The Route 66 Auto Museum

Front sign - Route 66 Auto MuseumThe Route 66 Auto Museum celebrates the car culture that developed along Route 66. The highway originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending in Los Angeles, California. It ran for 2,448 miles.

Santa Rosa’s stretch of Route 66 is part of film history. When John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” was made into a movie, director John Ford set a train scene in Santa Rosa. Tom Joad (played by Henry Fonda) watches a freight train steam over the Pecos River railroad bridge, into the sunset.

Route 66 served as a major path for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive in the face of the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System.

Route 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985, after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway with the name “Historic Route 66.”

At the Santa Rosa Route 66 Auto Museum, you can see more than 30 vintage cars, including shiny classics from the 50s, as well as hot rods and chrome. The Museum museum opened in 1999, is run by James “Bozo” and Anita Cordova. It is attached to Bozo’s Garage where you can have a car restored or just have a car fixed. Route 66 memorabilia and signs cover the walls and the gift shop is a nostalgic treat.

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Address: 2766 Will Rogers Drive (Historic Route 66), Santa Rosa, NM 88435
Hours: April to October: Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m to 6 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
November to March: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,  Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $5


Lewis Antique Auto and Toy Museum

Lewis-Car-MuseumLocated along old Route 66, the Lewis Antique Auto and Toy Museum shows off Archie Lewis’ collection of cars, toys, trains – even old stoves that he has amassed over sixty years of collecting. He moved out to Moriarty from the East Mountains outside of Albuquerque a dozen years ago, so he would have the space to spread out. Inside his warehouse, there are about 30 restored antique cars and a vast array of toy cars, Lionel trains, and other toys. In the yard surrounding the warehouse, there are about 600 more, give or take, unrestored cars. You’ll see lots of Model A and Model T Fords and other old cars and trucks of every make and model. The museum is open most of the time and Archie Lewis is usually there to welcome visitors.

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Address: 905 U.S. Route 66 East, Moriarty, NM 87035
Phone: 505-832-6131
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 3 p.m.
Website: On Facebook
Admission: Donations appreciated.



The New Mexico Mining Museum

Grants began as a railroad camp in the 1880s, when three Canadian brothers won a contract to build a section of the new Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. The Grant brothers’ camp was first called Grants Camp, then Grants Station and finally Grants. The town prospered because of logging in the nearby Zuni Mountains: Timber from the mountains was shipped to Albuquerque, where it was milled and sold throughout the west.

After the decline of logging in the 1930s, Grants gained fame as the U.S. “carrot capital.” The creation of nearby Bluewater Reservoir, along with the area’s volcanic soils, provided ideal conditions for farming. Grants also benefited from its location on U.S. Route 66, which brought tourists – and the businesses that catered to them.

In 1950, Patricio (Paddy) Martinez, a Navajo shepherd and prospector, discovered uranium ore near Haystack Mesa. He sparked a mining boom that lasted until the 1980s. Uranium was an important commodity because of its nuclear properties. It is the only naturally occurring isotope that can be converted into plutonium in a nuclear reactor. Plutonium is used to power nuclear reactors to generate electricity – and also in nuclear weapons. The rapid growth of defense efforts during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union meant heightened demand for uranium during the 1950s and 60s. The collapse of mining by the early 1980s drove the town into a depression, but it has enjoyed a resurgence based on tourism and the area’s scenic beauty. Recent interest in nuclear power has revived the possibility of more uranium mining in the area, and energy companies still own viable mining properties and claims.

New Mexico Mining Museum - Grants

The New Mexico Mining Museum says it is the world’s only museum devoted to uranium mining. The museum is housed in the Grants Chamber of Commerce. UpstaNew Mexico Mining Museum - mining machineryirs you can view a collection of world minerals, ancient artifacts and an historical survey of Grants and Cibola County. An elevator takes you down to the underground mine exhibit. Former miners helped build the exhibit, which includes mining galleries, equipment, ore cars, a lunchroom and tunnels. Miners’ recorded voices talk about their lives underground and the effects of uranium mining.

Address: 100 North Iron Avenue, Grants, New Mexico
Phone:    505-287-4802 or 800-748-2142
Hours:  9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays and holidays.
Admission: Children Ages 0-6 FREE, Ages 7-18 $2.00, Ages 19-59 $3.00, Senior $2.00

Nearby, takes some time to visit El Malpais National Monument. The Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center is located in Grants and is a jumping off point for hiking, caving, and exploring the lava country of Northwestern New Mexico.

Tucumcari Historical Society and Research Center

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.

Tucumcari-MuseumThe 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
Phone:    575-461-4201
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.

Address: 1500 Highway 66, Tucumcari, NM 88401
Hours:     9:00 am – 2:00 pm, Monday – Friday
Admission: Free, Donations accepted.