The Toy Train Depot grew out of a hobby and lifelong fascination with railroading. Mr. John E. Koval, whose father had worked in the rail yards of Youngstown Ohio, had been a model railroad hobbyist and railroad enthusiast for most of his life. In 1986, with a little encouragement from his wife, Merry, and some help from Mr. Jim Bowlin, then Community Services Director for the City of Alamogordo, John decided to share his passion, his collection, and his technical talents with the community.
History of the Building
The Kovals bought the Depot building on 17 July, 1987 and had it moved from the grounds of the White Sands Mall to its current location in Alameda Park on White Sands Boulevard. This is a third role for the historic building, which was first constructed in Torrance, New Mexico, where it served as a depot for the New Mexico Central Railroad. In 1912, the depot was moved by mule train 7 miles south to Corona and put in service to the Southern Pacific Railroad. The baggage room was added in 1929. The Depot likely sat idle for many years until the Connors family bought the building in 1974 and moved it to Alamogordo where it housed Depot Antiques selling antique furnishings.
The Kovals and many volunteers from the local community began putting the museum together in March of 1988. The museum houses full-scale artifacts of the railroad from its heyday in the 1920s through the 1940s. Scale layouts feature a variety of different “toy train” manufacturers and run through scenes built with materials frequently used by modelers. The most noteworthy display is the large layout done in HO or 1/87th scale which pays homage to the “cloud climbing” railroad that ran from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft. Other layout destinations carry names of local towns including Carrizozo, and Vaughn.
The Park Train ride was originally added as a revenue generator, but it quickly became a favorite of residents and visitors to the community. The train bed itself was laid with the help of numerous local volunteers and takes passengers up and down the length of Alameda Park.
In January of 2007, the Alamogordo McDonald’s donated the full-sized, standard-gauge caboose to the museum. The caboose provides visitors with an opportunity to view train mechanics up-close. It also serves as a venue for children’s parties helping to generate revenue to sustain the museum and provide entertainment to the community.
Role in the Community
The Toy Train Depot has had a home in Alamogordo for more than 30 years. Thousands of local school children, community members and visitor have ridden the train, toured the museum, and volunteered to operate or restore various portions of the museum and rides. To members of the community, the Depot is a part of their lives and their home. Looking to the future, the Toy Train Depot is teaming up with Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce, Otero County Tourist promoters, the Small Business Development Center, and other members of the community to build on the synergy of these related functions. Together, the Toy Train Depot and community of Alamogordo have a bright and promising future.