Oppenheimer’s New Mexico Train Stop Can Be Visited in Real Life

The Lamy Train Station in Santa Fe, New Mexico is a small, unassuming Spanish Mission Revival building about fifty miles south of Los Alamos. In the 1940s, it was frequented by Robert Oppenheimer, Los Alamos Laboratory staff, and their families while en route to the secret military site.

Lamy was established in 1881 but the structure was replaced in 1909 with the building that still stands today. It looks almost exactly as it did in Oppenheimer’s time, which is why it made for an important filming location in Christopher Nolan’s latest biopic about “the father of the atomic bomb.”

Originally owned by Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway, Amtrak runs the Lamy Train Station today. According to their website, the unstaffed station is as barren of amenities as the desert itself; no ATM, payphone, vending machines, ticketing kiosks, restrooms, or wifi.

In spite of its starkness, Lamy is not totally devoid of activity.

Photographer Jason Nicholson recently explored the Lamy Train Station and discovered that the old baggage and freight area was converted into a bar last year. According to their Facebook page, Nuckolls Brewery “serves up beer, wine, music, and fun” at the once desolate historic landmark. Given the film’s success, Nuckolls should have their hands full with visitors looking for all of those things.

In addition to nuclear fission, Oppenheimer was known for making a good martini. But if he wanted one, Lamy Station wasn’t serving during World War II, so he would have had to take a short walk across the street to the Mercantile Saloon.

Known as Legal Tender today, the saloon is the oldest operating bar in New Mexico. It was built in the same year as Lamy Station and has survived town fires and numerous changes of ownership since the late 1800s.

Jason Nicholson took these photos on his Leica M10 Monochrome and Leica Summilux 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE. The other lens he used, a 1950 Leitz Summaron 35mm f/3.5 is almost period correct.

According to the 2020 census, Lamy New Mexico is populated by just 210 residents, and these establishments are the little town’s sole offerings to passing travelers such as those heading for Los Alamos in the 1940s. But they stand as noteworthy landmarks along the path of America’s provocative nuclear history.

About the author: Johnny Martyr is an East Coast film photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. After an adventurous 20-year photographic journey, he now shoots exclusively on B&W 35mm film that he painstakingly hand-processes and digitizes. Choosing to work with only a select few clients per annum, Martyr’s uncommonly personalized process ensures unsurpassed quality as well as stylish, natural & timeless imagery that will endure for decades. You can find more of his work on his website, Flickr, Facebook, and Instagram.