New life for La Castañeda in Las Vegas, N.M.

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — For some 50 years, La Castañeda was considered the queen of Las Vegas, N.M. — an architectural diamond that welcomed locals and visitors alike during the days when train travel reigned.

The high and mighty dined alongside the hoi polloi in the hotel’s restaurant and bar, enjoying the famous Harvey House hospitality. The hotel’s 40 rooms were invariably filled with politicians, celebrities, soldiers and travelers looking to stop for the night before moving on, be it northeast out of New Mexico or south toward Albuquerque and then points west.

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Presidents Message

Dear all,

Happy New Year, 

Wheels is making progress with funding now available for planning the code improvements for the building. We are working on funding to do the work, and are part of the way there.  

We are seeking people who can work on a ‘go fund me’ type of campaign and other fundraising efforts. 

The economy of New Mexico has affected us but we hope to be able to open our doors soon to showcase rail and other transportation history, present and future of the southwest. 

Huge thanks to the Wheels board and all the volunteers devoted to creating The Wheels Museum, Inc. 

Love, Leba

Dear WHEELS Volunteer

April 7, 2016

Dear WHEELS Volunteer,

I want to thank you for all of your previous volunteer efforts on behalf of The WHEELS Museum. It has been such a joy working with you. We are making steady progress toward our goal of opening to the public, and as a result you will see progress in formalizing our processes and procedures, volunteer efforts, and of course, building more displays. This will assist WHEELS in meeting state and Federal guidelines and requirements.

We are gearing up for the 2016 Railyard Market starting Sunday, May 1, and running through Sunday, October 30. It is time to start scheduling volunteers to support the Railyard Market. We need 4 volunteers for each Sunday Market.

If you can volunteer for at least one shift, please reply by return email and let us know that we can count on your support over the 6-month Railyard Market season. Be sure to let us know your preferred dates, if possible. We had a lot of fun last year and hope to have even more this year.

Laurie Cady is our new administrative volunteer and will be tracking and scheduling volunteers until we appoint a volunteer coordinator. She can be reached at lcady@q.com. If you have any questions, you can contact her by email or call and leave a message for Leba or Annie at 243-6269.

We are counting on you,

Sincerely,

Leba Freed
WHEELS President

Belen Railroad Day

Learn about the past, present and future of railroading in Belen during Belen Railroad Day on Saturday, April 9 from Noon to 4 p.m. Enjoy several activities and events at various locations, including the Belen Harvey House Museum, Jaramillo Vineyards, the Belen Public Library, the Belen Art League and more. To reach most locations, exit the train at the Belen Station and walk south across the pedestrian overpass and continue walking two blocks south to Becker Ave. For information call (505) 861-0581.

Redevelopment of Albuquerque Rail Yard Planned

Historic Barelas railroad yards to undergo revitalization. Work space, restaurants, and performance venues planned, Mayor Richard J. Berry and City Council Isaac Benton announce.

Mayor Richard J. Berry and City Councilor Isaac Benton announced the next steps in the future of the Albuquerque Rail Yards.

Through a competitive procurement process, the City selected Samitaur Constructs and their partners, New Mexico-based BUILD New Mexico, as the Master Developer team to lead the redevelopment of the city’s historic Rail Yards, located just south of downtown.

“The decades-long wait to find the team to lead the restoration and renaissance of this important site is finally over,” Mayor Berry said. “This diamond-in-the-rough that we call the Rail Yards will become a vital part of our city and region once again. We have a real gem in the Rail Yards and it’s time that we make this area more functional and add on to the beauty of these neighborhoods.”

Work Space, Restaurants & Entertainment
Samitaur is known for its redevelopment of blighted urban areas, such as Conjunctive Points, a mixed-use neighborhood of work space, restaurants, and entertainment and performance venues in the industrial area of Culver City and adjacent Los Angeles, California. Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith have more than 35 years of experience in urban design, development, and property management, mostly in Southern California.

“I look forward to working with the Samitaur Smiths and Samitaur Constructs to take this project to the next level,” Councilor Benton said. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but we’ve just taken an important step by selecting a partner with as much experience and similar priorities to ours as the Samitaur Smiths have.”

Neighborhood Anchor
Residents of the historic Barelas and South Broadway neighborhoods, many of whom grew up in the area, have been closely involved in efforts to redevelop the site, including the selection of Samitaur. Barelas neighborhood representative and selection committee member Ron Romero said of the redevelopment opportunity.

“We are thrilled to be chosen to take on the exciting challenge of redeveloping this amazing site,” Frederick Smith said. “Our ambition is for the Rail Yards to become a community focal point for all of Albuquerque.”

The 8 issues holding up development at the Rail Yards

Dan Mayfield – Reporter Albuquerque Business First
Several issues could hold up future development of the city’s Rail Yards, according to developer Jim Trump of Samitaur Constructs, the private developer of the area near Downtown.
In a Rail Yards Advisory Committee hearing on Tuesday morning, Trump said bankers and brokers will tour the historic site in late January and could help finance and lease the site.
Trump said the site is now designated as historic, but it has issues with transients breaking in, crumbling roofs and environmental contaminants. He said it will take millions of dollars to get it up to code.
The meeting was packed with supporters of the Rail Yards Market, a weekly farmers market that brings thousands to the site. The city is trying to scale down the market’s use of the yards to three Sundays per month instead of four.
“Our position is we totally support the Rail Yards Market,” Trump said. “It goes beyond that to car shows, weddings and more. We do also have a position that the Rail Yards Market buildings are deteriorating rather rapidly.”
Though the developer was chosen last year after the city spent about $1 million upgrading the old train repair facility, development has been slow and the advisory committee wanted an update on Tuesday.
“Samitaur is focused on the process,” he said. “As far as future tenants go, we will go through the process and there will be much more that happens.”
City Councilor Isaac Benton said the city has some funding and expects more to come through. “But I would like to move on this ASAP,” he added.
Trump said eight issues are holding up the development so far.
1. Historic designation. The State Historic Preservation Office’s approval of the site as a historic site took several months. Now that that process is complete, he said, architects can move forward.
2. Environmental clean-up. Trump told the board there is lead in the soil and other contaminants at the site that must be remediated before many of the buildings on the cast complex can be developed.
3. Communications. Archaeological and tribal councils must be apprised. “I don’t see any problems with that. In fact, it’s a positive. It’s a chance for more people to see the Rail Yards,” he said.
4. The appraisal. Samitaur hired a firm to appraise the land and the buildings, but because the site is unique it will be difficult to calculate a fair value, Trump said.
5. Broker timing. The developer is waiting for a tour of international brokers, who will soon arrive to walk around and see the site.
6. Special development costs. Because the buildings are now designated historic, certain guidelines must be followed. Those, Trump said, could be both costly and time-consuming. The cost of roofs, for example, on three of the largest buildings is about $4.1 million, and Samitaur is investigating how to construct appropriate drainage pipes.
7. Remediation cost estimates. In late January, he said, “We have a tour of bankers who want to see it. There will also be a tour by brokers. They will identify the what is the cost to remediate the building, and all these costs to quote a lease rate, and it’s quite a puzzle.”
8. Safety and security.”Our biggest concern is the deterioration of these structures. We spent a considerable amount of money to clean it. It’s is very hard to secure the site … it’s a difficult item, but we have to keep it safe,” Trump said. Crews often find used needles, as well as waste from transients in the buildings, he added.

Rail Yards redevelopment chugs forward

Stephanie Guzman Albuquerque Business First

We’ve spent the year reporting mostly on the Railyards in Santa Fe, as Albuquerque’s Rail Yards hasn’t made many headlines since the city decided in January to allow the Rail Yards Market to continue to operate on Sundays.

But city officials say their planning staff and the project’s developers, Samitaur Constructs, are working to move the redevelopment project forward. Most of the activity is processes that must be completed before any construction can begin.

Last year, the Albuquerque City Council approved a master development plan with California-based Samitaur Constructs to redevelop the 27-acre Rail Yards site. Plans include a mixed-use project, with light industrial areas, a museum, housing and cultural activities. There was no activity on the site for many years, and the city envisions a revamp that could help revitalize the area and bring lots of commercial opportunities. The price tag for the redevelopment wasn’t immediately known.

This year, the developer has been conducting predevelopment activities, said Melissa Perez, a public information officer with the city’s planning department. Those activities include meeting with potential lenders, investors and tenants.

In July, Samitaur Constructs gave an update to the Albuquerque Development Commission for its annual performance review.

“The ADC gave a positive assessment report for the developer and confirmed Samitaur had made ‘reasonable diligence’ as set forth in the Master Development and Disposition Agreement in the past year,” Perez said.

The city and Samitaur Constructs have been negotiating with the state historic preservation office on a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum will establish the working relationship between the developers and the state office in regard to historic preservation of the site.

The city also hired two firms to assess the property.

The city contracted with TRC, an archaeological compliance firm, to perform an archaeological assessment at the Rail Yards. The city also contracted the geosciences and engineering consulting firm Intera to write a plan that addresses the site’s environmental conditions. The Rail Yards property reportedly has lead and other contaminants in the soil. The plan will be submitted to the New Mexico Environment Department for review.

The redevelopment of the Rail Yards is expected to be a complex and long process. Perez said the next steps include finalizing the archaeological study, submitting the environmental cleanup plan, executing the memorandum of understanding and continuing predevelopment activities.

Help identify the men who worked in the Shops

“We have a photo of many of the men who worked in the shops. They’re on a locomotive, and we would love to identify the men,” said Leba Freed, the president of the WHEELS Transportation Museum in Albuquerque. “Sadly, they’re gone now, but we are hoping many of the family members would be able to identify them.”

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Greasy, covered in their hard work, the men were machinists and boilermakers who kept the railroad running from 1920 through the 1960s.

“They restored as many as 40 locomotives, and each one weighed as much as a million pounds,” Freed said.

Freed said the men’s work brought bigger things to Albuquerque.

“The railroad came and it built Albuquerque,” Freed said. “Had the railroad not come, we really think that Albuquerque would never have become a city.”

Leon Padilla of Bernalillo said his grandfather and uncles are in the photograph.

“I remember seeing the locomotives in the shop over there when I came to visit my grandfather,” Padilla said.

Dennis Baca, a retired railroad worker from Los Lunas, said he wants to know who the men are so their stories can be recorded.

“Once that history is dead, we will never see it,” Baca said.

Baca said the group has had some success identifying people in the photo.

“At the rail market one day, I saw a man who picked up the photo and he had tears in his eyes and he says, ‘I know this guy,’ and I said, ‘Who is that?’ He said, ‘That’s me,’” Baca said.

“Some people may have the old railroad records. They may have a lantern. They may have a photo of their grandpa,” Freed said.

Items that might be buried in a box could be pieces of history that belonged to the railroad or evidence of someone who played an instrumental role in keeping the trains running, Freed said.

The picture is at a booth every Sunday at the rail yard farmers market.

Locomotive restoration nearing completion

By: Kai Porter, Eyewitness News 4

Albuquerque citizens have a chance to help preserve a piece of railroad history right here in the city.

The New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society are restoring a classic Santa Fe Railroad steam locomotive built in 1944.

Volunteers have put in more than 125,000 hours restoring the locomotive in a downtown Albuquerque work yard.

“Santa Fe ordered 30 of these locomotives and there are only 6 left in existence today,” said Rick Kirby, the historical society’s chief mechanical officer. “This will most likely be the only one that runs again.”

Kirby says the locomotive should be up and running next spring.

The city of Albuquerque acquired the locomotive in 1956 and it sat in the middle of Coronado Park until 2000 when the historical society bought it for just one dollar.

Now that it’s being brought back to life the historical society desperately needs an engine house to protect it from weather and vandalism.

“The engine house will protect the engine and the insulation from the all the elements,” said Kirby.

The society needs to raise $200,000 for the engine house, he said.

One of their members will pitch in the last $100,000 if they can raise the first $100,000.

Kirby says preserving this piece of railroad history is vital.

“Without the steam locomotive we wouldn’t be where we are right now. Albuquerque is what it is today because of the railroad building their shops downtown.”

The historical society has already raised nearly $40,000 through a gofundme account.