News Column

Wheels Museum seeks upgrade

June 8, 2014

By Kathaleen Roberts, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

June 08--The Wheels Museum is about more than the railroad. Its reach spans everything from bicycles to SpacePort.

Brainchild of museum president Leba Freed, the 100-year-old building will host an annual fundraising gala beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday. The celebration will open with a silent auction featuring artwork, hotel stays and model trains, followed by a banquet prepared by Albuquerque celebrity chef Jane Butel, the author of five best-selling cookbooks. Musical Theatre Southwest will provide the entertainment with a special appearance by the Giant Puppets from the Puppet Playhouse.

Organizers hope to raise $50,000 to update the building to modern standards, Freed said, including a fire-suppression system and heat. The old doors need repairs because they open backwards according to current code, she added.

Dating to 1914, the site served as the locomotive repair shop of the Santa Fe Railroad, Freed said. Businesses sprang up to service the railroad travelers, as well as those who worked at the yards. Rail-related businesses thrived for decades.

"It was the reason Albuquerque became a city," she said. "Before 1880, Albuquerque was smaller than Belen or Bernalillo."

The shop employed 1,700 men at one time, repairing up to 40 locomotives weighing up to 1 million pounds per month, she added.

It all changed with the advent of the diesel engine in the '60s. The shops closed in 1977.

Freed decided to start the museum in 1993; the city of Albuquerque bought the old property for $8.5 million in 2007.

"The Wheels Museum is here to create a transportation museum," Freed said.

Today it contains nearly $1 million in exhibits, including wooden wheel carriages, horse buggies, gas pumps, wagons, carts, cars, model railroads and even a locomotive or two.

If you go

WHAT: The Wheels Museum Gala

WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday, June 14

WHERE: The Wheels Museum, 1102 Second SW

HOW MUCH: $100 per tickets; table for 10 $1,000. Call 243-6269 or email


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Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)

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