The town of Steins, New Mexico sprouted in 1888, and its post office discontinued in 1944. The town was built along the Southern Pacific Railroad. Railroad workers mined rock for the roadbeds in the area. With no natural resources, water was brought in by the train. Steins (pronounced “steens”) had a population that peaked at about 1300 people. Its survival into the 1940’s was due to its importance as a railroad station on the Southern Pacific line. The boom years lasted until trains switched from steam to diesel. In about 1945, Steins became a ghost town and slowly dissolved back into the desert wasteland.
Steins was first called Doubtful Canyon since it was under a constant threat of Indian attacks. Captain Enoch Stein, a US Army officer, participated in the Apache Wars. He was killed in the area and Steins Pass was named for him. Later, gold and other minerals were discovered and the town of Doubtful Canyon was born. The current site of Steins is actually a few miles east of the original boom town of Doubtful Canyon.
A few years ago, Steins was open to the public and tourists could get a real taste of what an old railroad ghost town was like. The owners told guests that many of the former residents simply packed up what they could load in a vehicle or take on the train when the town of Steins folded up. The railroad offered the townsfolk free transport down the line with what they could carry. Most of the residents accepted this offer and left their homes and many of their personal possessions behind. In a short time, Steins was completely abandoned. Many of the items now displayed in the old homes and shops were the items left behind.
Part of old Steins burned down, but a large section remains. You can find about a dozen buildings and a few decaying adobe structures. Fans of ghost towns rate Steins as one of the better ghost towns in the area. It is an unusual ghost town of the West considering it was a railroad town and not a mining town. Nearby, on the other side of I-10, is an old cemetery where a few old and weathered tombstone markers tell the story of the dearly departed citizens of Steins.
On the outskirts of Steins you will notice a rock bluff from which tons of rock were blasted to make the roadbed for the railway. There were about one thousand Chinese rail workers living at the foot of the mountain at “Old Steins.”
These days it looks as though Steins has again returned to its ghost town status. A fence has been erected around the tourist attraction plastered with no trespassing signs. Semi-trucks park there for the night. The town itself is literally a few hundred feet north of the interstate, and most vehicles don’t even notice the site as they fly past on the highway. You can still get some excellent shots of the ghost town by filming form the parking lot side of the fence.
Although Steins and its inhabitants are long gone, the Southern Pacific locomotives speed past the ghost town many times a day. They still blow the whistle to remind the Steins residents of the past that the train is rolling through, and for just a moment, the town comes alive once again.
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If you go:
Steins is 19 miles west of Lordsburg, NM, 140 miles west of Las Cruces, NM, 1 Steins is 19 miles west of Lordsburg, NM, 140 miles west of Las Cruces, NM, 135 miles east of Tucson, AZ and 90 miles east of Benson, AZ.
Exit I-10 at exit 3, just east of the Arizona-New Mexico border, and follow the signs to Steins. Please respect the no trespassing signs.
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