Silver Iris Restoration

When the Railroad Was King
BY Rick Nathanson / Journal Staff Writer
Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

It’s the holiday season, when Christmas trees suddenly sprout from living room floors, many with model trains circling colorfully wrapped boxes of presents – some perhaps containing a new train set or a coveted railcar.

Whether it’s a Lionel or a Lego, Bachmann or Bowser, kids and adults still love trains.

The folks at Albuquerque’s Wheels Museum are particularly fond of Budd trains this holiday season, after being given a completely restored, 85-foot-long private railcar made in 1952 by the Budd metal manufacturing company of Philadelphia. More


Built by the Budd Company in 1952 for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy’s “American Royal Zephyr.”; it was one of five in the “flower” series which ran on the American Royal zephyr overnight between Chicago and Kansas City. The car was built as a 6 roomette, 4 bedroom, 6 section sleeper, and later operated on Amtrak (with the sections used as crew dormitory space) until 1980. From 1980 through 1984, the car was used by the Association of American Railroads at the FRA/AAR test facility in Pueblo, Colorado. The car is completely self-contained with a galley, showers, and dining/lounge area. Has been in private car service since 1984.


The rail car restoration is being done for the Wheels Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico by Mr. Kurt Olsen. The museum plans to join the Silver Iris and a 1937 Acoma First Class Lounge Car. Upon completion, the train will run excursions between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Plan Ahead – Swap Meet and Car Show Postponed

The WHEELS Auto Parts and Car Show fund-raiser scheduled for (May 3, 2020) has been postponed, but not cancelled.

WHEELS will post the information about the time, date, and location in a future newsletter.  Booths will be available to sell and/or display

  • Auto parts 
  • Jewelry
  • Crafts
  • Tools
  • Collectibles

Corporate sponsorships available.  Non-profit and government organizations welcome.

To assure that a booth space will be available to you once we obtain more event details, please submit an email to with “Swap Meet” in the subject.

The 1930’s Home Exhibit.

WHEELS is duplicating life in the 1930’s with an exhibit of  furnishings, appliances, literature, entertainment, etc., used during the heyday of the steam locomotive.

We’ve been generously donated several pieces of furniture as well as appliances, and we are looking for more.  If you have anything that might be used in this exhibit, no matter how large or small, please contact Leba (, or phone the museum at 505-243-6269 and leave a message.  WHEELS is also seeking volunteers to assist in the development of this project.  Interior decorating from 90 years ago will be a whole lot fun!

Silver Iris Passenger Train

Work on the air brakes of the Silver Iris is moving ahead.  Numerous rubber hoses, heavy parts, and a great deal of expertise have gone into getting this beautiful 85 foot long, stainless steel private rail car ready to run.  

This car was donated to WHEELS, and we’ll certainly keep everyone informed about the improvements, developments, possible excursions, and visits to see this “baby” with eight bedrooms and ten bathrooms.   Think about “Rail Heritage Tourism.”

New Exhibits When WHEELS Reopens

  • Vintage Studebaker Automobile
  • Hand Built Race Car
  • Military Artifacts
  • Rare Crosley Automobile
  • World War II Harley Davidson Motorcycle with Side Car
  • Model Planes
  • Remote Control Planes
  • Full Size Ultra Light Planes
  • American Flyer Model Trainsle

Call for Volunteers

WHEELS counts on volunteers to get multiple jobs accomplished.  We love that we can depend on many talented people in our community.  Please think about which of these jobs you would like to do, and contact WHEELS (505-243-6269):

  • Displaying and cataloging model airplanes
  • Displaying and cataloging model trains
  • Converting our library into a 1930’s home.  
  • All gauge model railroad engineers to run the trains
  • Large and small display builders for our new exhibits.
  • Speakers bureau for transportation related topics
  • Gift shop workers
  • Fundraising Events
  • Membership Events
  • Grant Writers

WHEELS exists thanks to the help and friendship of our wonderful volunteers.

The WHEELS at WHEELS are Turning!

City seeks proposals for Rail Yard entrance redevelopment

by: KRQE MEDIAPosted: Apr 7, 2020 / 05:22 PM MDT / Updated: Apr 8, 2020 / 03:53 PM MDT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The city is looking for creative and innovative ways to redevelop the Rail Yards north entrance. Officials are calling on real estate developers and businesses to share their ideas for the area. That includes the Firehouse, Waste and Paint Room, Pattern House and other areas.

“The Rail Yards redevelopment is the definition of a public-private partnership, pulling neighborhoods, government, developers and local business together to reinvigorate a thriving, vibrant community in ways that celebrate our unique culture and history,” said Mayor Tim Keller in a press release. “During this tough time, projects like these serve as a bolster for our local economy.”

For more information, click here.

Wheels Museum Auto Parts Swap Meet & Car Show

This event has been officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2nd annual Wheels Museum auto parts swap meet, car show, arts and crafts extravaganza will be held Sunday May 3, 2020, at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Park. Over 2000 people attended last year and we hope for a much bigger event this year.

This is our annual fundraiser. Please support us as we continue to work as volunteers to constantly improve the museum, the railyards, and the economics and culture of New Mexico

Admission is $5 to get into event and all proceeds benefit The Wheels Museum.


  • Grand Prize – One week timeshare in Sedona, Arizona
  • Jewelry
  • Art
  • Restaurant Meals
  • Automobile Items
  • $ 20 for 5 tickets. $ 5 for one ticket. Must be present to win. Drawings throughout the day.
  • Grand prize awarded at 2:30 pm

Promote Your Business – Rent a booth – $35

  • Auto Parts and Cars
  • Musical Instruments, CDS, Albums
  • Jewelry
  • Antiques
  • Hand Crafted Items
  • Everything from nuts but no soup
  • Booth setup available May 2 from 12-4. Security provided.

Show Off Your Car – $ 20

  • 12 division car show.
  • Trophies and Prizes awarded
  • Set up time – 8 am
  • Show time 9 am to 2 pm

Become a Sponsor for the Day

  • $ 1000 minimum
  • Businesses welcome
  • Includes 60 radio spots
  • Includes announcements from DJ – Day of Show
  • Signage on all Written Materials
  • Huge Booth Space and More
  • Two Free Passes to the Show

For more information:

Leba Freed (505) 243-6269,

Jim Glover at (505) 239-4543,

The Romance And History Of ‘Dining By Rail’

By Dan Polletta
ideastream January 8, 2020

Enjoying a gourmet meal in a well-appointed dining car was part of the allure of traveling by rail, but in the 1850s that elegant experience wasn’t afforded to train travelers. Instead, passengers either packed their own baskets of food or exited the train when it stopped at a depot to hurriedly gobble down often bad meals from less than reputable vendors. More >

The Alvarado Hotel

For well over a half century a traveler’s first impression of the American Southwest was through one of the many Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad stations and the associated hotel and restaurant operated by the Fred Harvey organization.

Here the eastern or midwestern traveler was drawn into the romantic world of the Spanish conquistador and equally unfamiliar world of the Pueblo and Navajo Indians.

Consultant offers 3 Rail Yards redevelopment scenarios

By Jessica Dyer / Journal Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leland Consulting Group’s most recent draft report to the city of Albuquerque says the ideal Rail Yards redevelopment strategy will include a mix of uses.

It provides three different development scenarios of varying levels of density, but notes that redevelopment will occur over many years, making it impossible to predict the exact mix that would work.

All scenarios call for “adaptive reuse” of buildings on the property’s north side, which the report calls the Rail Yards’ “front door.” Proposed uses include Central New Mexico Community College’s film center, the existing Rail Yards Market, and new retail, restaurant and commercial tenants.

Chicago artist Theaster Gates recently kickstarted an effort to redevelop one of those northern buildings – the fire station – by pledging $11,000 of his own money and helping raise another $14,000.

“It could be a calling card to the rest of the complex,” he said during a late-June presentation in Albuquerque.

Leland recommends 10,000 to 20,000 square feet of retail space in the Rail Yards over the next decade, and a focus on food and beverage tenants, vendors related to film or rail travel, existing area businesses looking to expand or “small, local vendors that build on the Rail Yards’ unique, historic and gritty character.”

Leland suggests using large existing buildings near the Rail Yards’ center – the Boiler Shop and the Machine Shop, which alone has nearly 4 acres of enclosed floor space – for things that would require less renovation, such as concerts, festivals and other special events; film productions; or sports, like soccer or pickleball.

But two of its scenarios suggest eventually constructing buildings within those buildings to create 110,000 to 200,000 square feet of employment space. Leland also says that is more space than likely needed over the next decade.

“There are numerous benefits to this approach,” the report says of keeping the large spaces intact. “It retains large ‘atrium’ areas for public visitation, events, etc. It manages the capital and operating costs, and energy required for space conditioning.”

The report’s various scenarios also include 65 to 160 mixed-income housing units near the Rail Yards’ southern end.

But Albuquerque officials cautioned last week that Leland’s draft report is “still very preliminary.”

“Gathering input from the Rail Yards Advisory Board and the public is part of the scope of the contractor’s work,” Albuquerque’s Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael said in a statement. “The recommendations will not be finalized without public input. However, even this preliminary information is important for the City to have as we consider the development of the Rail Yards.”

Film center could be ‘game changer’ for Rail Yards

By Jessica Dyer / Journal Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 at 12:05am

A consultant hired to study the financial feasibility of redeveloping the Albuquerque Rail Yards called a planned community college film center a “game changer” – one that could “define the economic purpose of the site” in lieu of waiting for another potentially hard-to-find anchor.

Portland-based Leland Consulting Group called Central New Mexico Community College’s proposed Film Production Center of Excellence “an exciting and potentially transformative use” at the Rail Yards. The firm’s recent draft report to the city said officials should “do everything in their power” to ensure it comes to fruition.

Then & Now – The Albuquerque Depot

The Albuquerque depot that lead to the development of what Albuquerque is today is all due to the village of the original depot location and AT&SF could not agree on a land price. Back when the AT&SF inquired the village of Bernalillo about land the village was wanting $425.00 per acre, where as the railroad was accustomed to only paying about $2.00 per acre. So the AT&SF moved on from Bernalillo and went 10 miles to the south to build what is known today as the Albuquerque Depot in the heart of Albuquerque, NM.

Courtesy of TrainBoyz