City invites artists to document Rail Yards before renewal

By Steve Knight / Journal Staff Writer
Published: Friday, September 21st, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City officials are giving more than 50 local artists access to the Albuquerque Rail Yards this weekend with their supplies and equipment to document the historic site before redevelopment begins.
During a Friday news conference, Mayor Tim Keller spoke of the “Artists Days” project, an effort to preserve and archive the current state of the property, which began Friday and continues today. He also outlined plans on proposed improvements to the site that was once a major maintenance facility for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
The city is taking over efforts to remediate and revitalize the Rail Yards after breaking ties with Samitaur Constructs, a California-based contractor hired in 2012 to redevelop the property.
The city’s next steps include increasing security with 24-hour protection, cleaning the site and improving access, repairing roofs and installing utilities and preparing for demolition of small buildings not historically significant.
Planning Department Director David Campbell used the saying, “If you don’t know where you’ve been, you can’t know where you’re going” in both English and Spanish to explain the purpose of Artists Days.
“This is the city’s opportunity to take the ‘before’ pictures,” Campbell said. “Someday very soon, we hope, we will be able to celebrate the ‘after’ pictures – the ones that tell us how this place has been transformed. We are so fortunate to have not only the Rail Yards, but to have artists and photographers to document this.”
Keller earlier in the week said the city would stick to a previously approved “master vision” for the 27.3 acre property and break that plan into phases.
The first priority after extensive environmental remediation will be to “activate” the building adjacent to the already-updated blacksmith shop, which is home to the weekly market.
A second updated building will mean additional event space and market expansion.
Keller said he plans to ask for help from the City Council, the Legislature and the governor. He estimated remediation would cost around $8 million and rehabbing the second building would be another “couple of million dollars.”
He said the city is also switching management of the facility over to SMG, the company contracted to run the Albuquerque Convention Center, in hopes of increasing its use.
The rail yards are just south of Downtown, between the Barelas and South Broadway neighborhoods. The city bought the site in 2007 for about $8.5 million, with a commitment that redevelopment would include some mixed-income housing and a permanent place for the Wheels Museum. The site consists of 18 surviving buildings erected between 1915 and 1925.

Boilers fired up in old Santa Fe 2926

Boilers fired up in old Santa Fe 2926
By Ollie Reed Jr. / Journal Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018 at 6:03pm
Updated: Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018 at 10:22pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For the first time since the 1950s, old Santa Fe 2926 is letting off some steam. About 100 people gathered in the gray, drizzling early morning on Wednesday to watch as, for the first time in decades, the boilers of the old locomotive were fired up in the Eighth Street work yard of the New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society.

Plumes of dark, hazy smoke climbed out of the locomotive’s smokestack at about 6:30 a.m., signaling a landmark moment in a renovation project that’s been underway for more than 15 years.

“We got a little more steam testing to do and then we’ll put the pistons on it,” an elated Michael Hartshorne, society president, said Wednesday morning. He said the organization’s goal continues to be to get 2926 up and running on the rails again, perhaps making excursions to the Grand Canyon or the old New Mexico railroad town of Las Vegas.

Santa Fe 2926, a 1944 Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway steam engine, made its last run on Christmas Eve 1953. It was donated to the city of Albuquerque in 1956 and placed in Coronado Park, on Second Street just south of Interstate 40. It stayed in the park, savaged by the elements and used by the homeless as a shelter and toilet, until 2000 when the Steam Locomotive & Railroad Society, organized specifically to rescue Santa Fe 2926, bought the locomotive for $1 and moved it, first to side tracks at Second and Menaul and then, in 2002, to 1833 Eighth NW.

From 2002 up to this week, society members have put in 178,000 volunteer hours and taken in $3.1 million, almost all of it in donations, to restore the locomotive to the smoking wonder it was in the 1940s and early ’50s. It is an undertaking more immense than the locomotive, which is 18 feet tall and weighs 510,150 pounds.

An average of 25 to 35 society members have turned out for twice-weekly work sessions over the years. Parts had to be tracked down in other countries. Parts that no longer existed had to be made. Sometimes, tools, such as huge wrenches, had to be made. Several sections of the boiler, which had worn thin, had to be replaced.

But now, there’s smoke in the stack, fire in the belly of the beast and light at the end of the tunnel.

“We are a bunch of guys and gals who have dumped a lot of time and effort into this and suffered a lot of frustrations,” Hartshorne said. “It feels great when you see it actually works.”

Learn more about the New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society and its restoration project at www.nmslrhs.org.

Millions of dollars in cleanup needed before Rail Yards construction begins

KRQE News 13-Feb 26, 2018
Rebecca Atkins ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE)
Once full of life, the sprawling 27 acre Rail Yards site looks abandoned. Although it’s been featured in blockbuster films, like “The Avengers,” not much happens there other than the Rail Yards Market.
“People feel like it’s not moving fast enough,” said City Councilor Isaac Benton.
Benton was instrumental in the city’s $8.5 million purchase of the Rail Yards a decade ago. The master plans include shopping, restaurants, housing and an amphitheater. Benton said it’s time the plans come to life.
“There’s a general sense of disappointment,” said Benton.
The LA-based developer Samitaur Constructs has been criticized in the past for its lack of progress. The previous mayor put the developer on notice last year after concerns over delays on the project. They are now required to provide quarterly updates.
Now, comes a huge obstacle in the way. At the last Albuquerque Development Commission meeting, Samitaur revealed the cost for the environmental cleanup at the site.
“The first phase being just under $2 million, and you’re looking at the second phase being $3 million,” said a representative for the developer.
In an audio recording of the meeting, Samitaur said it would cost about $5 million to get rid of asbestos on the windows, lead paint residue, and underground vapors.
“Identifying what the environment is, they’ve checked a box or something, but we’re nowhere near starting, much less coming to a hard figure,” said Benton.
The new administration said it’s a project the city won’t give up on.
“The mayor is very, very committed to making the Rail Yards a viable area for the city,” said Lawrence Rael, COO for the Mayor’s office.
However, he said they’re at a crossroads.
“The issue really is, we either need to begin to have this developer move forward or begin to take a different course with the project,” said Rael.
The city is not responsible for footing the bill, but it could help the developer pursue grants and provide its own funding as well.

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.”

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.