OVERHAUL: A History of Albuquerque's Locomotive Repair Shop

Historian Richard Flint shares how Albuquerque’s, expansive, now abandoned locomotive repair shops were once a driving force in the city’s economy and crucial in developing a middle class.

AIRED: September 18, 2021 | 0:27:30

Frederick Hammersley Foundation.

New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts & Education

Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation

...and Viewers Like You.















>>Megan Kamerick: Thank you so much for joining us here on

The founding of the Albuquerque locomotive

repair shop in 1880 was a pivotal point in history.

How did it change this place?

>>Richard Flint: The big change was the arrival of

a completely different way of life.

Albuquerque until that point had been a very

small farming village.

Maybe 600 people maximum and when the shops arrived

in 1880, because they arrived with the train,

I mean they had to have service immediately.

An entirely different way of life arrived along with it so an

industrial way of life that was completely new to New Mexico.

>>Megan: So that's almost overnight this happens and

what does that mean for the people's way of life,

their standard of living?

>>Richard: Boy, well it was different for

different people because some people, some few,

really at the beginning, were able to get work at

the shops, mostly as laborers only, local

people but I think one of the important things from

our point of view is what happened to the local

population as a result of the longer term, result of

the coming of the railroad and the shops because that

created access to that same middle class that was

really occupied completely by foreign people when the

railroad first arrived but eventually locals got into that.

>>Megan: There was a strike in 1922.

How did that shift that kind of demographic of who

was in that skilled workforce?

>>Richard: Yeah, it was quite an amazing thing, so

it was a National Railroad Shop Workers strike.

The response of the railroad, they had

prepared for an eventuality like this and

their response was basically to fire strikers.

So they basically got rid of their skilled staff and

what that managed to do then is open up slots for

local Hispanics who were working at the shops but

in lower level positions.

They knew a lot of how to do the work, but they

could never get into those positions officially

because there was a real railroad bias against

Hispanics but that opened the door, and once they

were in, once more were in, and especially at

skilled levels, the company had a policy of

family hiring so they loved to hire family members

of reliable and good workers and that's what they did.

>>Megan: What was the locomotive repair shop like?

Can you give us an idea of the capacity

and why it was so important?

>>Richard: At the time, steam locomotives were very,

sort of, temperamental and fragile.

Even though they looked powerful and huge, they broke often.

If they didn't get repaired, one of the worst

things that could happen, and this happened

frequently, was boiler explosions.

A steam locomotive had to be completely overhauled,

that is, torn down to nuts and bolts and built back

up, literally to nuts and bolts and built back up

from nothing, about once every 18 months.

And so when you start with the Atchison Topeka in

Santa Fe having say 2,000 locomotives, that means

there are a lot of repairs that have to be being made.

>>Megan: And they had to make all the tools that

they used to do this or they had to machine the parts?

>>Richard: They did, they had to machine the parts because

there was no standardization of steam locomotive parts.

They had 26 servicing bays so they could be working

on 26 locomotives at a time.

Churn out something on the order of 42 complete

overhauls per month.

They had a big blacksmith shop here.

The reason was, if something was broken they

had to make a new one.

>>Megan: How did new technology like diesel

trains change everything yet again?

>>Richard: Oh wow, yeah, well, it was it was,

diesel was something that the company - ATSF, was

very interested in because they knew from the

beginning, when diesel began being used in Europe,

that this was, could make for a huge

economy for the company.

>>Megan: These were also safer right?

>>Richard: They were safer.

They were safer in the in the sense of, you didn't

have that problem of boiler explosions and

things like that, yes, absolutely.

And they were more reliable, less maintenance involved,

therefore less shop or fewer shop workers required.

So all those costs would suddenly be gone and

that's exactly what happened, after World War II,

immediately after World War II, in a period of about nine years.

But of course for the people who were working at

the shops it was a disaster because while all

the companies in the United States made that

switch about 250,000 railroad machinists lost their jobs.

>>Megan: That must have been decimating to the community.

>>Richard: Oh it was, it was.

Once the shops closed to maintenance of

all the money dried up.

The businesses went away, people started to move

away and urban renewal was resorted to, you know,

tear buildings down on the thoughts that

they would ultimately be replaced.

Many of them never were.

>>Megan: Why is it important to know this history?

>>Richard: I think for so many of us who live in

Albuquerque, it's hard to be able to explain why

Albuquerque is so different than other towns and

cities in New Mexico and I think the basic thing that is

different about Albuquerque is that industrial aspect.

So, and that came with the shops.

There was no such thing before that and it really

arrived in 1880 with the railroad and when that

kind of industrial activity began it only

encouraged other industrial activities.

So, smaller industrial operations moved in along the

They could ship things out and get

materials in on the railroad.

You can point to things like the Sandia labs,

for instance, I mean, I don't think the Sandia labs would have

been here if it was a little city like old town Albuquerque.

So, that is here because Albuquerque became the place it

did because of the shops and really the shops were it.

They were the big engine, economic engine of

Albuquerque for at least 75 years.

Nothing else was even close, biggest employer.

I mean, 2,000 employees at its peak.

Running three shifts during World War II, the

steam whistle going off four times a day,

everybody set their clocks by it, so I mean,

it was the heart of Albuquerque.

>>Megan: Richard flint, thank you so much for talking with us.

>>Richard: It's been a pleasure.


My name is Alan Ket I'm the co-founder of the

Museum of Graffiti.

Allison Freidin.

I'm the co-founder of the Museum of Graffiti in Miami, Florida.

The Museum of Graffiti is the only museum

of its kind in the world.

We give context to the walls that you might see

when you walk around this neighborhood.

One of the most important exhibitions that we

currently have on display is called style masters,

the birth of the graffiti art movement.

And that exhibition takes you from 1970 when this

was an art form, started by kids tagging their

names on the streets of New York City and

Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and shows how it

evolved from simple print writing on walls and on

trains to an art form that started to have style.

And then we go into the emergence of these artists

into the art galleries.

How did that happen?

Why did that happen?

You get to see original works of art created in the 1980s.

And we continue along this timeline to show the

emergence of this art form in Miami.

And we go through the 90's, 2000's.

Now, as it moves out of New York city

travels across the world...

here in America, goes onto freight trains and

crisscrosses all over the country and introduces

this youthful art form to audiences everywhere.

What separates graffiti from any other art form is

the desire for the mastery of letters, how to bend them

and tweak them and enlarge them and make them your own.

And so when some people talk about street art and they ask,

well, what's the difference between street art and graffiti?

Well street art has to do more with imagery.

Graffiti is about lettering.

So what we're looking at here is a site-specific

mural by DEFER from Los Angeles.

What we teach about every single day at the Museum

of Graffiti is how looking at each one of these walls

can give you context clues to where these artists are from.

For instance, in this wall, you can see how

DEFER incorporates inspiration of Los Angeles

gang graffiti by taking something that society

typically looks at as, as bitter or as violent,

he makes it beautiful.

And we like to compare this or contrast it to

this wall by JonOne.

And JonOne was a train painter.

He did huge pieces on the subways in New York City.

And it's so important to see how to graffiti writers who

are doing the same genre of art can have such a different take.

This is the world's largest art form.

It has practitioners all over the world.

That fact that it's sort of expanding and going

around the world and very open to anybody, picking

it up and adding something to it has started to

change the perception of this being purely a

vandal's movement to an art form that is

celebrated and accepted globally and desired globally.

Communities have woken up.

And that's where we are today, which is that

social norms and cultural norms have shifted just the

way that they've done in other areas of low-level crimes.

People are opening up and seeing the benefit to

including this type of art form within our community.

My personal history - I'm from New York city.

I started painting in Brooklyn, New York as a

teenager in the 1980s.

I painted exclusively, illegally painted the trains.

I painted the walls and I've gotten arrested.

It didn't dissuade me from being a participant

As a matter of fact, that made me sort of more entrenched.

And the Museum of Graffiti today is sort of the

project that I dreamed of.

And I was able to convince artists that normally

would not give their artwork to anybody to

allow me to have it because they trusted me.

They know me as a member of the community.

This art form has not been celebrated by museums in the

We had to make our own museum.


My name is Francis Luca and I'm the Chief

Librarian here at the Wolfsonian,

Florida International University.

I'm the curator of this installation that's

looking at Conrado Walter Massaguer, a Cuban

publisher, art director, illustrator, and caricaturist.

He was born in Cuba in 1889, he actually left and

fled with his family when the Spaniards invaded

during one of the independence wars.

And so he grew up kind of by bi-culturally

and then multiculturally.

And so I think for that reason he was influenced

not only by the artwork in Cuba, but what was

happening in the modernist movement all around the world.

He actually introduced the modernist aesthetic to Cuba

with a lot of art deco designed covers for his magazines,

"Sociale" it was one of his most important magazines,

and that one aimed at an elite audience.

So this was designed to get the who's

who of Cuba interested in modernism.

He had an entire section in Sociale Magazine called

Massa-girls, which is a play on his name, sounds

like Massaguer, Massa-girl.

And what he was doing with that was showcasing this

new woman that had suddenly appeared first on

the American scene, and then he helped import into Cuba.

He loved beautiful young women.

He was a little bit of a machista in that way, but

so thrilled about their being so outspoken and liberated.

That I think was a little bit threatening to him as well.

So you sort of see that little bit of ambivalence

in these kinds of portraits.

He was also very famous for his caricatures.

In fact, that's how he's mostly known today.

And he did over the span of a lifetime, tens of thousands

of caricatures, and he did them in a very modernist style.

He said the best caricatures were done on

the sly with a furtive hand, where you're just

sketching them and they don't even know that

you're sketching them.

Some of his caricatures got him in a little bit of trouble.

He was not shy of expressing his disdain for

certain Cuban presidents.

You look at Machado sitting in the chair,

not so handsome, and then you look at the portrait

that's being done and it's, oh, he's young and handsome.

That's a completely different individual.

Massageur spent a lot of time working for the

tourism industry in Cuba, which began in 1919.

Since this exhibit focuses exclusively on the work of

Conrado Walter Massaguer, I wanted to sort of show him in

the context of some of the other contemporary caricaturists

from Latin America and so it's called Caricaturas.

Once Castro's revolutionaries seized

power, Massaguer continued to live in Cuba though in

relative obscurity until his death in 1965.

Here is someone who was the cultural ambassador for all

of these visitors, especially from the United States

and all of a sudden there are no visitors from the United States.

After 1959 he ends up working in the the Cuban

National Archives just spending out his remaining days there.

To me, the most important thing about this

exhibition is the fact that we can showcase this

artist who was well known, well-renowned in his

period, but has sort of been eclipsed because of

more than 50 years of strange relations between

Cuba and the United States, and his artwork

is reflective of this earlier of period,

this period of warm relations and cordial relations.


Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Lithium capsules,

Tegretol, Seroquel, Risperdal, Paxil, Remeron,

Cymbalta and Dexedrine These are a few of my favorite things.

>>Sherry: When we first started writing this show,

our main mission was to reduce the stigma

surrounding mental health issues because nobody

talked about it and we wanted to get people talking.

And even though it was difficult at first, we decided,

well, if we want other people to talk about it,

we have to be willing to talk about it.

>>Cathy: We really felt things could have moved

more progressively and better in our lives,

had we been able to talk about it.

Come out and talk to other people about it and not

had people go "I knew she was crazy!"

You know?

So we thought, well, we should come out and tell our stories.


Uh, my mom falls into the category of self-medication.

She always said "I don't have a drinking problem.

I never drink before the cocktail hour."

No matter, it was a large glass filled with pure vodka.

She was feisty!

She rode horses and motorcycles and she was very funny.

And when she drank, her personality grew exponentially.

It was already pretty big.

But she could go from light to dark in a really short period

When I look back over my mom's entire lifetime,

through the lens of my own bipolar, I really believe

she was self-medicating her bipolar with alcohol.

Your family might have a history of mental illness

but if you mistake the addiction for the whole story,

you might never know.

That's right because one of the things they can

determine whether you are predisposed to developing

a mental illness is if you have a family history of it.

Well, insanity runs in my family.

It practically gallops.

Yeah, yeah, many, many years ago, my father was

first diagnosed with severe depression.

Now looking back on it with what I know now, I'm positive

that his diagnosis should have been bipolar disorder.

Because he had huge mood swings, huge high, high

highs and very low lows, and he drank a lot like

Cathy's mother, to kind of hide those symptoms.

The first time that my dad was hospitalized for

depression, my mother reached out to his family

to see if any of them had had any problems and come

to find out that all 3 of my dad's brothers had been

hospitalized for depression and/or anxiety

at one time or another.

All three, but nobody knew it because nobody talked about it.

As a matter of fact, my grandmother, the Queen

went so far as to say "Oh no, we've never

had any problems like that in this family",

ew, stigma, stigma, right?

Now my mother was never diagnosed with anything

other than codependency, which was my diagnosis for her.

But she too came from a family in which no one

talked about their problems.

Don't show the world your true face,

it's dangerous to let them really see.

It's better to be pretty and composed,

pretty and composed, in control.

So what's the legacy?

Am I doomed to pass this on to my family?

Making them feel bitter and alone, bitter and alone

Damage done, damage done.

Damage done, damage done.

>>Lynn: It's not often that you see a show that is this honest.

In theatre, the most important thing you can be is honest.

You have to make me believe that that story is real.

And that's what they do with this show.

And I, absolutely, blew me away.

I walked out of there so impressed by the bravery and the

You know they're putting their own hearts and souls

and their experiences on the line so that others

know that they're in this together.


I, like one in three women on this planet,

am a survivor of sexual violence.

Now, survivors of sexual violence very often

develop PTSD, but very few ever know that because of how

dismissed and unfortunately blamed the victim usually is.

Now the violence, of course, was of course,

traumatizing, but what really altered my life

forever was the nine month long investigation that followed,

during which I was interrogated,

bullied and blamed at every turn.

Daily, for nine months, I got asked by multiple men,

what were you wearing?

Were you drinking?

Are you sure you weren't flirting with him?

Or my personal favorite, this is an actual quote.

"A group of guys walked passed you while

you were walking with him down the street

and they all said you looked willing.

Why did they say that if you were truly in distress, as you

>>Erin: It is a feeling of absolute vulnerability

with these stories but I don't want the audience thinking

"I could never do that"

and put up a barrier between us and them.

It's not about bravery or strength or anything,

it's about choices, just choosing to believe that

no matter how uncomfortable it is so

worth the healing that comes after and the

conversation that can flow after.

>>Cathy: I hope they take home the idea that our

neighbors, our friends, our loved ones, are struggling.

We all know somebody who has mental health issues.

And we shouldn't be afraid to ask them directly and

honestly about how they are feeling.

>>Sherry: We hope our audiences take away the

fact that here are three people standing up in

front of you, who don't know you, and are telling

their stories and it's okay.

We hope that people will take away the fact that

there's no need for stigma.

Mental illness should be treated like any other illness.

And if people understand that,

they're going to be a lot more compassionate.

And we'll be free.

Come out of the closet about mental health.

And any other way you feel.


Stop the Stigma.

Thank you.


New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES under

What We Do and Local Productions.



Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation

New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts & Education

Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation

and Viewers Like You.



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