The Cumbres & Toltec Railroad is a narrow gauge, coal burning steam train. The engine on our train (#489) was built in 1925 and has been lovingly restored.
Jon & I have had a great time riding on the steam trains. One hazard is that because it uses coal, there are quite a lot of cinders in the air. We were warned to wear something to protect our eyes and so we did.
The other major hazard is fire from the cinders falling onto the track or nearby brush. In Colorado, that is a big problem due to the very dry conditions.
The trains are followed by ‘speeders’, very small vehicles that run on the track carrying water & shovels to put out fires. It is kind of odd to look back down the track and see what looks like a secret chase vehicle.
The trains are also followed on the roads by a water tank truck just in case. We passed by it on one of the intersections.
The Cumbres & Toltec Railway runs 2 trains a day. One of the goes from Chama, NM to Antonito, CO and other one does the reverse. Both trains meet at Osier, CO for lunch.
This is the other locomotive. It is running the route in reverse (#484).
We were able to see it from our train when we pulled out after lunch.
Both engines are K-36 type steam locomotive. They have a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement. It means that they have 2 pilot wheels, 8 driving wheels and 2 trailing wheels.
I’ve divided this post up into several parts to make for easier loading. I wanted to post quite a few photos. The new WordPress app seems to really slow down when posting photos.
Thursday, May 29
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Narrow Gauge Coal-fired Steam Train
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
We walked over to the railway from our campground in the morning. We picked up out tickets and wandered around the train yard for a while. The people involved with the railway were very friendly and welcoming. They seemed genuinely happy that we were there.
The train travels from Chama, NM to Antonito, CO with a stop in Osier, CO for lunch. We had tickets for the Deluxe Tourist train car which provided us with a reserved table & chairs, snacks and a hostess.
Our train car was directly behind the open-topped observation car. We are standing in the Observation car in the photo below.
We were welcome to walk around the train in all of the cars except for the Parlor car at the back. In the Observation car, a docent provided warnings of upcoming features, explanations of how things work, and generally someone to answer questions.
We spent most of our time here. I imagine that it gets pretty crowded in the summer, but it was fine during our trip.
It was great meeting up with Jim Todd and Carole Guilfoyle in the Observation car.
We drove from Durango heading generally east along the southern edge of Colorado. We stopped at Pagosa Springs to look at their natural hot springs.
We dipped down into northern New Mexico. We crossed over the continental divide.
We stopped in Chama, NM at the Visitor Information center. They had restrooms, wifi and a convenient place for lunch. It turns out that Chama also has a narrow gauge steam railroad. We decided to visit the train station. We were invited to walk around the train yard and were generally made to feel very welcome. After buying tickets to take the Cumbres & Toltec Narrow Gauge Railway in the morning.
Cumbres and Toltec Narrow Gauge Railroad
We stayed at the Rio Chama RV Park which was only about a half mile from the train station. A number of the volunteers at the train stayed there and the campground was rough next to the railroad tracks and a nice river. There were lots of really great trees giving it a park-like atmosphere.
Rio Chama RV Park
The train came by the campground around 4:15. We hustled over to see it cross over the bridge. I didn’t have a chance to grab my camera, but it was very cool. We stood right on the embankment and felt the train shake the ground.
Another couple had come over to watch the train also. We had met briefly at the train station. While talking to them, it turns out Jim Todd & Carole Guilfoyle used to own Irish Wolfhounds and knew a lot of the same people that we did. It is a mighty small world. They were also taking the train tomorrow.
Jon & I just hung out the rest of the day. I watched Lewis woodpeckers and Ruby-throated hummingbirds. We had an early dinner and had a small campfire. We had planned in having a campfire for quite a while, but most places we stayed had a fire ban or it was too cold and/or windy. So we enjoyed sitting outside by the fire.