Home » The Historic Railroad Buildings of Albuquerque Part 2


The Historic Railroad Buildings of Albuquerque Part 2

An Assessment of Significance
Chris Wilson

Industrial Construction
The decade from 1914 to 1924, when the new Albuquerque shops were constructed, coincided with the greatest period of innovation in the history of industrial design and building technology. Factories of the late 19th century had followed a building tradition which stretched back to medieval warehouses.

Because of high property values in cities, these factories were customarily multi-story buildings. Generally they had stone or brick, load-bearing piers outside and heavy timber framing inside. (The original Atlantic and Pacific roundhouse and shops were stone construction with timber framing.) Concrete reinforced with steel became common in industrial construction after 1905, It was fire-proof, required less maintenance than brick or stone, dampened machine vibration better and was faster and more economical to build. Since the structure was reduced to a minimum with reinforced concrete, large areas of the walls were left free for windows to better light the factory. (10)

The need to build even more quickly during the First World War, spurred the adoption of steel frame construction. Steel had not been used earlier in multi-story factories because it failed if exposed to fire, and did not provide dampening for machine vibration, So war-time factories were shifted to less-expensive property away from city centers where it was economical to build one-story buildings and safe to use steel. Besides being faster and cheaper to build, steel structures left even more wall surface free for light and ventilation and also spanned greater widths than reinforced concrete. This last characteristic allowed greater flexibility to design an enclosure around the industrial process. The process could be laid out for maximum efficiency without being constrained by the smaller structural grid of reinforced concrete. (11)

Because the Albuquerque shops were constructed both before and after the First World War, they reflect several stages of this rapid evolution. Some smaller buildings such as the locker and wash rooms are of brick, while the Sheet Metal Shed has a wood timber structure. Reinforced concrete was used for the Roundhouse, Storehouse and Flue Shop built just before the war, and for most of the smaller, auxiliary buildings. The Blacksmiths Shop, built about 1917, employs a steel frame structure but retains vestigial brick walls. The Machine and Boiler Shops, built after the war, employ a steel frame, with spans as wide as 86 feet, and continuous glass curtain walls on the long east-vest sides.

Roundhouse In addition to using a new material, the 35-stall Roundhouse also followed a standardized plan designed by the Santa Fe’s engineering department in Chicago. This plan detailed the construction of a single stall which could be multiplied to produce the number of stalls needed for each new roundhouse. The standard plan is dated May, 1914, while the layout of the Albuquerque Roundhouse is dated May 22, 1914, making it an early, perhaps the first, use of this new Santa Fe system standard plan. A tall center section, cutting across the middle of each stall, allowed the addition of two improvements: clerestory windows which provided better light and a 7 1/2 ton traveling crane which facilitated minor locomotive repairs.

Although this was a substantial advance over the poorly-lit, old sandstone roundhouse, the new roundhouse exhibits some features which had become conventional in 19th century roundhouses such as steam heat pipes in the engine pits and an elaborate drainage system to facilitate cleaning. The concrete detailing under the monitor roof, too, harkens back to the rafters of early, wooden roundhouse roofs. (12)

Part 3


Do you have a few hours each month to help the Wheels Museum? Volunteers are needed so the Museum can be open more; run the model railroad trains, also help needed with events, marketing, fund raising. Call Leba Freed at (505) 243-6269.

Saturday, September 30 and Sunday October 1, 2023. One of the nation’s largest operating steam locomotives, former Santa Fe 2926, will be on the move and park next to the Albuquerque Rail Yards on Saturday, September 30 through Sunday, October 1. WHEELS will have a booth at the site. Please come and visit us. For more information go to: www.2926.us

Saturday, October 21 2-4 pm. “The Great Wheels Museum Train Robbery!” Dr. Ronald Lah of the Wheels Museum with a group of local history reenactors will present the program. It will include:
Screening with discussion of the 1903 film, “The Great Train Robbery,” and the “Lawmen Train Cars” that were developed for rapid deployment after a robbery.

Discussion of the historic Socorro and San Marcia, New Mexico train robberies, and the accuracy of train robbery depictions in movies like “Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid.”

Reenactment of an Old West train robbery staged in and around the Wheels Museum’s train coach car.

Donors to the Wheels Museum Fundraiser are encouraged to take a seat in the train coach and present your donation when the "Train Robbers" go through the car. Visitors are encouraged to wear some period style Old West apparel like bowler and feathered hats and bonnets, pin-stipes, vests, and boots.

Only non-functional firearm props will be used in the re-enactment. Admission is Free: Donations gratefully accepted. Phone: (505) 243-6269 to RSVP.

Saturday, October 28, 2-4 pm. Headset Dance Party. Dance wearing headsets to a great variety of musical choices. Admission Free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Saturday, November 4, 11 am. “A History of Albuquerque Comedy or How I Got My Kicks on
Route 66.”
Ronn Perea. Ron's presentation will give you a unique insight into a part of Albuquerque
Culture and we promise you that you will laugh out loud throughout his talk. Admission is Free: Donations gratefully accepted. Phone: (505) 243-6269 to RSVP.

Saturday, November 4, 2 pm. "Albuquerque History Challenge: Education and Fun" Roland Pentilla is an Albuquerque historian who frequently conducts downtown walking tours on behalf of the
Albuquerque Historical Society and Historic Albuquerque, Inc. Come to experience our own “Jeopardy” version of Albuquerque history complete with raffle prizes for the correct answers. Admission is Free: Donations gratefully accepted. Phone: (505) 243-6269 to RSVP.

Saturday, November 25, 10 am. “Walter steps up to the plate”. Author Sue Houser discusses her book about twelve-year-old Walter wants to spend the summer of 1927 watching his beloved Chicago Cubs play baseball. Instead,Walter must leave everything he knows and loves to accompany his mother to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a place he has never been to live with relatives he has never met. Admission is Free: Donations gratefully accepted. Phone: (505) 243-6269 to RSVP.

Railyard Worker Commemorative Plaques. Honor a loved one who worked on the railroad, honor a WHEELS volunteer or honor the WHEELS Museum. WHEELS is now selling plaques with name plates for $100.00 per name.  Keep the memory of these people alive in perpetuity with a gorgeous wooden plaque with brass name plate. Thank those who made our city and state successful, built the railroad, continue to work to preserve our history and create our future. The plaques will be displayed in the Community Room at WHEELS.

Contact Paulette Miller Weir who is graciously supporting the project and has volunteered to orchestrate this work. Her phone number is (505) 227-3270.  Please send checks for $100.00 per name and a few other words such as dates of birth or death or job held to WHEELS Museum, PO Box 95438 Albuquerque, NM 97199 or contact Ms. Miller Weir for any questions.  We can also accept credit cars payment by calling WHEELS-6269.