Locomotive Waits for Home To Be Ready

Lloyd Jojola/Journal Staff Writer
Thursday, November 8, 2001

More than a year after its departure from Coronado Park, a city landmark still sits and waits for its next move.

The old steam locomotive, Santa Fe 2926, has stood on siding near Menaul NW next to the main north/south tracks since being moved in June 2000.

But its owner says it could soon be headed to its intended destination: the site of a proposed exposition center and Wheels Museum at the old locomotive repair shops in Barelas. The Urban Council of Albuquerque is developing plans for the site.

“When they have things set up, that is when our locomotive is to be moved,” said Frank Gerstle, president of the nonprofit New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society, which owns the locomotive. That could be within the next few months, he said.

The engine and its tender – a separate car used to carry fuel and water – had been at Coronado Park for more than 40 years before being hauled away. The equipment is from the last group of steam locomotives purchased by the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, according to the historical society. Built in the 1940s, the engine and tender, when fully loaded with oil and water, weighed more than 1 million pounds.

The move from the park was precipitated by the Big I project that started about the same time.

“There was no doubt that the access to the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe mainline would have been much more difficult if we hadn’t moved it when we did,” Gerstle said. “There was also a question of whether or not the engine would suffer additional damage because of all the construction going on.”

The equipment has been fenced off and there are regular inspections to make sure no one is occupying the equipment, he said.

Once it is moved to the old rail shops, restoration work will begin.

“We would like it to be a fully functional engine, so that it would be available for excursions,” Gerstle said. The restoration cost won’t be known until the equipment is thoroughly examined, he said.