Barelas rail yards: Bridging past, future

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s a monstrous site, unlike any other in Albuquerque – a mix of steel, bricks and green-tinted windows.

And, for the first time, the public is invited to see it from the inside.

The city today is sponsoring a grand-opening celebration for the old blacksmith shop in the Barelas rail yards, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. After $900,000 in repairs, the massive building is the first at the rail yards that is safe for visitors.

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Gilbert Montaño, deputy chief administrative officer under Mayor Richard Berry, said the celebration is a chance to stand inside a piece of Albuquerque’s history. At one point, the rail yards employed about one-quarter of the city’s workforce, he said.

“It took Albuquerque from a farming, agrarian community to the industrial city we have today,” Montaño said Thursday as he walked through the building.

The rail yards were in full operation from about 1915 to the early 1960s.

The blacksmith shop – a brick building on the north end of the 27-acre site – is the first to be fixed up by city crews. The city is still negotiating a development agreement with Samitaur Constructs, a California-based company, to guide work on the rest of the site and outline who’s responsible for what.

To get the blacksmith shop ready, the city repaired the roof, removed asbestos, fixed windows, added a sprinkler system and covered graffiti. There are temporary restrooms on site.

A new sign christens the building “The Yards.”

“I’m excited for Albuquerque to see some of its history,” said Michael Riordan, the city’s director of municipal development.

Montaño said the hope is that people will rent the building for wedding receptions, car shows and other events. Today is a chance to check it out for free, he said.

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There will be food trucks, bands, a cash bar and antique cars. Dress is casual.

The blacksmith shop is the only building open at this point, but people can walk over to the even-bigger locomotive shop to peer inside.

There’s no parking on site. People should park at the movie theater garage at Second and Gold SW, where a shuttle will take them to the rail yards, just south of Downtown, near First and Hazeldine.

The city bought the rail yards in 2007 for about $8.5 million, with a commitment that the redevelopment will eventually include some mixed-income housing and a permanent place for the Wheels Museum.

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