Friday, February 09, 2007
Historic `Doodlebug' Railcar Back in N.M.
SANTA FE A railcar dubbed the Doodlebug, which once carried commuters between Clovis and Carlsbad, has been returned to New Mexico from California.
The No. M-190 railcar from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway had been stored for 20 years in the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.
It has been returned to New Mexico as a gift to the state history museum at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe and to the people of New Mexico.
Doodlebugs were dependable options for New Mexico commuters for everything from dental appointments and university classes to dates. They operated not only between Clovis and Carlsbad, but also between Belen and Albuquerque.
Gov. Bill Richardson, citing the state's newest commuter line, the Rail Runner Express between Albuquerque and Bernalillo, said it's an honor ''to welcome back a much-loved workhorse from an earlier time.''
The self-propelled M-190s, also known as La Marranita or the Little Pig, had 22 seats and carried up to 44 passengers as well as the mail. A second passenger car was sometimes attached to the lead car.
A trip between Belen and Albuquerque took 45 minutes. The train made up to four roundtrips daily.
The M-190 was upgraded in 1955, and the Doodlebug on the Clovis to Carlsbad run was painted with the Santa Fe railway's ''warbonnet'' colors.
As many as 48 Doodlebugs operated in the United States in the heyday of the commuter trains from the early 1930s to the mid-1950s. In New Mexico, they were retired in the late 1960s.
The warbonnet Doodlebug was retired in 1967 and wound up in the California museum in 1986. That was the railcar recently returned to New Mexico.
The Doodlebug originally was moved to the railyard in Belen, courtesy of the Union Pacific and BNSF Railway. It now is at the Rail Runner yard in Albuquerque and eventually will join the history museum's collection.
''Railroad history buffs from around the state have already volunteered to help with the restoration of this valuable artifact,'' said Stuart Ashman, secretary of the state Cultural Affairs Department, which oversees the Palace of the Governors.
''Our goal is to offer a fully operational Doodlebug to the public, an attraction that will further enhance an already thriving tourist industry in Valencia and Bernalillo counties,'' he said.
Belen Mayor Ronnie Torres said his community is thrilled to have the Doodlebug back.
''Bringing back memories of the popular Doodlebug and remembering how people used to ride the train will increase appreciation and enjoyment of the new Rail Runner,'' he said.
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