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.”

photo 1 - Copy (6)

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.

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.