Cathedral of steam: Inside Albuquerque’s abandoned locomotive shops

A piece of a train sits outside the machine shop.

(Credit: Amanda Kooser/CNET)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.–There are a lot of reasons film scouts for sci-fi movies visit the abandoned Santa Fe Railway locomotive repair shops here and go crazy over the crumbling industrial cathedral. The buildings are massive and lined with tiles of white and green windows. Old machinery rusts overhead and in corners. The shops just scream “movie set.”

I’m visiting this ode to railroading history with a tour guide from The New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society. These are the same people who are rebuilding an entire steam engine on the other end of town. The guide lets our tour group through the locked gate and we step back in time about 80 years.

This facility is where the Santa Fe Railway brought its steam engines for repair work. It’s not like you can just pull one of those behemoths into a regular garage and give it a tune-up. You need space. Lots of it.

The grandest of the buildings is the 165,000-square-foot machine shop, where rows upon rows of steam engines could be lined up for maintenance and repair. The multi-paned windows stretch upward, giving it the sense and scale of a church. The floors are made from wood bricks, cho… [Read more]

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