Somewhere between Needles, CA and Gallup, NM, an unremarkable spur line heads north from the main line of the Santa Fe railroad. Due to a series of surveying mistakes, this 50 mile stretch of track disappeared from just about every map made since 1937, and the small trackside town of Cárdenas near its terminus disappeared from most maps along with it. The town itself never disappeared though, and occasionally people would stumble across it as they drove or hitchhiked across the desert, stopping for the night or just grabbing a quick bite to eat before they headed out. Later, when looking back on their trip, a few of them might have been puzzled for a moment or two, trying to figure out where that town was, but most never gave it a second thought.
That all changed a few years ago though, when the newly-acquired Simtrak Rail Service conducted its first thorough survey of all the tracks it connected to, and “rediscovered” the Cárdenas spur line, and the town along with it, including a nearly-forgotten Fred Harvey Company Harvey House named Cárdenas Station that served as the town’s rail station.
Thanks to having spent nearly 80 years more-or-less isolated from the rest of the nation, Cárdenas Station avoided the destruction that befell many of the other great Harvey Houses that once lined the railroad between Chicago and Los Angeles, remaining in near-pristine condition, with even the 1930’s Fred Harvey lunch counter still standing (though the Harvey Girls who had once staffed that counter had all drifted away to find other jobs once the trains stopped coming)
The adobe walls on the exterior of the building had suffered some wear and tear after so long without being repaired, but they were still in remarkably good condition, and the wooden vigas
that supported the roof had also weathered the elements remarkably well. Many architectural magazines and television shows quickly produced features on Cárdenas Station, extolling the beautiful combination of Pueblo and Spanish Mission architecture present in the historic station building.
Because the building was in such wonderful shape, the railroad decided that they would turn it into a showpiece location, hearkening back to the glory days of the Fred Harvey Company and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. To serve the trains that would now pass through every day, the ticket-counter was updated with modern equipment, and the lunch counter was brought up to code, and within a few short months, Cárdenas Station held its grand re-opening gala.
Reconnected with the rest of the country, and now showing up on every map, life in Cárdenas gradually grew more “normal” by modern standards. Like many of the Harvey Houses that still stand throughout the Southwest today, Cárdenas Station was the heart of the town, as people travelled from all over the region to see it. As part of the railroad’s efforts to keep the character of the station alive, the building was reinforced and the adobe walls refreshed, and naturally it found its way onto many historic building registries.
It has always been nearly impossible to travel throughout the West without finding small souvenir shops at every turn, and at the south end of the platform, Cárdenas Station was no exception, boasting an eclectic collection of cheap gifts, regionally-themed souvenirs, and authentic Native Sim textiles (both wall tapestry and foot traffic weight) and pottery, all available for purchase (and now shipping nationwide, just in case you didn’t want to risk taking your fragile new handmade clay pot on a long train ride!) On the north end of the platform, two modern restrooms serve any visitors to the station, and vending machines are available for a quick snack.
For Sims travelling through Cárdenas by car, or those who are taking a longer break from the rails, there are several covered benches, perfect for a picnic lunch, as well as two small courtyards, each filled with lush desert plants, and somewhat isolated from the noise of the rails or the nearby road- perfect for taking a brief constitutional during a longer platform stop!
Since its rediscovery, Cárdenas Station has become a Southwestern landmark, and the town surrounding it has experienced its own renaissance, with tourists from all over the nation travelling through every year now- a far cry from the near-ghost-town that it was fast becoming only a few short years ago!
For obvious reasons
, I decided to create a high-altitude mountain National Park for this contest, so a Harvey House/train station seemed a perfect fit for transportation to it! (Plus, a train station platform gave me the motivation to play around with making a single, very long façade work without just seeming “stretched.” It has the same feel as many train stations I’ve seen throughout the desert Southwest, so I think I did fairly well at it!
(Ranger hat on temporarily)
If you were travelling to a National Park in the early 20th Century, chances are very good that you would have gotten there (or at least most of the way there) by railroad, and if you were travelling in the Southwestern US, that railroad was probably the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. Quite a few of the trackside stations, hotels, and restaurants along the ATSF were run by the Fred Harvey Company. Quite a few of these buildings are still standing throughout the Southwest (though sadly, a few, like the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque NM, have been torn down) and where they are still standing, they often fill the role that I’ve just described the fictional Cárdenas Station as filling, as a tourist attraction in their own right, as well as functional restaurants, shops, and Simtrak (Amtrak) train stations.
Harvey Houses often had regionally-appropriate architecture, with some like the Alvarado in Albuquerque taking cues from Spanish Mission styles, others like the Castañeda in Las Vegas, NM being a hybrid of Spanish and Pueblo styles, and still others, like the Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park almost inventing their own styles altogether, thanks to incorporating so many different architectural elements deemed appropriate for the location. Since I’m imagining my Cárdenas Station being located in a small town in the high desert of Arizona or New Mexico, I opted for a combination of Mission Revival and Pueblo styles, with a few elements from the Art Deco style that often showed up in such early-20th-Century Harvey Houses as well.
What really defined Harvey Houses though, was the fact that they were reliable indicators of a “quality establishment.” Before Fred Harvey, most trackside restaurants were pretty shoddy affairs, with highly questionable food, unclean dining spaces, and a generally unpleasant experience. This started to turn people away from the ATSF at all, so the railroad took note of the fact that Fred Harvey’s restaurant in Topeka KS was consistently well-regarded, and hired him to expand his business, taking over many other restaurants and hotels along the tracks. To staff these “Harvey Houses” as they were known, the company hired “Harvey Girls,” respectable, unmarried young women, often thought of today as bringing civilization to many towns that were still stuck in the days of the “Wild West.” The combination of the iconic Harvey Girl uniform and the reassuring Fred Harvey Company name ensured rail passengers that this would be a place where they could count on good food and good service at a good price- essentially what makes a franchise work, even today.
Harvey Houses in northern Arizona also found themselves linked to the fledgling National Park Service, since most visitors still came by train. Grand Canyon National Park in particular had two hotels and a handful of restaurants in the park itself operated by Fred Harvey, as well as a hotel and restaurant back on the ATSF mainline where the Grand Canyon spur headed north. All of these buildings are still standing and operational today (and I made one of them, the El Tovar, for TS2 a while back, if you’re interested!
All in all, for a National Park vacation, I could think of no better place to start than at a Fred Harvey Company Harvey House, for Sims of today and of yesteryear!
This lot rings in at just over $260,000 for any aspiring rail barons among your Sims, and is well suited for running as a small cafe and gift shop in-game, much like its real-life relations.
This lot was originally created for a contest, and as such, was not initially playable. However, I think I have managed to fix all the problems that would have prevented Sims from being able to use the lot- there are a few idiosyncrasies leftover that may not be useful in normal gameplay, but they shouldn't detract from it either. I have playtested a clone of the lot as uploaded and found no glaring issues- if you find any in your gameplay, please let me know! Enjoy your visit to Temple Mountains National Park, and get out there and explore some of your REAL National Parks sometime this year too!
Lot Price (furnished):