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.

Grant ensures SW Chief will stay on current route

By Olivier Uyttebrouck / Journal Staff Writer
A federal agency has awarded a $15 million grant to upgrade a New Mexico rail line used primarily by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, including the replacement of 39 miles of track near Albuquerque, the state’s congressional delegation said Monday.
The U.S. Department of Transportation grant also helps settle questions about how to pay for track maintenance in New Mexico and two other states that prompted Amtrak officials last year to discuss rerouting the Southwest Chief.
“We had no desire to relocate, and we won’t,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Monday. “We’re pledging to stay on this route and we’re putting money behind it, as are the states and the communities, and now the (U.S. Department of Transportation).”
The $15 million award is a part of a larger grant proposal submitted earlier this year to upgrade the Southwest Chief tracks in New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas.
The proposal included a $1 million contribution from the New Mexico Department of Transportation and $4 million from Amtrak.
The Southwest Chief operates a daily passenger service between Los Angeles and Chicago, with New Mexico stops in Gallup, Albuquerque, Lamy, Las Vegas and Raton.
An Amtrak official told New Mexico lawmakers last year that the nationwide passenger rail system might reroute the Southwest Chief to avoid northern New Mexico and Colorado if the states didn’t contribute money for track maintenance.
Amtrak was considering an alternative route that would have passed through Clovis, Texas and Oklahoma, lawmakers were told.
Earlier this year, officials in Kansas and Colorado committed $9.3 million to secure a federal matching grant of $12.5 million for track maintenance in those states.
The new grant award assures track maintenance in New Mexico, Magliari said.
The money will pay for 39 miles of new welded rail and 20 miles of roadbed upgrades in and around Albuquerque. BNSF Railway, which owns the track, will perform the upgrades, he said.
“The BNSF has agreed to maintain (the tracks) at a higher level so our trains can make good time across it,” he said.