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Route 66 from Tucumcari to Santa Rosa

Driving Route 66

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Learn about the Historic alignment of US Highway 66 between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa in New Mexico, which has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Route 66 has undergone many changes and realignments since it was created in 1926. This page describes the original road and the later alignments in eastern New Mexico.

Learn all about Route 66 between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa in NM.

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Historic Route 66 Tucumcari - Santa Rosa

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Tucumcari to Santa Rosa Historic Route 66

Route 66, Tucumcari to Santa Rosa, NM.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This is the historic segment of Route 66 from Tucumcari to Santa Rosa.

Leaving Tucumcari

When Route 66 was created it was originally aligned along the "Ozark Trail". This "Trail" was actually a privately sponsored highway system set up in the 1910s. This section of the highway was designated in 1914 as New Mexico State Highway 3. It became Route 66 in 1926 and during the late 1920s it was improved and underwent some small realignments. The map below shows different roads that could be used by cars in 1912, called "Auto Roads" (full red lines).

National Old Trails Map Tucumcari to Santa Rosa. 1912

1912 Road Map National Old Trails
Old Road map from 1912 David Rumsey Collection

According to the 1930 USGS map of Tucumcari, based on a 1920 survey, the original "Ozark Trail" left the town westwards along Tucumcari Blvd. and crossed the railroad with a grade crossing at the point they both met. (Map with directions).

1920s, 30s, and modern Route 66 alignment satellite view

Satellite View.
Click image to enlarge
or here for satellite view

Then it turned to the SW and ran along the northern side of the tracks along what is now Quay Road 62.9 (Map with directions). This segment now ends in a dead end, but in those days it continued all the way to Bluewater Creek, where it crossed the tracks to the south side. The final part is shown in the image, with the Blue arrows.

The original 1926 US66 took the same course it has now, curving when it meets the railroad and running with a SW course. As it approached Bluewater Creek it ran closer to the tracks (see Red arrows) than the modern alignment and met the older Ozark Trails alignment by the creek. In the image you can see its concrete bridges (red circle) and its paved surface running between modern US66 (Black arrows) and the tracks.

This alignment continued west, and now is cut off, in a dead end. This is the map of the alignment out of Tucumcari, to this point.

1936 bridge on Route 66

Route 66 bridge built in 1936

After the dead end, and following a gap in the alignment, it is now buried under the freeway (see map) for 2.5 miles, and then it turns south sharply (now overlaid by I-40).

You can follow and even drive its alignment south of I-40. It then curved to the northwest, bypassed the railway station of Palomas and met the tracks, to run along their southern side. This is the course of the modern South Frontage Rd. of I-40, which ahead passes under the freeway (a narrow underpass) crossing to its northern side.

The alignment is shown in this map. Old US 66 heads straight into Montoya, a small village.

The image shows a steel stringer bridge located 1.7 miles east of Montoya, Bridge #1758, built in 1936. It is 81 ft. long and 24 ft. wide.

The segment ends at Exit 311 of I-40.

Montoya to Cuervo Historic Route 66

Route 66, Montoya, NM.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This is the second historic segment of Route 66 of this section, it runs from Montoya to Cuervo.

Check this map from Montoya to Cuervo of the historic Route 66 alignment.

The map below (from 1925) shows how it was aligned and the road surface at that time: "Improved Road" from Tucumcari to west of Montoya , and from Santa rosa to the junction with the road heading soth from Cuervo, then "Dirt Road" for the rest of the segment.

Vintage Road map, Tucumcari to Santa Rosa. 1925

1925 Road Map National Old Trails
Old Road map from 1925 David Rumsey Collection

The Federal government funded improvements in Route 66 under FAP 114, and in 1936 the current "Historic alignment" was paved with a hard surface.

The segment is just over 20 miles long, starting at the eastbound exit ramp of I-40 at Montoya on the south side of the freeway, and ending on the westbound exit ramp of I-40 at the Cuervo interchange.

Initially it runs close to the freeway and ahead takes an overpass to the north of I-40. It crosses hilly country with sandstone rock outcrops. It goes through the small rural community of Newkirk.

Whiting Brothers sation in Newkirk

The former Whiting station in Newkirk. Click image for St. View

Dirt 1926 Alignment near Newkirk

There is an interesting set of maps and a post about the possible original alignment of the 1926 dirt surfaced Route 66 that was later abandoned when a straighter road was built and paved. It went south, towards Newkirk's cemetery and then west. See the maps and read the article.

The paved 1930s alignment remains on the north side of I-40.

We have seen similar references mentioning that the 1926 alignment went straight south from Newkirk, crossing what is now I-40 at Exit 300 along current NM-129, and go south for 0.83 mi. Then it turned sharply right along a now defunct road (See map of this part of the 1926 road).

This road (now closed) headed west for roughly 3.9 miles and continued west along what is now I-40 north frontage road. At what is now Exit 291 it took another course, away from I-40.

Later 1930s alignment

West of Newkirk the original US66 becomes the westbound lanes of I-40, so the current course of the North Frontage Road was built later, and you can see the point where it shifts its course northwards to run parallel to the freeway. See the "S" in its alignment. Then it continues straight until it reaches Cuervo.

Gas station in ruins, Cuervo

abandoned Texaco, with old rusty cars
Old Texaco (?) and vintage abandoned cars, Cuervo NM. Click on image for Street View

Final segment Cuervo to Santa Rosa

Historic Route 66 in Cuervo

Route 66, Santa Rosa, NM.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This is the historic segment of Route 66 from Cuervo to Santa Rosa. After entering Cuervo from the north side it went through the town and then turned south (left) along Co. Rd. 2C.

It followed it all the way to NM highway 156 (NM-156) where it turned right and headed west again. It passed Cross Rd. (the later alignment of Route 66 merges here with the older one).

This is the Map of the 1926 alignment, it has an "L" shape.

These roads west of Cuervo are rough, they have washouts and potholes. You should have a vehicle with high clearance. Local ranchers still use it. Check with the locals before driving them. advertisement

1932-1952 Route 66 from Cuervo to Santa Rosa

Im 1932 the old route was shortened and instead of the original L-shaped course it took a shorter one (see map), angled to the southwest until it met NM-156, it was paved under FAP 114-C.

This would be the alignment of Route 66 until 1952 when it moved to the current course of I-40.

The old 1932 Route 66 west of Cuervo

dirt road and dead end sign
The 1932 Route 66 alignment in Cuervo NM. Notice the "Dead End" sign. Click on image for Street View

The 1932-52 alignment climbs to an elevation of 5,100 ft. at Mesita Contadero crossing rangeland with cholla cacti and short tough grass. According to the Historic Places record, there was a gas station at the summit of this climb "a spot now marked only by the buildings foundations and concrete pump island (see Satellite view).
This segment ended at the intersection with NM-156, where it turned west along it.

Map of Route 66 into Santa Rosa

1926-32 Alignment into Santa Rosa

1926-32 Alignment into Santa Rosa

From this intersection, the first (1926) alignment went straight for 5.4 miles (Map) and turned to the SW as you can see in the map (Blue arrows) and then west again, heading straight towards US84, and kept on westwards.

The airport can be seen under the red star in the center of the map. The map shows the alignment with a black dashed line (- - - ).

Route 66 is part of an airport runway

The old 1926 alignment of Route 66 west of US 84 is now buried beneath the runway of Santa Rosa's airport, which was built much later, in the 1940s.

After the airport it went west which now cannot be driven -Blue arrows in the image- and met modern Blue Hole Rd in Santa Rosa (Red arrows in the image).

thumbnail of a Map of Route 66

1926-32 Route 66 map Santa Rosa Airport
Click image to enlarge

It then followed it to Lake Drive and then took a right along S 4th St. into downtown Santa Rosa. See the Map of the final part of 1926 Route 66 into Santa Rosa.

1932 - 1952 Route 66 into Santa Rosa

The later alignment ran straight along what is now NM-156, and headed west. This original alignment is now cut off by I-40 (Map), and continued into the town of Santa Rosa on the northern side of modern I-40 (Map).

Below is a map (1939) showing the alignment from 1932 to 1952 into Santa Rosa.

Route 66 Map Tucumcari to Santa Rosa in 1939

1939 Road Map of Tucumcari - Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Route 66 map from 1939 Tucumcari to Santa Rosa.

Alignment after 1952

In 1952 Route 66 was realigned. I-40 follows this alignment nowadays. Below is a 1956 Shell roadmap in which you can see this section (and the former ones too).

Route 66 Map Tucumcari to Santa Rosa in 1956

1956 Road Map of Tucumcari - Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Route 66 map (1956) Tucumcari to Santa Rosa.

On the western side of the complex are the ruins of a 1950s gas station.

Map of Route 66 into Santa Rosa

Frontier Museum Gas Station

Frontier Museum

Ten miles east of Santa Rosa, on the 1952 Route 66 alignment is a now abandoned and derelict group of buildings which at one time was the Frontier Museum.

It was operated by William and Lucy Pearl Wilson. The café could seat 75 customers. It had the "Old Gay 90 Frontier Bar", the gas station sold 60,000 gallons. 3,900 feet of frontage on Route 66 plus 76 acres of land. Wilson advertised it as a Great Opportunity when he put it up for sale in 1960.

See it in a set of Then-and-Now images below.

1950s postcard Frontier Museum near Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Frontier Museum 1950s postcard, Santa Rosa.

In ruins, but the same sign on the right side of the images! (Black arrow). And also the now rusting and fallen cafe sign.

Ruins of the Frontier Museum near Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Frontier Museum in ruins, nowadays. Click for St. View

More alignments of Route 66

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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat.

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