The landmark red caboose at St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road is here to stay.
It became the focus of a citywide fundraising campaign after Santa Fe Southern Railway put it on the market. Keep Santa Fe Beautiful, a program by the city of Santa Fe, purchased the caboose after donations poured in.
The group also signed a 25-year agreement with the city to keep the caboose at that location, one of the busiest and most visible intersections in Santa Fe.
“We are so lucky we didn’t lose it,” Paul Margetson, managing partner of Hotel Santa Fe, said Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony that drew dozens of supporters. “It was going off to who knows where.”
Earlier this year, Santa Fe Southern Railway disclosed that negotiations with a potential buyer were underway, prompting neighborhood activist Rick Martinez to launch a campaign to keep the caboose in Santa Fe.
Years earlier, Martinez, chairman of the Keep Santa Fe Beautiful board, led an effort to paint the caboose, which was derelict and attracted vagrants. The paint job included a bright yellow zia sign and “Santa Fe, New Mexico” on both sides. It turned the caboose into one of the most photographed features in the city.
“We own it now,” Martinez said with a big grin on his face.
“My best thanks goes straight to the community,” he told the crowd gathered at the ribbon-cutting. “I really feel blessed to live in a town that has this kind of community. It makes me feel good that I was able to get this done, and for all of you guys to enjoy it and everyone else that drives by here real fast and points to it and says, ‘I’m going to stop over and take a selfie.’ ”
The caboose was listed for sale for $17,000, but Santa Fe Southern Railway, which preferred to keep the caboose in Santa Fe, reduced the price to $14,000. News of Martinez’s fundraising efforts led to an outpouring of support.
“I even got donations for $5. That made me feel good,” Martinez said. “A little old lady from early on called me and said, ‘I want to start this thing off. How much do you guys want? I can even give you $100.’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll take it.’ ”
The Texas Historical Foundation also stepped in, offering an $8,500 “challenge grant” for the purchase of the caboose.
The foundation’s only stipulation was that the donation be made in memory of Abe Silver Jr., a former businessman and philanthropist who died in May. Silver loved trains and would’ve been “absolutely thrilled” by the recognition, said his widow, Marian Silver.
“All of our family is very, very proud,” she said.
Martinez said about $21,000 was raised. The leftover money will be used for ongoing maintenance and landscaping after the caboose is moved about 30 yards east following completion of a new underpass at the intersection, he said.
David D. Martinez, president of the Texas Historical Foundation, traveled to Santa Fe for the ceremony. He said the foundation was “honored and happy” to be involved in the project.
“I have to say this because someone asked me, and I know you’re curious,” David Martinez (no relation to Rick Martinez) told the crowd. “Why is the Texas Historical Foundation involved in a project in New Mexico? Well, the answer is pretty easy. Our organization gives grants for projects in any area that was encompassed in the original Republic of Texas when Texas was its own independent nation.”
His comments generated a few laughs.
“We had to eventually give [Santa Fe] back, but we enjoyed it while we had it,” he said.
The same could be said about the caboose, but it’s staying in Santa Fe.
Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 986-3089 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.