Did you ever wonder about the town of Waldo?
For many years, there was a well-marked turn-off to Waldo on Interstate-25, south of Santa Fe. You can still follow an unpaved road to reach the locale, which is located a couple of miles northwest of Cerrillos in Santa Fe County.
Keep your eyes open, though. If you blink, you’ll miss it.
Joyce Smith Walker lived there from 1937 to 1942. She wrote the following:
“The Santa Fe Railroad was advancing westward across New Mexico by 1879. Coal deposits at Waldo Gulch and other nearby areas were checked as possible sources of fuel for the Santa Fe Railroad locomotives.
“But the Waldo coal was anthracite (hard) coal and could not be used for that purpose. The tracks were laid on past Waldo in 1880.
“In 1892, a spur line from Waldo Station to the coal-mining town of Madrid was laid. They were mining both bituminous (soft) and anthracite coal there.
“Several years later, 15 coke ovens were built along the track at Waldo, which processed a high quality of smelting coke. The mines at Waldo Gulch were closed down in 1906, but the town continued to exist. …”
Coke is a kind of fuel that burns hotter than either bituminous or anthracite coal.
“In October 1916, a Pennsylvania corporation bought the town of Waldo and some surrounding area and built a zinc floation (sic) plant. They owned the place until Daddy (R.D. Smith) bought it in 1937.”
R.D. Smith spent about five years dismantling the town and hauling it away to sell as scrap. Today there is only a cement foundation left.
The town was named for Henry L. Waldo, a New Mexico territorial jurist. As the story goes, Judge Waldo and New Mexico historian Ralph Emerson Twitchell were aboard a train that passed through the new settlement, which smelled strongly of the stock pens there.
Waldo noted a sign that read “Twitchell,” and he commented that Twitchell was a good name for bull pens. Twitchell, though, had the last laugh: He used his political influence to have the name of the place changed to Waldo, which stuck.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a tongue-in-cheek group in Albuquerque that called itself the New Mexico Undevelopment Commission. It held its annual meeting and picnic at Waldo. The group, like the town of Waldo, no longer exists.
(Don Bullis is a Rio Rancho resident, New Mexico centennial historian and award-winning author. He was named the Best Local Author in the 2018 and 2019 Rio Rancho Observer Readers’ Choice contests. “Ellos Pasaron por Aqui” is translated as “They Passed by Here.”)
Don Bullis’s latest book, “New Mexico Historical Chronology,” is available from riograndebooks.com.