Tucumcari was originally a railroad construction camp, called Ragtown, for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. The town name was changed to Tucumcari in 1908 – taking the name of Tucumcari Mountain, a regional landmark. It became a ranching center because of the railroad lines coming into the town. When the famous Route 66 was built, Tucumcari became famous as a stopping point largely because of their billboard advertisements that proclaimed, “Tucumcari Tonight.” The building of the Interstate System and I40 has caused the decline in tourism as it is easy to whiz past Tucumcari on the highway. It is worth a stop.
The Tucumcari Historical Museum and Research Center is housed in a three-story brick building dating from 1903 that originally served as the town’s first public school. The museum and research center occupy an entire city block with several buildings and various vehicles. The grounds are landscaped with native plants, and you will find many vehicles, including a caboose, a F100 Vietnam-era jet, a chuck wagon, a doctor’s buggy, and an adobe horno where bread is baked twice a year.
The museum is chock-a-block with artifacts from all over Quay County, including rocks, fossils, and archaeological finds, ranching and farm items, an old moonshine still, and an iron lung. There is also an exhibit about Route 66 and its Tucumcari/Quay County history.
Address: 416 South Adams Street, Tucumcari, NM 88401
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $2.50; children 6 to 15, $0.75.
New Mexico Route 66 Museum
Tucumcari is also home to an emerging museum devoted to Route 66 and its history and association with Tucumcari and New Mexico. The Museum is located in the back of the parking lot for the Tucumcari Convention Center. The exhibits include vintage cars, gas pumps, neon signs, and photographs.