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.
True West Magazine July/August 2022
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
By: Scott Brown Apr 8, 2022
Albuquerque, NM (KRQE) – A new study has been released on the feasibility of connecting the city’s Rail Trail to the Sawmill District. The Spur Line Trail would follow the existing railroad tracks – north at Lomas and Broadway, then west along the Rail Spur Track, which extends to the Sawmill District.
This would be a part of an eight-mile loop connecting major attractions like the Railyards, BioPark, Old Town, and the Sawmill District. A new study says while the trail is feasible, they face some challenges. The study says there isn’t enough of a buffer between the tracks and where the trail would have to go – on two parcels of land.
The city says they could get around it with an elevated trail in this area. Photos show what that trail could look like. To adhere to the style of the area, they would tile it with a design that emulates the Albuquerque Rail Yards.
The study says the trail would have to be done in three phases. They received strong support from surrounding property owners and community members.
The wheels at WHEELS are turning very fast and we have a full calendar of events that are described in this newsletter. We are thrilled with all the visitors, groups and interested people as well as new volunteers. Please see opportunities for you to visit with your group or come see us and visit as an individual or family. We are hoping you will call so that we can schedule your group, club, school, church or professional organization. If you are interested in joining us at WHEELS, call Leba at (505) 243-6269 or visit us at 1100 Second St. SW in Albuquerque.
4 Events Rolled into One Afternoon:
- Book Review and Signing by Ed Davis, author of “The Last Professional”
- Silent Movie Showing of the 1928 Film, “Beggars of Life”
- Catered Lunch by Freddy’s
- Hobo Attire Contest – Dress Up and Win a Prize
Time:1 pm – 4 pm
Date:Sunday, April 24th
1100 2nd Street, SW (ABQ)
Price:$ 20.00 includes catered lunch
Space is limited.
Attendees – Please bring a non-perishable food item for a local food bank donation.
About Ed Davis, Featured Speaker:
Author and former train-hopper/hobo, Ed Davis, will discuss and sign his book, “The Last Professional.” Join us in riding this train, a trip that began in a boxcar over 40 years ago. In the tradition of Jack Kerouac, this book tells the story of two travelers linked by the yearning to wander and the quest for a simpler life.
Hobo Style Menu Catered by Freddy’s Includes:
All Beef Hot Dog
Bowl of Chile
Silent Movie Beggars of Life:
Beggars of Life is a1928 silent film American film directed by William Wellman and starring Wallace Beery and Richard Arlen as hobos, and Louise Brooks as a young woman who dresses as a young man and flees the law. The film is regarded as Brooks’s best American movie.
Dress Up (or down) in Hobo Attire:
This is totally optional, but you might win a prize for best HOBO attire if you choose to “dress down”!
Tour The Museum:
The opportunity to tour the museum is available to all who attend.
City of Albuquerque Covid guidelines will be observed.