Mo & Terry Smedley


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Part IV - Cumbres & Toltec Railroad

We ride the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad from Chama, New Mexico to Antonito, Colorado.  This train is less well known than the Durango & Silverton, but as you will see this is a great scenic ride.  The route offers a breadth of scenery that is unmatched even by the D&S.  A recent fire on the Lobato Trestle just outside of Chama shortens our ride by a few miles today (we're bussed around the trestle).

Steam locomotives in use on the Cumbres & Toltec are similar to those used on the Durango & Silverton.  Our train today is powered by #488, a K-36 2-8-2 locomotive built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1925.  This is the same kind of steam locomotive that pulled our D&S train yesterday.  Unfortunately, because of the Lobato trestle fire, our ride today is all downhill, so we won't be able to hear any of the great stack talk that was so enjoyable yesterday.

Ownership of the Cumbres & Toltec is interesting -  the rail line is jointly owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico.


On display in the Chama yard is this (functioning) rotary snowplow.  What a sight it would be to watch this monster at work! That's 1/2"steel plate forming the teeth. The entire rotary is pushed by one (or more) steam locomotives.  The rotary cutter itself is powered by its own internal steam engine. The engine house at Chama is unfortunately quiet today, since the Lobato Trestle fire has isolated Chama from the rest of the line.  All engine servicing must now be done at the other end of the line (in Antonito, Colorado).
This image speaks to me in so many ways.  Magnificent machinery and a way of life rusting away in the scrap pile.  It is an emotional experience to see these magnificent machines fully restored and running. An interesting dual water tower in the Chama yards. A coal tipple and a teeny-tiny "switcher" at Chama. Mo rides the (gasoline-powered) switcher.
Blowdown on the Cumbres & Toltec.... ...and now you can see the rainbow produced by the blowdown. Working our way down the grade to Osier for lunch.  OK, so there are a few drawbacks to steam power.
The Cumbres & Toltec received an economic development grant to do major track rework.   There are piles of replaced rotten ties all along the route. Terry standing in the open vestibule between cars to get some pictures.    Looking back at the open car on the train.  We spent a little time here, but it was pretty crowded and difficult to get good pictures here.  A fun place to ride, though!
Mo got these three great pictures of a trestle crossing...     Mo soaking up the changing Aspen scenery from the open vestibule.
Here's where we stopped for lunch - at Osier Station.  The scenery is truly Big Sky, from horizon to horizon. Two trains in station - ours headed East to Antonito, the other headed West to Chama (or as close to Chama as you can get since the trestle fire). As we depart Osier Eastbound, we can look back to the Westbound working its way up to Cumbres Pass. Beautiful fall Aspen displays.
We work our way to the Toltec Gorge... ...which is every bit as deep and steep as the Animas Canyon on the Durango & Silverton route.  It was very difficult to get good (still) photos of the canyon, because views popped in and out so quickly.  "Next time" .... I'll video this section.   Our car on the Cumbres & Toltec.  Yvonne is sitting well away from the window to avoid the breathtaking look down the steep canyon.
We're in the first car on the train, and we look right out across the tender to see the twisting trackbed ahead. Blowdown and subtle rainbows... ...more rainbows. The route hugs the Colorado-New Mexico border, crossing it back and forth some 13 times on the way to Antonito.