Old Coal Mine Museum
The giant red chili peppers towering over the museum’s weather worn walls were a little misleading relative to the dusty treasures I found inside the Old Coal Mine Museum on the Turquoise Trail in Madrid, NM (State Highway 14). As the name implies, the museum holds a collection of mining, railroad and non-mining relics that were used by the Albuquerque & Cerrillos Coal Company while mining coal from the hills surrounding the town.
Most of the exhibits are housed in seven corrugated tin covered buildings on the three acre museum campus. The self-guided tour began with a view of an Ediphone, a business dictation cylinder phonograph introduced by Thomas A. Edison in 1916. The then state-of-the-art office technology recorded a person's voice by cutting groves onto a hard wax cylinder similar to a phonograph record. Busy mining company executives then delivered the cylinder to a secretary to be typed transcribed onto paper.
The centerpiece of the museum’s exhibits is a restored 1900 Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad locomotive Engine 769, the most complete non-operating steam locomotive in the U.S.
Other outdoor displays include a locomotive used to ferry workers into the mines and to pull transport vehicles such as ore carts used to haul the coal ore out of the mines, a hand-painted red and white truck used by Turquoise Trail Volunteer Fire Department and other fire fighting equipment.
Free-standing open sided sheds provide little protection to other large pieces that included a winch with its drum still covered with coiled cable, a fading red earth mover with traces of soil still embedded in the its tracks and numerous other pieces of mining retrieval, hoisting and material transfer equipment.
Madrid was a company town that supported more than 3,000 people, so the Albuquerque & Cerrillos Coal Company owned most of the houses, stores and medical facilities. Inside the buildings I found equipment used for mining as well as for the subsistence and well-being of the miners.
Standing on a table in one building was a National Cash Register machine showing its final sale of $4.00. In the same building are an x-ray machine, medical storage cabinets, oxygen tanks and other medical equipment and supplies, safety lamps and other mine lighting equipment, and wood lathes and other carpentry equipment used perhaps to build furniture sold to the miners.
The displays also include a Ramada style winch house powered by a Chrysler motor and a slope mine shaft that exposes a four foot bituminous coal seam.
Parked in Andy’s Garage is a vintage Packard sedan circa 1929 with several spare tires lying around.
One of the buildings formerly used to repair steam engines has been converted into a stage theater known as the Engine House Theatre and has had nearly 20 years of popular turn-of-the-century performances. Naturally, theatre construction and props consist of recycled relics and salvaged railroad tracks.
The Old Coal Mine Museum provides a tangible link to the past for those of us who never worked in or lived near a coal mine. After seeing the dusty, sometimes rusty relics, I certainly have a greater appreciation for the dangerous mining conditions that gave us the Industrial Revolution and fueled the modern Industrial Age.
If you go
The Old Coal Mine Museum is open to visitors daily, year-round (weather permitting). The self-guided tour takes about an hour.
Admission fee – $4.00
Old Coal Mine Museum
2814 Highway 14