The Santa Fe railroad arrived in Belen in 1880, when Belen was just a small farming community. For the next 25 years, there was little train traffic through Belen, because the main rail line went west from Albuquerque. But in 1908 the railroad opened a new line that avoided the steep grades over Raton Pass. This new line was the Belen cut-off, and it routed many more trains through Belen. Belen began to bustle.
Rail passengers who stopped in Belen needed a place to get a good meal. So in 1910 the railroad built a Harvey House restaurant right by the railroad tracks. It was the 86th restaurant in the chain, operated by Fred Harvey. It contained a large lunchroom, a more formal dining room, a newsstand, kitchen facilities, a bakery, and sleeping rooms upstairs for the Harvey Girls who served the meals.
That Harvey House is still standing today. Inside you can find hundreds of memorabilia pertaining to the Harvey House and the Santa Fe Railway, as well as exhibits on early local businesses in Belen. The Harvey House Museum is one of the few places where you can learn about America’s first chain of restaurants. It is a fascinating story.
Tuesday-Saturday 12:30 to 3:30 pm
We’re closed Sunday and Mondays as well as all major holidays. We have extended hours for some of our popular events throughout the year, so you may want to call ahead to make your arrangements.
The Museum is free to individual visitors and small groups. (Donations are always appreciated!)
The Museum is located at 104 North First Street at the corner of First Street and Becker Avenue. To reach the Museum by automobile Take Main Street (Hwy 314) to Becker Avenue in the Heart of Belen and go east to First Street. We are at the east end of Becker next to the BNSF Rail Yard.
There is a steep incline at the entrance. Large vehicles such as buses, travel trailers and vehicles towing trailers must park on the street. There is a handicapped accessibility ramp located at street level. The Museum offers free parking with 25 spaces for cars, motorcycles, and light trucks. There is plenty of street parking in the area. Bikes are welcome.
Please check your train schedule ahead of time since there is limited train service to Belen. For groups wanting to travel by train, call the Museum ahead of time. We would be happy to accommodate your group with an early schedule and/or can help you figure out the best plan for your group. In the past we’ve had groups dropped off by bus then take the train back or visa versa.
If you decide to walk from the Rail Runner there is a accessible path which goes over the Reinken Street bridge. The Harvey House is just south of the bridge, just follow the trail. There is a handicapped access ramp at street level to enter the Museum grounds.
All main exhibits are located on the first floor. Our friendly staff will do their best to assist you with narrow, historic doorways door openings if needed. The exhibit storage areas upstairs have limited accessibility since we do not have an elevator. The parking lot is paved and there are sidewalks, handicapped parking spaces are available. For additional details, please call before you visit.
Numerous dining establishments are located throughout Belen. All are reasonably priced, family-friendly establishments.
We welcome photography for personal use. Commercial photography is allowed on a case-by-case basis by advance arrangement. Please contact staff for additional information. Photography is allowed in the parking lot, but not on BNSF property.
The Museum provides tours for individuals, friends, families, community groups, businesses and schools. We encourage you to make a reservation for your tour of the Harvey House so that we can accommodate your needs.
The Museum offers a free screenings of a short history film presentation about the Belen Harvey House, the railroad and Belen daily as requested by visitors.
Many other opportunities abound for train viewing around Belen and the BNSF yard. Visitors are welcome to picnic along the portal and view trains. A walking path from the Museum will take you to the Reinken bridge just north of the Harvey House. It offers great views of the Belen yard and trains.
Belen also has one of the few M190 locomotives on exhibit in the United States. (Or, as the locals call it; The “Doodlebug.”) It’s located in a park at Becker Avenue and Second Street just one block from the Harvey House and has been beautifully restored on the outside, with work continuing on the inside.
The small park also has a display of old signal poles and the locomotive sits on it’s own special track. Tours of the Doodlebug are available during the spring, summer and fall. Please check our facebook and websites for tour schedule. Tours are available for large groups in advance; please call the Museum to schedule your tour.
The Museum receives many requests each year for community speakers to address groups during tours. While we cannot always meet these requests, we do our best to find a suitable, knowledgeable Docent who will provide what your community organization is looking for.
Speakers present lectures about Harvey House History, the railroad and/or the surrounding area. There may be a particular history topic that would be of greater interest to your group. Our Historians and Docents have received numerous compliments over the past few years for their lively talks and detailed historical presentations. The Museum does offer a variety of lectures throughout the year. They are posted on our website, facebook, through ads in local media or just call and as ask us for the upcoming schedule. To request a community speaker for a group please call well in advance.
Visitors are not allowed in the BNSF rail yard or on the tracks in and around the area. There is very fast and dangerous rail traffic in and around the Belen yard.
Being rail safe means being careful around railroad tracks. Trains are cool and fun, but you have to be careful when you are around them. Cross railroad tracks only at safe designated areas and look both ways before crossing!
If you would like to learn more about joining the Museum's volunteer ranks, please visit our Museum so we can talk to you directly about what we offer. Thanks again for your support.
Location:104 N. 1st St MAP
Belen, New Mexico 87002