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NM Railroad Updates

Adrian Gurule
December 26, 2020

Just a few items to clarify on recent railroad posts here in the group. I myself am the President of a passenger rail advocacy group in NM and we are either involved directly with these railroads and or we know persons involved in the project.

ATSF 2926 (Steam Engine formerly in Coronado Park)
The steam engine is near completion and was scheduled to move under her own power (move under her own power is moving the locomotive without any assistance from a generator and or another locomotive) in early 2020. She was gonna have her pistons & rods reinstalled along with the boiler steamed up to make this happen. However due to COVID-19 and group restrictions, President of the New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society said he doesn’t want to fire up the engine until the whole team can enjoy the event. There is 20+ persons who work on it. That event is suspended until further notice. However once we move on from COVID -19. The steam engine will need to have her crews qualified to operate it on the mainline track which is owned by NMRX Railroad (Rail Runner) and leased by Amtrak & BNSF Railway. This will take a few months to a certain amount of weeks to have this happen. You will see the steam engine most likely operate north of Albuquerque due to little to no freight or passenger traffic. Once this is complete, ATSF 2926 will need to partner with Amtrak or BNSF to lease a locomotive to use behind the steam engine when they are pulling passenger cars.

Due to the Federal Railroad Administrations strict guidelines on operating a steam engine, a Diesel Powered locomotive is required to provide power to the passenger cars and also provide assistance to the steam engine if needed on steep grades. ATSF 2926 does not own her own passenger car fleet so she will need to partner with owners across the country who own their own private rail cars. These rail cars will need to be inspected by Amtrak or BNSF and the FRA before approved to operate with ATSF 2926. These passenger cars are transported by Amtrak at the end of their routes. So these passenger rail car owners will need to pay Amtrak to transport their rail cars to Albuquerque via the Southwest Chief. Once all that as been completed, ATSF 2926 will need to insure they have all proper insurance & liability papers in order with BNSF Railway, Amtrak & NMRX Railroad. Once all that is complete, the railroads will cut open operating windows for ATSF 2926 to operate through without causing service disruption for Rail Runner, Amtrak or BNSF trains.

ATSF 2926 will most likely operate north of Albuquerque due to little to no rail traffic. In 2009 BNSF railway (formerly Santa Fe Railroad) suspended all operations between Albuquerque, NM & Trinidad , CO due to little to no operating revenue and or customers left on the route. However they reserve the right under agreements with NMDOT (NMRX) and Amtrak to use the route again for freight if they deem necessary. Because of this ATSF 2926 will have an easier time operating without disrupting rail traffic. In regards to operating to Clovis, Gallup or Las Cruces that is gonna be on logistical nightmare which BNSF railway will have to throughly consider. BNSF has what is known as the Transcon route known as the “Super Rail Highway of the SW” that runs from Gallup > Belen > Vaughn > Clovis and those trains carry high priority goods which can’t be delayed. Anyone between Albuquerque & Raton your in luck.

SFS Railroad (Santa Fe Southern Railroad)
This line was formerly owned by Hollywood actor & railroad enthusiast “Michael Gross” who saved the line from abandonment by the ATSF (Santa Fe Railroad) in the early 90s. This later gave birth to the Santa Fe Southern Railroad which operated freight & tourist railroad operations on the former ATSF rail line between Santa Fe & Lamy, NM. Santa Fe Southern had a big customer within Santa Fe and that was the Santa Fe Brewery. They would use BNSF to haul their beer out by rail. But in the late 2000s they began to use Semi Truck. Business began to decline in Santa Fe for the SFS railroad. When Rail Runner came to town, the state purchased the ROW (Right of Way) from them in 2008 which is known as the El Dorado Subdivision on the NMRX railroad in railroad terminology. Rail Runner rebuilt the rail line in Santa Fe causing the rail yard near St Francis to have a bit of a change. This posed some issues for SFS and when rail runner opened in December 2008, they moved to a tourist railroad operation.

In late 2010 they suspended operations after the failed “ X-Train” company out of Las Vegas, NV failed and an Australian company failed to buy it for railroad testing. Before the recent purchase of the line by George Martin & his associates. The route was rated at 20 mph due to the rail being so aged, the railroad ties began to move with the trains movement and also weeds began to plague the route. The route still uses the wooden trestles by the ATSF still to this day. They had times were the route would have a broken rail causing service to be only from Lamy to Galisteo Basin and service to Santa Fe was suspended until the broken rail was fixed.

SFS railroad will also have to work with NMRX Railroad who is the owner of the rail lines and Amtrak along with BNSF who lease the lines as well in order to fix the route and bring it up to modernized methods of operation. The engines 07 & 93 will need to be over hauled and the passenger cars will need a good face lift. Then the new owners can look into acquiring new engines and passenger cars if need be. Now if they want to operate at high speeds they will have to work with NMRX railroad to install radio equipment along with trackside equipment from i25 to Lamy. At this time due to no dispatching takes place after i25 the train is rated at 20 mph. From Santa Fe depot to i25 SFS operates under the authority & protection of NMRX railroad which allows them to operate faster than 20 mph.

Not to damper anyone’s hopes for these railroads, just wanted to let y’all know what needs to happen before anyone can ride them. It’s easy to watch a news story and say “cool it will be operating by next year”

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New Lego exhibit at the Wheels Museum. View The New Mexico Lego Users Group has
partnered with WHEELS to have a beautiful Lego Train layout for children of all ages to enjoy. The exhibit will vary from season to season and we invite you to come see this new Lego train exhibit.

Do you have a few hours each month to help the Wheels Museum? Volunteers are needed so the Museum can be open more; run the model railroad trains, also help needed with events, marketing, fund raising. Call Leba Freed at (505) 243-6269.

Febuary 16, 11 am. Bob Bovee Long Steel Rails concert. This program for all ages presents songs and stories about the famous trains, rail workers, hobos, train wrecks and train robbers. Call or email Leba Freed for reservations at (505) 243-6269 or leba4@aol.com.

March 17, Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at WHEELS. Movie, tours, train ride and food celebration.

April 1, 1 pm. Doug Figgs and Badger. Back by popular demand. By reservations only (505) 243- 6269. Doug’s show was sold out last year, so call early! Donation: $10.00.

April 8, 11 am. “Historic Albuquerque” Ronn Perea will present old Albuquerque anecdotes including delightful stories about our beloved Alvarado Hotel and the politicians, actors and entertainers who stayed there. This is a free event but, of course, donations are always appreciated.

April 22, Wheels Museum Day trip to Rancho De Chimayo Restaurante, El Santuario de Chimayo and the Santa Fe Plaza. Call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for more information. The museum is a 501C3 non-profit community organization whose mission is to create a transportation museum at the downtown Albuquerque Steam Locomotive Repair Shops.

May 19-May 23, Train trip to the Grand Canyon. Only a few spaces left.Scheduled through Amtrak Vacations, call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for reservations and more information.