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On Walkabout In: Madrid, New Mexico

 Basic Information

  • City Name: Madrid
  • State: New Mexico
  • Founded: mid-1850’s
  • Population: 149
  • More Info: Visit Madrid website

Narrative

A nice little town that is worth taking a day trip to visit between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is the historic coal mining community of Madrid:


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Madrid is one of the featured attractions for anyone doing a driving tour along New Mexico Highway 14 which has been given the clever name of the “Turquoise Trail“:

Madrid’s coal mining past was easily visible when I first pulled into the north side of town:

The small village is located in a small valley in the Ortiz Mountains where the ruins of the coal mines are still visible.  It is believed the first primitive coal mining began in Madrid in the 1850’s.  By 1892 the mining operations in the valley that became known as “Coal Gulch” grew to where a rail line from the Santa Fe Railroad was built to the village in 1892.  This rail line caused continued mining growth in Madrid thus increasing the size of the town to about 2,500 people.  You can read more about Madrid’s history at this link.

Here is a historic picture from Wikipedia of the old mine’s coal breaker and power house buildings back in 1935:

After the mines closed in the 1950’s Madrid nearly became a ghost town but today Madrid has become a haven for artists and other small businesses with the community boasting over 40 shops, galleries, restaurants, a spa, and a museum.  As I drove into town I could see the downtown was quite busy with many people visiting the small village:

As I drove through downtown, I decided to park at the Old Boarding House Mercantile, which is a large store that offers free parking to visitors:

After checking out the Old Boarding House I then proceeded to walk through the rest of downtown Madrid:

Many of the small shops in downtown Madrid are old mining company homes that have been beautifully renovated and converted into shops like the one pictured below:

There is also a mining museum in Madrid that was unfortunately closed when I visited the village:

On the grounds of the museum they have this old locomotive on display:

According to the marker Engine 769 is a Santa Fe Consolidated 2-8-0 short haul freighter built in 1900 in Richmond, Virginia and is only one of 1000 such locomotives ever built.  It was used to haul coal from Madrid and potable water into the village from 1940-1960.

Near the museum was the appropriately named Mine Shaft Tavern:

A short walk from the tavern was this little cluster of shops located inside old adobe buildings:

Like the old mining company homes these adobe building shops were beautifully renovated as well.  Not all the buildings in downtown have been renovated yet with a few just waiting for someone with the money and ambition to renovate:

On the outskirts of town there was other old homes visible that appeared to be where some of the people in Madrid live:

Conclusion

All in all I was impressed with Madrid.  It is really nice to see old historic communities like this being renovated and brought back to life by small business owners.  For those passing through the Albuquerque and Santa Fe area it is definitely worth taking a short drive along the Turquoise Trail and visiting both Madrid and the nearby village of Cerrillos which is where the movie Young Guns was filmed.  Both communities feature excellent shops and restaurants plus an opportunity to learn a little more about the history of the region.

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