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U.S. Statehood Transportation & Communication, 1912-1945
U.S. Statehood Transportation & Communication, 1912-1945
In 1914 the Santa Fe Railway began building its Albuquerque shops south of New Town, along with the 75-stall roundhouse, the railroad’s largest. For many years the railroad was the city’s largest employer. In 1940 the Santa Fe Railway’s roundhouse and shops had more than 1,700 workers. A steam whistle on the 240-foot smokestack blew at 7:30 a.m. to start the work day and again at noon for lunch. At 4 p.m. it signaled quitting time.

By 1915 work was underway on the transcontinental highway system called the National Old Trails Highway. That year New Mexico had 4,250 cars and 92 dealers. New Mexicans, along with other Americans, continued to press for better roads and by 1926 the demand for standardized highways produced Route 66, which stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles and passed through Albuquerque.

Initially Route 66 made an S-curve through New Mexico and followed existing roads. Entering New Mexico at Tucumcari, it turned north at Santa Rosa to Santa Fe, using a portion of the old Santa Fe Trail. From Santa Fe it curved south to Los Lunas over the old El Camino before continuing west to Gallup. In Albuquerque Route 66 originally passed down Fourth Street, which was also a segment of the Camino Real. In 1937 the route was realigned to straighten out the curve, and the new alignment was east to west along Central Avenue. That same year Route 66 was paved.

By then the first tourist services had sprouted along the highway. In 1935 Albuquerque had 16 tourist camps on Fourth Street and three on Central. After the realignment, new clusters of motels and curio shops appeared. The oldest Route 66 motels are the Aztec Motel at 3821 Central NE, opened in 1932; the Town Lodge at 4101 Central NE, in 1935; the El Vado, west of Old Town, in 1937; and the De Anza Motor Lodge, in 1939.

Electric streetcars operated until Dec. 31, 1927. The next morning they were replaced by a fleet of five buses with eight miles of routes. The 12 remaining cars became rooms at Napoleon’s Deluxe Service Station and Auto Camp.

Commercial aviation got its start in 1927, when Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic. Inspired by the feat two railroad workers, Frank Speakman and W. Langford Franklin, leased 140 acres on the East Mesa, and with city equipment loaned by Mayor Clyde Tingley after hours, graded two runways. Entrepreneur James Oxnard bought Franklin’s interest and added new hangars, lights, beacons and expanded runways. The facility was named Oxnard Field.

In 1929 Western Air Express set up ticket offices at the Franciscan Hotel. Its first flight, on May 15, 1929, included Tingley and contractor Charles Lembke. Trans-Continental Air Transport became the second commercial air service here on July 18. TAT literally put Albuquerque on the map when the city became a stop on the first coast-to-coast transportation route using airplanes and trains. Airplanes then didn’t fly at night, so Transcontinental Air Transport service paired with railroads. For the two-day trip from New York to Los Angeles, passengers flew during the day and traveled by train at night. TAT became TWA.

In 1929 Western Air Express moved to a newly built airfield on the West Mesa, about where West Mesa High School is now, so the city then had two airports. Both carriers were heavily dependent on subsidized airmail.


As the Depression deepened in 1930, postal authorities wanted just one contract and suggested that TAT and WAE merge, which they did. The new entity was Transcontinental and Western Air, or TWA, which operated out of the West Mesa airport known as Albuquerque Airport. Here Bill Cutter established a flying school and charter service, and a second airline that became Continental Airlines began service in 1934.


In 1935 the field manager of TWA suggested to business leaders that the city should have a municipal airport. With financial help from businessman George Kaseman, they got an option on 2,000 acres of land. The City Commission agreed to sponsor a WPA project. Gov. Clyde Tingley and two other men attended FDR’s second inauguration in 1936 and returned with approval for $700,000.

In 1939 the Albuquerque Municipal Airport opened, one of many projects in the city funded by the Works Progress Administration. Dubbed the Eagle’s Nest, it was built of adobe.



In 1928 KGGM went on the air. Albuquerque's first radio station was also the city’s first mobile broadcast. KGGM mounted equipment on a 1.5-ton truck to accompany transcontinental foot racers into Albuquerque and broadcast live. It later moved into a studio in the Franciscan Hotel. In 1932 KOB became the city’s second radio station. 

Albuquerque got its second daily newspaper in 1923 when the New Mexico State Tribune (later the Albuquerque Tribune) began publishing. In 1933 the Albuquerque Journal and the Albuquerque Tribune forged a joint operating agreement that preserved two competing newspapers. The agreement was the first of its kind. The two papers have separate ownership and newsrooms but combine printing, advertising and other functions. It became a model for similar agreements in other cities.

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