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Wheels Museum

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Save Albuquerque History

Charles Reuben

[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.


New Lego exhibit at the Wheels Museum. View The New Mexico Lego Users Group has
partnered with WHEELS to have a beautiful Lego Train layout for children of all ages to enjoy. The exhibit will vary from season to season and we invite you to come see this new Lego train exhibit.

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.

Febuary 16, 11 am. Bob Bovee Long Steel Rails concert. This program for all ages presents songs and stories about the famous trains, rail workers, hobos, train wrecks and train robbers. Call or email Leba Freed for reservations at (505) 243-6269 or leba4@aol.com.

March 17, Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at WHEELS. Movie, tours, train ride and food celebration.

April 1, 1 pm. Doug Figgs and Badger. Back by popular demand. By reservations only (505) 243- 6269. Doug’s show was sold out last year, so call early! Donation: $10.00.

April 8, 11 am. “Historic Albuquerque” Ronn Perea will present old Albuquerque anecdotes including delightful stories about our beloved Alvarado Hotel and the politicians, actors and entertainers who stayed there. This is a free event but, of course, donations are always appreciated.

April 22, Wheels Museum Day trip to Rancho De Chimayo Restaurante, El Santuario de Chimayo and the Santa Fe Plaza. Call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for more information. The museum is a 501C3 non-profit community organization whose mission is to create a transportation museum at the downtown Albuquerque Steam Locomotive Repair Shops.

May 19-May 23, Train trip to the Grand Canyon. Only a few spaces left.Scheduled through Amtrak Vacations, call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for reservations and more information.