Wheels Museum

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WHEELS Sponsored Amtrak Las Vegas Trip October 21-23 2022

Photos from the scenic fall group train trip to historic Las Vegas, NM.
By Brenda Pace.

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Men and Women Workers of the Albuquerque Railyard presentation Saturday, October 29

 History Event at WHEELS Museum.  Learn about the people who worked at the Albuquerque Railyards.  The faces and lives of the men and women who were the soul of the historic Railyard Buildings that are now being restored. These are the people who built modern Albuquerque.

Revisiting the Diverse Men and Women Workers of the Albuquerque Railyard” presentation by Cecelia Navarrete. 

Saturday, October 29 10-11:30 AM at WHEELS Museum. 1100 2nd Street SW. RSVP is a must: (505) 243-6269.

Admission is free; donations are gratefully accepted. 

From about 1880 to 1955 – the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s steam locomotive repair shops were a dominant industrial presence and driving economic force in Albuquerque. During World War II, at the peak of its production, the Albuquerque repair shops ran three shifts a day and 2,000 employees turned out 40 to 42 overhauled steam locomotives a month.

In this presentation Dr. Navarrete reviews initial findings of the Railyard workers (1880-1940) and delves further into their role during World War II. This is an in depth look at who these workers were and where they came. This is a must for people interested in Albuquerque History.  Dr. Navarrete previously presented her earlier work in a presentation at WHEELS in 2019. She spoke to a standing room only audience so be sure to RSVP.

WHEELS Museum Fall 2022 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

You may download the full newsletter here.

Sing Along event with “Hobo’s Lullaby”!
Wednesday, September 14 at 11:00 AM. at WHEELS Museum 1100 2nd St. SW
Admission is free; donations are gratefully accepted. RSVP: (505) 243- 6269

Sing-Along leader Dan Matthews has led small sing-alongs at Albuquerque Folk
Fest for many years. Dan gets a little help from his friends (Dave Shead, Nancy
Koenigsberg and Bill Foote), known as “Hobo’s Lullaby”, with strong voices
leading scores of people in rousing, meaningful and joyous songs. Dan’s joy is
singing with people, not singing for people.

The formula for the WHEELS Sing-Along is:
1) A list of familiar and very sing-able railroad and travel songs,
2) Comfortable keys accompanied by guitar back up
3) Lyric sheets for everyone (who remembers all the words?),
4) We will sing out strong, so you feel comfortable singing too.

Among the songs you can join in singing:
• People get ready (there’s a train a comin’)
• City of New Orleans
• Rock Island Line
• Hobo’s Lullaby


Download the Fall 2022 Newsletter

New sidewalk, bike path opens around the Albuquerque Rail Yards

by: Chris McKee (KRQE)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For years, it’s been arguably one of the worst walks around one of the most popular event spaces in Barelas, near Downtown Albuquerque. But that feeling may be fading away for most, as the city has finished construction on a big new pathway around the Rail Yards property.


If it Moves, If it Spins, You’ll Find it Here

True West Magazine July/August 2022 
Jana Bommersbach

This truly was the “engine” for Albuquerque.

The first thing Rabbi Isador Freed did in 1920, as he de-parted the train in a dusty New Mexico town, was drop to his knees and declare, “Albuquerque is a special paradise on earth, and we will never leave this place.”

It had been a long journey, as the Rabbi and his family were escaping the antisemitism of Russia. But he was right—they never left, becoming a mainstay family as Albuquerque grew from 15,000 to a half-million today.

His granddaughter, Leba Freed, has honored the family by devoting 26 years to saving that railroad station. (Her father, who was eight when they arrived, grew up to become a major merchant—and a devoted friend to this magazine, advertising for decades.)

“I wanted to give back to Albuquerque,” Leba says.


Rail Yards: What now? City weighs future options

by: Stephanie Chavez Posted: Jun 15, 2022

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After more than a decade of work, and millions of dollars spent, the city is now trying to figure out what’s next for the Rail Yards, after they scrapped their original master plan.

“We all know how hard this site has been to be developed,” said City Councilor Isaac Benton, who also serves as the Chair of the Rail Yards Advisory Board. “I think we’re finally in a position where maybe something could happen,” Benton said about the decades-long project.

The redevelopment really started in 2019, after Mayor Tim Keller terminated a contract with Samitaur, a California-based developer, who wasn’t making progress on the project. Since then, it’s come a long way. The city installed utilities, resurfaced the parking lot, replaced the roof, and ripped out contaminated creosote blocks.

“If we’re too restrictive it’s going to put more pressure on getting the site developed and we could be here for another ten years,” said one of the board members, during that meeting. They know one thing for sure, they want the property to remain a public place for Albuquerque residents to enjoy.

There’s a requirement for at least 30 permanently affordable housing units on the property, but the board has a few questions, like if they should allow for more, and where the housing would go. It may take some time to come up with a new master plan, but for now, they’re keeping an open mind.

“We each have a vision of what the site could be,” said Benton. “That applies to everybody who’s ever seen that site because it’s an inspirational place,” he said.

One of the other requirements is bringing one of the original locomotives back to the site. The board is trying to figure out if it could go by the original turntable, or if there’s another place to put it on display.

WHEELS Museum needs more funds to continue journey

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

By Leba Freed / President, Wheels Museum
Janet Marie Coen / Development Coordinator, Wheels Museum

Standing along Second Street in the Barelas neighborhood are the stately skeletons of buildings comprising the once bustling Albuquerque Railyards. Towering above the streets below, these buildings vigilantly kept watch over the surrounding neighborhoods even as they fell into disrepair, with broken windows and the never-ending displays of graffiti.

Upon a second look, passersby get a glimpse of new life emerging from the rubble, too many years abandoned and left to rot away. The Railyards, saved from a destiny like their once neighboring Alvarado Hotel, survived to move Albuquerque and New Mexico into the future.

Bookends on the far north and far south sides of the yards pump in new life to the dormant yards: The Railyards Market and the WHEELS Museum. People are familiar with the summertime Market, held from May to October, and across the railyards is an Albuquerque gem, the WHEELS Museum. The mission of the museum, housed in the storehouse built in 1915, is to collect, preserve, display, interpret and operate artifacts and infrastructure related to the transportation history of New Mexico and the exploration and development of the West.

WHEELS strives to preserve the railyard site, honor the people who have worked there and educate visitors about the history and future of transportation in a way which is quirky, unique and different from any other museum.

Beginning in 1999, the all-volunteer crew at WHEELS began collecting more than $3 million worth of artifacts and exhibits. The warehouse is full of oral histories, tools used by the workers and narratives telling the stories of the railyards specifically. The museum also houses displays of all forms of transportation used in New Mexico, from early carretas used along the Camino Real to race cars and jet airplanes. Model trains run the gamut from steam engines to the modern Amtrak. There are so many stories to tell of the people who worked at the yards, but the museum needs more funding to allow it to expand on the educational mission.

Steam engine 2926 wants to come home to the yard, but our turntable is inoperable. California museums want to bring rail cars for display, but there is nowhere to house them. To preserve the machine shop we need a new multimillion-dollar roof, but no money is available. The museum receives guests from across the country and they all say the same thing: this is wonderful, but you need more room. There are 27 acres of railyards property, but we need money to make the improvements to the infrastructure.

(Former) Gov. Bill Richardson recently expressed interest in helping the museum get what we need to improve the site so our operations can expand. This eclectic museum puts a smile on every visitor’s face and leaves them wanting to see and learn more. The solo fundraising efforts by the volunteers cannot keep up with the funding needs to keep the museum moving forward. To help expand rail heritage tourism and economic development in Albuquerque and New Mexico, we ask everyone to talk to legislators, mayors, the governor and anyone who can help provide funding to keep the railyards moving forward.

If not for the Albuquerque railyards, Albuquerque would not be the city of today, and the population would not have been able to develop the strong middle-class community it enjoys today.

Upcoming Wheels Museum Events

July 31, 2022

Ride the Rails with Pianist Adam Swanson

Date: Sunday, July 31
Time: 3-5 PM (doors open at 2:15)
Location: First Unitarian Church, ABQ (3701 Carlisle, NE)
Price: $ 26 in advance. $ 30 at the door
Purchase: Online at: Hold My Ticket

Adam Swanson is the only four time world Ragtime Piano Champion. He performed at a fund-raiser for the WHEELS Museum in February, 2020, and many were turned away because the concert had sold out.

We have not announced this concert publicly – yet! We want you to have the opportunity to purchase tickets before they’re no longer available. Here’s a link to a few videos from his previous concert:
2020 – Adam Swanson Benefit Concert

Sponsorships to this 5013C organization are available. Sponsors will receive preferential seating. For more information about becoming a sponsor, please contact the WHEELS Museum at 505-243-6269 or email Leba at Leba4@aol.com

Santa Fe Completes Modern Shops at Albuquerque – 1922

Railway Age – August 5, 1922

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe is now engaged in an extensive program of rehabilitation of its extensive locomotive repair facilities at Albuquerque, N.M., which involves the expenditure of more than $2,500,000.


Leba Freed receives the Edgar Lee Hewett Service Award

Leba Freed was chosen for the 2022 Edgar Lee Hewett Award, which recognizes outstanding service to the people of New Mexico, as related to New Mexico history, for her long-time efforts to save the historic buildings of the Albuquerque Railyards and to establish a transportation museum, the Wheels Museum.

The Historical Society of New Mexico (HSNM) recognizes outstanding work by students, professional and avocational historians, and organizations through various annual HSNM Awards. The awards are announced and presented at the Annual Meeting. This year’s NM-AZ Annual History Conference is April 7-9 2022 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

2022 New Mexico~Arizona History Conference Program

Kathy Rasmussen
If you love history about trains and just the local area for current activities where movies are shot this is the place. Donations if you feel like maintaining history.
Kathy Rasmussen
S Holden
At the museum on business. Great history there, nostalgia, and wonderment. Looking forward to the continued growth of the museum. Support your local museums!
S Holden
Vanessa Au
The Wheels Museum is volunteer run and was such a treat! We visited a bunch museums and this sort of unofficial museum was, hands down, our favorite. The door was locked when we arrived (I think by accident) but they hurried to let us in when I called and welcomed us warmly. They let my 6yo run the little train we all rode on. Another volunteer gave him a little matchbox car to keep. There were tons of all sorts of antiques on wheels, and some not on wheels. I was amazed by the collection and the enthusiasm and knowledge of the volunteers. Don’t forget to stuff cash in their donation box. They truly deserve it.
Vanessa Au
Armando Diaz
A great experience for the whole family! A spectacular place of pure nostalgia. Everything wheels and some things that fly . Soon you will see my artwork in this museum. Make the time to see it you won't regret.
Armando Diaz
Tara C.
Love the museum and the very friendly volunteers that run the place.
Tara C.
Bruce Guest
Fun place to stroll about !
Bruce Guest
Andy Vigil
It was exactly what I expected to see. The old photos and books gives you a picture back in time. The model railroad were very nice. We were the only ones in there and they turned the models on for us.
Andy Vigil
Julia Knight
Julia Knight


Jazz Music Events
Featuring some of the top Jazz live music acts in the Southwest, the "Jazz on WHEELS" series begins in October and runs through the end of December. The WHEELS Museum has partnered with local events production company Mariposa Music,, to utilize the power of music to benefit the museum. The Jazz on WHEELS performance will begin at 2pm on selected Sundays. Visit mariposamusicrocks.com for more information.