ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — Keeping America on the move was the epitome of America in the 20th century. Commercial aviation was on the upswing and railroads ruled the land.
One of the largest railroad facilities in the country, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico controlled the flow of trains from the west coast to the east. A facility that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the surrounding Hispanic community.
“If you’re going to California to the coast, where do you put your best repair facility? in the middle,” said Dr. Mike Hartshorne, President of the New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society, adding that the shops in New Mexico transformed the nation.
“Once the railroad got here they started building this massive repair facility for their locomotives. It got bigger and bigger with thousands of people employed there and that started an economy that wouldn’t have existed otherwise,” said Hartshorne.
The predominantly Latino Barelas neighborhood in Albuquerque quickly grew from a few homes to hundreds as skilled laborers graduated from apprenticeships to journeymen on the Santa Fe Railway. The thousands employed at the Albuquerque shops kept America moving. Without the ingenuity and dedicated hard work of the Hispano population, railroads wouldn’t have quickly moved goods or people.
“It turns out when the Santa Fe first got here — they needed skilled positions like boilermakers and machinists and pipe fitters. A lot of the apprentices would come from the local neighborhood — and after five years of working for a wage as an apprentice… they would become a journeyman and then they got a real good job.”
Hartshorne says the past hard work of the Santa Fe employees is honored today with the revival of a long forgotten Santa Fe locomotive. Number 2926 has been worked on for more than 20 years, bringing the relic back to life.
Download the FOX 46 Charlotte app for breaking news and weather alerts