If you closed your eyes for a moment anywhere near the Railyard Park on Saturday, the bleat of train horns, the wafts of fresh bread, the murmur of strolling crowds might have led you to think you were somewhere in Europe.
The kaleidoscope of fruits, vegetables and flowers, not to mention the adults gliding leisurely on swings and children frolicking in playgrounds nearby, had felt more like Spain’s Barcelona than the Southwest.
Soon, though, came the toot of a Rail Runner train as it approached the place where it was to “kiss” a car from the Santa Fe Southern Railway during the grand opening of the Railyard Park — an event that could have happened only in Santa Fe.
The two trains met at the park in a symbolic blending of the old and the new shortly before the public was offered tours of both trains. A throng of onlookers snapped photos and video of the moment as Mayor David Coss appeared to be driving the SFSR car while it crept up to the Rail Runner.
The Rail Runner train was only in town for the ceremony, but by early December, it is expected to carry passengers from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and as far south as Belen. Of the 23 miles of new track that are needed for the extension to the Capitol City, just 4.5 remain to be done.
Although the train is primarily for commuters along the Rio Grande corridor, it drew visitors from out of state who were curious to check it out.
Margaret and Lloyd Cargill came from Monte Vista, Colo. to see the trains in the Railyard. They ended up liking the trains so much, they extended their trip by two days. “We decided to stay,” said Lloyd Cargill. “And I have just one complaint. It’s wicked good,” he said with a smile.
The Cargills, who wore a host of train buttons and patches on their fleece jackets and their striped Union Pacific hats, were among the roughly 3,000 visitors to the park.
Attendees were treated to dancers, singers, the burial of a time capsule and a place to record their memories of the park. Families at night were invited to watch cartoons as well as the Wizard of Oz at the outdoor Performance Green Stage, and some in the afternoon were already saving spaces with blankets on a nearby lawn.
Food included fresh garden delights from the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market as well as funnel cake and falafel sandwiches. More events are scheduled for today.
One mom was granted a little rest time as her two daughters played in one of several areas for children. One of her children checked out a spider web-ish climbing area while another looked at what seemed to be a round chair on a pole that a child sits in to spin around.
“I think it’s really great the way it is now and with the plants growing it will be even better,” Sally Gundrey said as she sought shade on a cement bench. “I think it will bring a lot of people together.”
Gundrey said she’ll be back next Saturday mornings for the Santa Fe Farmers Market. The market recently opened in its permanent home on the Railyard Park site after years of being set up in various parking lots around town.
The short plants Gundrey mentioned, which in turn mean little shade, at least for now, was about the only complaint visitors had about the park.
One other quibble came from Rusty Rutherford, also known as “Sombrero Man,” who fretted that area studio spaces might be too expensive for some local artists and collectors.
Rutherford, who collects
sombreros of all sizes and wore an outfit adorned with metal Mexican hats, said that overall he was thrilled with the park. “I think it took way too long to get done,” he said.
The park is still a work in progress, with slides still to be installed and other detail work to be done, but those who attended the festivities didn’t seem to mind.
Lawrence Rael, executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, which operates the Rail Runner, said the stop at the Railyard Park is the “hallmark stop” in the north for the train.
“This development is an example of the type of transportation-oriented development we’ve been talking about,” he said.
“It shows what we can do when we invest in our communities.”