Engel, eleven miles down the road at the end of NM 51, is now a ghost town. It began in 1880 as a water-stop and shipping point on the Santa Fe Railroad between El Paso and Albuquerque. It was named for R L Engle, one of the railroad surveyors. However, the postmaster misspelled the name when he sent it to the Post Office Department, and for six months Engle was "Angle" on the official post office list. In 1880 it became a supply base for mining activities in the area and blossomed with general stores, hotels, and even an all-night restaurant. However, within three years, the mining business dried up and the town withered. By 1896 ranchers in the Lincoln area discovered they could drive cattle across the Jornada del Muerto during the rainy season, and Engle revived by becoming a shipping center for cattle and a Mecca for thirsty cowboys. This lasted through the turn of the century.
By 1901 cattlemen in the White, Capitan, and Sacramento Mountains to the east were using closer and more convenient railheads; and the Hugh Bar Cross Ranch, which had its headquarters nearby, fell victim to drought and overgrazing. Once more, Engle struggled for existence.Construction of the Elephant Butte Lake Dam brought new life, and Engle advertised itself as "the best town in New Mexico by a dam site". But by 1920 it was all over. The government incorporated most of the desolate Jornada del Muerto into White Sands Missile Range, cutting off the travel to the east, and Engle found itself the last stop on a dead-end road.
Today only a few old buildings remain. Trains will pass on the Santa Fe Railroad, but the seldom stop. However, at Engle, a visitor has one of the few remaining unobstructed views of the Jornada del Muerto. One can get a feeling for the loneliness that accompanied early travelers across this desolate stretch. It is also headquarters today for Ted Turner's Armendariz ranch. There are many vineyards in the area.