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New Mexico \ U.S. Potash Company
Reference Data.
Corporate Ownership.
U.S. Potash Co.
1930 - 1974 (NG)

Mainline Length.
16 mi.

Last Updated: July 17, 2015

U.S. Potash Company.

P otash is one of three significant elements in agricultural fertilizer. While it can be made by burning wood, then precipitating it from the ashes (hence “Potash”) most of the world’s supply is mined. Until this discovery, most potash was imported, which lead to shortages and high prices during World War I. A significant potash deposit was found in 1925 Snowden & McSweeney Co. who were exploring for oil east of Carlsbad and instead found potash salts. They formed the United States Potash Company. Pacific Coast Borax joined with U.S. Potash, purchasing 50% of the company in 1929.

As part of the development, a 16 mile long 3’ gauge railroad was built in 1931, initially using rolling stock and rails from the recently abandoned Death Valley Railroad, owned by Pacific Coast Borax. Railroad operations and production at the refinery began in September 1932.

The mine and the railroad were a success, and in 1939, a third locomotive, no. 3, and 40 ton steel ore cars were purchased from Phelps Dodge’s Morenci operations. The increased weight of the new cars stressed the old 45 lb rail, and during WWII the railroad was rebuilt with used 100 lb rail purchased from the Santa Fe.

The railroad purchased its first diesel in 1948, eventually purchasing three 70 ton General Electric diesels.

The operation was shut down on November 10th 1967, but initially left in place. The railroad reopened for a brief period in April 1971, then shutdown for good. The railroad was scrapped in either 1972 or 1974.

Revised: July 11, 2015
Myrick, David F. (1990). New Mexico's Railroads – A Historical Survey – Revised Edition. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-1185-7.
Gordon Chappell, Legacy of the Death Valley Railroad, the United States Potash Railroad in New Mexico, Proceedings of the 8th Death Valley Conference, Jan/Feb 2008

Reference Material Available Online:

Equipment Rosters.

Equipment of the U.S. Potash Company.


Collected U.S. Potash Company Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.

New Mexico \ U.S. Potash Company
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