ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As the City of Albuquerque continues pursuing a revamp of the Rail Yards in Barelas, plenty of questions have emerged about what “still works” at the so-called industrial cathedral. Volunteers with the New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society (NMSL & RHS) recently proved the historic turntable on site is indeed still functional.
In a video posted to YouTube earlier this month, NMSL & RHS volunteers documented the conclusion of a massive clean-up effort, activating the massive turntable first built around 1915. Originally paired with a 35 stall “roundhouse” or train parking building, the turntable was a key piece of the Rail Yards, helping move trains in and out for maintenance and repair.
According to the city’s original 2014 Rail Yards Master Plan, the BNSF railroad company still retains an easement to the site. However, it doesn’t appear the turntable has been used for a long time. Another NMSL & RHS video of a prior clean-up event in late 2022 shows the turntable was overgrown with weeds and even had several trees growing in the pit underneath the massive machine.
Before getting the turntable moving, video shows volunteers shoveling wheelbarrows of dirt out of the machine’s tracks. They also cleaned a “solidified mix of sand, dust and grease” on the teeth of the turntable’s gears.
Powered by a diesel engine and drive gear, a video montage shows crews were able to rotate the turntable a fair distance for stopping. According to the city’s latest 2023 Rail Yards Master Plan update, the city is giving NMSL & RHS at least one year of access to the southern portion of the Rail Yard site to “facilitate and encourage public displays, support railroad related operations, storage, and maintenance, and to conduct site cleanup, evaluation, restoration, and rehabilitation.”
Volunteers are interested in possibly using the turntable for the restored ATSF 2926 steam engine.