Lamy Train Station
After enduring a long train ride, many Manhattan Project participants arrived at Lamy, New Mexico tired and bewildered. The Lamy train station, built in 1909, appeared to be in the middle of nowhere.
Narrator: Historian Jon Hunner explains how many people recruited to join the Manhattan Project arrived at the train station in Lamy – and were surprised at what they found.
Jon Hunner: It’s out in the middle of nowhere. Imagine these scientists and their families coming from the East Coast, coming from the Midwest, coming from California, and arriving at a very small station. Most of the scientific personnel knew what they were doing, but their families didn’t.
There was a lot of confusion. They’re put in to staff cars, and then they’re taken into Santa Fe. Again, some confusion. “Oh, Santa Fe! This is a nice place.” Because they weren’t told where their ultimate destination was. So they thought, “Oh, Santa Fe is kind of nice.”
And then they got to 109 East Palace, and Dorothy McKibbin said, “It’s not here either. It’s still a little far away. Here’s your top-secret pass to get you in the gate. You have to drive another forty miles.”
As Manhattan Project participants John Mench, Gordon Knobeloch, Bob Porton, and Rebecca Bradford Diven describe, arriving at the desolate station in Lamy was distressing.
Narrator: Manhattan Project veterans John Mench, Gordon Knobeloch and Bob Porton recall their bewilderment after arriving at Lamy.
John Mench: I arrived after three days on the California Limited, which was extremely limited; it pulled off at every siding to let other trains go by, it stopped at every little town to let people on and off. Finally arrived at Lamy in the evening, went into the little station at Lamy. One man was taking care of all the baggage; he was also the ticket salesman. And there was only one man at the station—nothing else within miles of the place except the bar, which was off limits.
Gordon Knobeloch: Finally the train did grind to a halt and we got ourselves off that train and looked around, couldn’t see on the right hand side until the train went by. Sure enough, there was a station, but it was all locked up because nobody was anticipating a train that day.
And the sign didn’t say “Santa Fe,” it said “Lamy,” and I was just sure something went wrong. But there was a general store and he had a telephone, and he assured me that this was indeed the stop for Santa Fe because the train didn’t go through Santa Fe. And I was naïve enough to think that the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad probably went through Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe, but it didn’t do that.
Bob Porton: I saw mountains and saw sagebrush and saw this isolated place. My first thought when I recall it was, I said, “they have sent us to outer Siberia. Surely this is not where we are going to serve.”
Narrator: Manhattan Project veteran Rebecca Bradford Diven was wearing her best clothes when she arrived at the desolate station.
Rebecca Bradford Diven: I dressed with care, a little pillbox with a veil, my precious nylons, high heels, and I was ready to go to Los Alamos.
Well, I stood on the platform and waited and waited and finally a WAC [Women’s Army Corps] came up and said, “Are you Becky Diven?”
“Ehh.” I later discovered they said, “She’s never going to last here.”