with just about any problem they might encounter on the rails, they sent them to San Marcial, NM where the line was headquartered. If you could make it on the Horny Toad line – you could make it anywhere.
San Marcial is now a ghost town, but at one time it was a thriving city of over 3,000 people. The city came in two parts. There was New Town planted right along the Rio Grande River south of Albuquerque and Old Town that sat overlooking New Town from the hillside. Old Town had the right idea, because the Rio Grande was notorious for flooding and that was what eventually killed off San Marcial. But while it was thriving, San Marcial had shops for the train repairs, a roundhouse, division headquarters and a great many workers and their families.
They also had a Harvey House which was the famous restaurant created by Fred Harvey for the Santa Fe Railroad. Fred Harvey had in mind that with the Harvey House you could get the same exact food anywhere along the line. He even had train cars take the same water to each Harvey House so that the coffee would always taste the same. He believed there was great comfort in knowing what you were going to get. Today we see that same thought in McDonalds and other fast-food eateries along the Interstates. But the Harvey House was the first. For railroad workers, these creature comforts weren’t often used. It was expensive to eat out, just as it is now. It was also discouraged at busy times because the train customers were always to come first.
Another thing I found as I dug into the research was that railroad workers had a language all their own. There were a great many words used to cover their daily routine. Hoggers or Hogheads were engineers since those big locomotive engines were called hogs. A hobo who rode on top of the freighters might be called “an open air navigator”, while an office worker was a “paper weight” and a flagman was a “rag waver”. You can check out the lingo yourself at: http://www.catskillarchive.com/rrextra/glossry1.Html.
1929 was the year floods completely destroyed San Marcial. Knowing the river was rising, the Santa Fe got out as much equipment, engines and train cars as was possible. They also loaded up the folks of the town and took them north to safety. Of course, there were always those who refused to go. In August the first of two devastating floods hit San Marcial. People were actually stranded at the Harvey house (one of the only two-story buildings in town) and sat on the roof of the porch awaiting rescue. A young man named Felix Barreras had a horse named Chapo who was famous for his powerful swimming. Felix spent several hours taking people from the porch roof to safety on higher ground using Chapo to carry them. It was just one of those “right place at the right time” kind of things and the folks were ever so grateful to the brave young man and his faithful horse. Those are the fun kind of details I like to throw into stories. I used this particular situation in my novella with Bethany House Publishers titled Flood of Love, which is carried in the collection, Serving Up Love. There was so much research and fun facts left over after this project that I decided to write the Love On the Santa Fe series.
The town was barely starting to recover the August flood when in September another one hit with even more devastation. The town was pretty much doomed after that and Santa Fe moved all their work to Albuquerque and other areas nearby. Today San Marcial is no more, but the stories of it live on. I hope that my readers will enjoy this little town, the Santa Fe Railroad and the stories I created.
Here’s a quick look at Tracie’s latest release BEYOND THE DESERT SANDS:
Accustomed to an opulent life with her aunt, the last thing twenty-five-year-old Isabella Garcia wants is to celebrate Christmas in her parents’ small silver-mining desert town, leaving her handsome beau, Diego Morales, behind in California. Adding insult to injury, she must bear the company of Aaron Bailey, the disapproving Santa Fe Railroad businessman her father has sent to escort her home, who clearly finds her spoiled.
But she is surprised to see how much the town of Silver Veil has grown and how fragile her father’s health has become. Then a surprise visitor shows up with news that entirely upends the comfortable life she’s been leading.
Faced with all these changes, Isabella struggles to sort through her future and who she wants to be. But trouble is brewing, and there are those who hope she stays just as she is, even if it costs her everything.