Save Albuquerque History

Charles Reuben
Albuquerque

[RE: Ortiz Y Pino, “Conning the Rubes In River City,” Weekly Alibi May 15-21]:

I am absolutely dumbfounded that Jerry Ortiz y Pino would dedicate an entire editorial promoting the undoing of the Wheels Museum right after Tom Udall managed to secure the future of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. I wonder if Mr. Ortiz y Pino was against the enormously successful renovation of the Old Albuquerque High School as well?

Mr. Pino is right about one thing (disregarding his sarcasm), the cavernous locomotive repair facility at the rail yards is indeed “a cathedral of industry.” It is difficult for me to drive past this building and not stare in awe at its magnificent, windowed architecture. I would imagine that standing within its confines would be much like standing within the ruins of the Parthenon. So why then does Mr. Ortiz y Pino refer to its rehabilitation as a ruse or a monumental boondoggle?

Albuquerque has so little history left to its name. Would Mr. Ortiz y Pino rather see the site leveled, and, in its place, some sort of compressed sawdust and drywall subdivision raised in its place? How about another parking garage? Tens of thousands of visitors arrive in downtown Albuquerque by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief every year and, because it is a designated service stop, wait 40 minutes for the train to be refueled. It makes perfect sense that a new Amtrak station would be built near the site of the old locomotive repair facility and that passengers could spend their idle time checking out a museum set within its confines.

Mr. Ortiz y Pino characterizes the museum as competing with the city’s avowed plans and facilities but then, aside from a nearby ice cream parlor, is there anything that a casual visitor to this city would have the time or inclination to visit during their brief stay here? Furthermore, even though the Wheels Museum will be a few blocks south of the city center, I have no doubt that us locals would delight at visiting this historic place and also be pleased to find some convenient parking downtown, for a change.

Mr. Ortiz y Pino should not be so hard on the City of Albuquerque. True, the convention center may not have been a great success but the city was right on the money when they built the aquarium, the zoo, its art museum and even the Isotopes’ new stadium. Let’s not see the railroad yards go the way of the old Alvarado Hotel and the Huning Castle. A renovated rail yards, with a Wheels Museum as its centerpiece has the potential of being Albuquerque’s crown jewel.

Sometimes it seems Albuquerque is not able to recognize its treasured landmarks until the wrecking ball has leveled it. Indeed, the Wheels Museum definitely holds the promise of the preservation of one of Albuquerque’s last, most significant landmarks.