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History on Wheels: Albuquerque's Transportation History

By Joshua Northom

Every city has a history. Every city has particular aspects, locations, or occupations that have made it what it is today. As Americans moved west, transportation changed dramatically. Over time, people began to settle in or pass through a place called Albuquerque. One native of that city has decided that this "movement" must be maintained and celebrated.

The Wheels Museum of Albuquerque, New Mexico came from the inspired mind of Leba Freed- whose family has lived in Albuquerque since the 1920s. In an effort to revitalize the city and preserve the history that made it known, Freed opened The Wheels Museum to document the way transportation has evolved within her hometown.

The main Storehouse of the museum is usually filled with wagons, farm equipment, vintage automobiles, and rail vehicles and other parts. Other large buildings from the 1920s include a Blacksmith Shop, Boiler Shop, Machine Shop, Fire Station, and a Tender Repair Shop. Freed has opened The Wheels Museum as a 501c3 in the hope of using these massive facilities to bring culture and history to Albuquerque. The museum is located in a large, historic rail station- and another building is in the planning stages that would more than double the museum's current space.

Freed is passionate about Albuquerque's history. She tells us that, "When the steam locomotive shops were built, Albuquerque was smaller than Belen and Bernaulillo. The ATSF brought men in from many parts of the world to build and repair as many as 40 steam locomotives a month?During WW2, the shops were open 24 hours a day helping the war effort. The shops closed when diesel came to the world?"

Freed sees the creation of Route 66 and the rise of airplanes as a vital part of the growth of New Mexico. The state has been through many changes and the evolution of transportation has been an enormous part of that. Freed says, "We see what the last 100 years has meant to progress. Driverless cars and trucks, drones, spacecraft, and much more?and Wheels Museum is the conduit to showcase the past, present, and future of progress through moving."

As the museum grows, more exhibits appear. Reed works with a Smithsonian affiliate and the UNM, which has helped with a bicycle exhibit, pedal car exhibit, and even a flying vehicle exhibit. The more volunteers and donations that come through, the more exciting the museum will become.

Freed's work has many facets, but she adds, "The most exciting days at Wheels are when we receive new exhibits. Recently, we have been given a very rare spindle from a 100 year old well in Negra, New Mexicio. We have a Dodge Power Wagon recently given by a generous doctor, and have just been told that we will receive the 1938 Packard auto that belonged to the 8th governor of New Mexico, Governor Dillon."

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About The Author

Joshua Nothom reports on local interests, hot spots, and entertainment. Josh holds a...

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