Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2017)
|Headquarters||Chama, New Mexico|
|Locale||Conejos County and|
in Colorado and
Rio Arriba County
in New Mexico, United States
|Dates of operation||1970–present|
|Track gauge||3 ft (914 mm)|
|Length||64 mi (103 km)|
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad
San Juan Extension
|Nearest city||Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico|
|Area||1,430 acres (5.8 km2)|
|Architect||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad|
Baldwin Locomotive Works
|Architectural style||Late 19th And Early 20th Century American Movements|
|MPS||Railroads in Colorado, 1858-1948 MPS|
|NRHP reference No.||73000462 (original)|
|CSRHP No.||5AA.664 / 5CN.65|
|Added to NRHP||February 16, 1973|
|Boundary increase||April 24, 2007|
|Designated NHLD||October 16, 2012|
|Designated NMSRCP||November 20, 1969|
The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, often abbreviated as the C&TSRR, is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge heritage railroad that operates on 64 miles (103 km) of track between Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico, in the United States. The railroad is named for two geographical features along the route: the 10,015-foot (3,053 m)-high Cumbres Pass and the Toltec Gorge. Originally part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad's narrow-gauge network, the line has been jointly owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico since 1970. Today, the C&TSRR is one of only two remaining parts of the former D&RGW narrow-gauge network, the other being the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNG), which runs between the communities of Durango and Silverton, Colorado. The railroad has a total of ten narrow-gauge steam locomotives (six of which are operational) and two narrow-gauge diesel locomotives on its current roster. The railroad also operates two smaller former D&RGW steam locomotives, Nos. 315 and 168, for special events.
On February 20, 1880, track crews of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway (D&RG) began to lay the first rails of the San Juan Extension going south from Alamosa, Colorado, toward Antonito, Colorado, arriving in March of that year. The company chose the narrow gauge of three feet instead of the standard gauge of four feet eight and a half inches. This was because the narrow gauge was cheaper to build, and a narrow gauge railway can accommodate tighter-radius curves. This allowed laying track where standard gauge would not fit. From Antonito, the line continued west to Chama, New Mexico, arriving there on December 31, 1880. The track had come 64 miles (103 km) through two tunnels, over a 10,015-foot (3,053 m) mountain pass, and skirted a 600-foot gorge. The line then went on towards Durango, Colorado. The purpose of this extension was to tap into the mineral resources around the Silverton, Colorado area.
When the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad arrived in Chama, other railroad companies were formed to take advantage of the local forests. This created a flourishing logging economy for the town. There were lumber mills located to the west and south of Chama. These mills provided a steady stream of revenue for the railroad, lasting until abandonment in the late 1960s.
After World War II, there was an oil boom in Farmington, New Mexico. This boom provided a surge of revenue for the railroad. This revenue consisted of 60-car pipe trains going west from Antonito. The Gramps Oil Fields of southern Colorado provided oil cargo for trains from Chama to Antonito. The lumber mills also provided a steady stream of revenue, although this was less important than oil. This increase in revenue saved the line from abandonment.
All of these successes had drawbacks. The major issue with the line was Cumbres Pass itself. Cumbres Pass is 10,015 feet (3,053 m) above sea level. The high elevation and various other factors lead to many terrible snow storms. This prompted the railroad to purchase “rotary snowplows”. The two that were used on the Cumbres Pass line were Rotary OM and Rotary OY. Both rotaries are still in existence in Chama, New Mexico, but historically they are dispatched from Alamosa. Every five or six years, the winter season has as much as 500 inches of snow fall on Cumbres. These snow storms were a huge financial burden for the railroad. The “Granddaddy of All Snowstorms”  hit in the winter of 1951–1952. This was the worst recorded winter on the line and one of the deciding factors when abandonment was considered in the 1960s.
In September 1968, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad filed for abandonment of its narrow gauge lines. In April 1969, legislation was signed in New Mexico that provided a way for the state of New Mexico to buy the track between Chama and Antonito. In 1970, Colorado passed similar legislation. The two states took joint ownership of the line and, by 1971, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad was formed.
Lobato trestle fire
On June 23, 2010, an unknown fire severely damaged Lobato Trestle, a deck girder bridge located approximately four miles (6.4 km) east of Chama. While the bridge was out of service, the C&TSRR operated limited services from the Chama end while trains from Antonito only traveled to Osier and back. After undergoing extensive refurbishment, the bridge was reopened on June 20, 2011.
National Historic Landmark
In 1973, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and its boundaries were increased in 2007. The railroad was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1976. In 2012, the railroad was designated a National Historic Landmark, for its engineering, well-preserved infrastructure and equipment and the role of the railroad in the development of the region it served.
The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad operates between late May and late October, with two trains (one in each direction) departing each morning from Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico. Both trains meet at Osier, Colorado for lunch. At Osier, lunch is served to passengers in a modern dining hall. From there, passengers have the option to continue to the other side of the railroad, or they can switch trains and return to their point of origin. Once the westbound train arrives at Cumbres Pass, passengers have the option to board motorcoaches to return to Antonito, or they can save an hour and continue into Chama. The continental-divide trail brings hikers through Cumbres Pass as well. The railroad offers these hikers a ride down the mountain from the pass if desired. At the end of the day at both ends, motorcoaches are again provided for passengers who came from the opposite end. The motorcoach ride is about one hour long.
In addition to the through service, the C&TSRR operates various special excursions during the season such as dinner trains. On certain days during the holiday season, the railroad offers special "Santa Trains" from both Chama and Antonito, and guests are encouraged to bring gifts and/or food for the less fortunate.
After the C&TSRR was formed in 1971, a bi-state agency, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission was created. Railroad operations were then contracted to third-party rail operators. In 2012, after long discussions with other third-parties bidding to take over, the Commission formed its own operating company, Cumbres and Toltec Operating LLC They hired John Bush, a veteran of the railroad, to become president on December 13, 2012. Bush retired on November 14, 2020.
Friends of the C&TSRR
In 1988, a nonprofit organization called the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad was established to preserve the history of the railroad and help maintain infrastructure and rolling stock. The Friends of the C&TSRR also participates in various education programs and provides the railroad guides, known as docents, who inform passengers of historical aspects of the railroad as well as locations of interest.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Locations along the line
- Chama, New Mexico
- Cumbres Pass
- Osier, Colorado
- Toltec Gorge, New Mexico
- Sublette Station
- Antonito, Colorado
Chama to Osier
The Chama yard is located at milepost 344.12. Here, the railroad stores most of its freight cars and both rotary snowplows, Rotary OY and Rotary OM. On the east side is part of the original roundhouse from the D&RGW. A fire burned most of the roundhouse years ago; what remains is used as storage for parts. K-37 locomotive No. 497 is currently stored here. On the far side of the old roundhouse section are the shops where the engines are serviced and prepared for the next day. The shops have two stalls and can hold two engines inside simultaneously. On the west side of the yard is the original depot from the late 1800s, where train tickets can be purchased. There is a gift shop with various items for sale. On the south end of the yard, over 100 freight cars are visible. The yard is open and can be toured by anyone. About 40 of the cars in the yard are operational.
From Chama, the railroad proceeds northeast after crossing Rio Chama. About one mile (1.6 km) later, the railroad begins up the mountain on a grade averaging 4%. The first siding on the line is at Lobato (MP: 339.99). Here are remnants of a stock pen and a water tank made for a movie in the 1980s. The tank was used later in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The water tank was knocked over in 2006, succumbing to age and high winds. Lobato Trestle is located at Lobato, and is the second-highest trestle on the line, built in 1883. Due to weight restrictions, only one locomotive at a time is allowed to cross. Hence, all double-headers must separate and rejoin on the other side. The bridge was rebuilt in 2011 after a fire nearly destroyed it.
From here to Cumbres, the railroad operates on the north side of Wolf Creek. There are several old stations along the line. The first is Dalton (MP: 335.5). There is nothing at Dalton besides the station sign. Next on the journey to the top at Cumbres, the train passes Cresco Siding and water tank (MP 335.5). Just before this, the track crosses the state line for the first time. This water tank is used when operating smaller engines, such as No. 315 and No. 168, and for rotary trains. The route then enters a small canyon past Hamilton's Point. Exiting the canyon, the track makes a turn to the northwest and up Wolf Creek through Coxo. At Coxo, there is a short siding for maintenance equipment and a station sign. At a narrow point of the valley, the track makes a horseshoe turn up to Windy Point. Windy Point is an outcrop of volcanic rock where the wind blows so hard that the smoke from the trains often will blow towards the front of the train instead of the rear. This is less than a quarter of a mile from Cumbres Pass, the highest point on the line
At Cumbres (MP 330.60), elevation 10,015 ft (3,053 m), is the Car Inspector's House, Water Standpipe, remnants of the extensive snow shed and the Section House, which replaced the original depot after it was demolished in the 1950s. Cumbres is the highest point on the railroad and the highest elevation of any narrow-gauge railroad in North America. Upon reaching the pass, the engine must take on water, as it has used about 3⁄4 of its supply. After taking on water and a short brake test, the train departs to the east and begins the downhill section. At “Tanglefoot Curve”, the track doubles back on itself to lose elevation gradually. Here, the trains going downhill will perform a boiler blowdown. This is where the engine releases steam from the boiler to clear sediments at the bottom of the boiler. From there, the track turns north up the Los Piños Valley.
The track continues a gentle descent on the average 1.45% grade to the north until it reaches Los Piños tank. This tank is always full and is used for small engines and rotary trains. The track takes a gentle loop off to the west and comes back to the east at the station of Los Piños (MP: 324.8). There is nothing here except a siding and the station sign. The track then turns back north towards Osier, Colorado. Just before Osier, at Milepost 320, the track crosses Cascade Trestle. This is the highest trestle on the entire line, sitting at 137 ft (42 m) above the river below. The train then stops at Osier, Colorado (MP: 318.40), where passengers are served lunch in a modern, wooden indoor facility.
Antonito to Osier
Antonito (MP 280.70) is a small company town of the former railroad main line. It is home to the C&TSRR car shop, a water tank and other relics. Most of the facilities were built by the C&TSRR, since the original rail yard, wye, and station were not sold to the states of Colorado and New Mexico.
Shortly after leaving the station, the train heads straight for three miles (4.8 km) until coming into some hills. Shortly thereafter, the train crosses Ferguson's Trestle (MP 285.87), named for a man who was hanged from a locomotive there. The original trestle was featured in the 1988 television movie Where the Hell's That Gold?, starring Willie Nelson and Delta Burke. In filming, an explosion mishap occurred and the bridge was burned down. Traffic was halted for a week while the C&TSRR built a temporary bridge. Next winter, the trestle was rebuilt, matching the original. About three miles (four point eight kilometres) later, the train makes the first of 11 crossings into New Mexico and climbs a ledge up to a lava mesa. Lava (291.55) has the old water tank from Antonito, which was moved here in 1971. The track goes around a horseshoe curve that is also used as a reversing loop to turn the rotary snow plow trains from Chama.
Heading west, the track rounds Whiplash Curve, a double-horseshoe curve. About one mile (1,600 m) from Whiplash Curve lie the sidings and wye at Big Horn. Past Big Horn, the train loops around the sides of mountains, going through horseshoe curves before reaching the first water stop at Sublette.
Sublette is an abandoned railroad section camp, consisting of a log bunk house, a section house, a siding and other buildings. There was once a water tank at the western end of the siding. Today, in its place, there is a standpipe. After the tender is filled with water, the train slowly creeps into lush aspen groves.
Following Sublette is Toltec Siding, which in the 1950s was the meeting place for oil well pipe trains moving between Chama and Farmington to Alamosa. Shortly afterwards, trains pass through Mud Tunnel, which is unique because it is lined with wooden pillars due to being bored through soft volcanic ash. When the beams in the tunnel collapsed, the D&RGW made a "shoo fly" (a temporary by-pass) to allow passengers and small cars to be moved around the tunnel to an awaiting train. After passing through this, trains pass around Phantom Curve and through Calico Cut, then slow when entering the longer Rock Tunnel. Trains exit the tunnel entering Toltec Gorge, where the track is 600 ft (180 m) above the river. The line then follows the river to Osier.
The entrance to the C&TS yard in Antonito, October 2012
The station and shed in Antonito, October 2012
The water tower in Antonito, October 2012
The yard in Antonito, October 2012
The station building in Antonito, October 2012
The water tower in Chama, October 2012
The shop in Chama, October 2012
The yard in Chama, October 2012
The depot in Chama, October 2012
|Number||Type||Wheel Arrangement||Classification||Builder||Built||Serial Number||Former||Status||In Service||Anticipated Return to Service Date|
|463||Steam||2-8-2||K-27||Baldwin Locomotive Works||1903||21788||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Operational||Yes||N/A|
|483||Steam||2-8-2||K-36||Baldwin Locomotive Works||1925||58584||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Stored, undergoing cosmetic restoration||No||Unknown Date|
|484||Steam||2-8-2||K-36||Baldwin Locomotive Works||1925||58585||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Operational||Yes||N/A|
|487||Steam||2-8-2||K-36||Baldwin Locomotive Works||1925||58588||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Operational||Yes||N/A|
|488||Steam||2-8-2||K-36||Baldwin Locomotive Works||1925||58589||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Operational||Yes||N/A|
|489||Steam||2-8-2||K-36||Baldwin Locomotive Works||1925||58590||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Operational, recently returned to service as an oil-burning locomotive||Yes||N/A|
|492||Steam||2-8-2||K-37||Baldwin Locomotive Works
|1928||20749||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Stored||No||Unknown Date|
|494||Steam||2-8-2||K-37||Baldwin Locomotive Works
|1928||20748||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Display||No||Unknown Date|
|495||Steam||2-8-2||K-37||Baldwin Locomotive Works
|1928||20522||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Display||No||Unknown Date|
|497||Steam||2-8-2||K-37||Baldwin Locomotive Works
|1930||20521||Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad||Stored, awaiting possible restoration||No||Unknown Date|
|15||Diesel||(B-B)||44-Ton (Center-Cab)||General Electric (GE)||1943||Unknown||Oahu Railway and Land Company||Operational||Yes||N/A|
|19||Diesel||(B-B)||44-Ton (Center-Cab)||General Electric (GE)||1943||27539||Oahu Railway and Land Company||Operational||Yes||N/A|
|168||Steam||4-6-0||T-12||Baldwin Locomotive Works||1883||6670||Denver and Rio Grande Railroad||Operational||Yes||N/A|
|315*||Steam||2-8-0||C-18||Baldwin Locomotive Works||1895||14352||Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad
* No. 315 is not owned by the C&TSRR, but is included on the current roster due to frequent operations in special excursions and the indefinite loan.
All of the steam locomotives operating on the C&TSRR are former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad locomotives. The railroad owns three classes of steam locomotives. The K-27, K-36 and K-37 engines are all outside frame 2-8-2 "Mikado" engines built by Baldwin Locomotive Works. Of the ten steam locomotives currently owned by the C&TSRR, Nos. 463, 484, 487, 488, and 489 are operational. Locomotive 497, a class K-37 locomotive, was restored to operating condition for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in 1984 and was traded to the C&TSRR in late October 1991 in exchange for class K-36 locomotive 482. Locomotive 497 was later taken out of service in late 2002 and currently sits in storage in the Chama roundhouse awaiting an overhaul. In late 2019, locomotive 489, a class K-36 locomotive, went down for a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) mandated 1,472-day inspection and replacement of the smokebox. However, the work was halted due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020. The work resumed on the 1,472-day inspection and installation of the new smokebox in October 2020. On December 15, 2020, the railroad announced they are converting locomotive 489 to burn oil instead of coal. The decision was made "to ensure viability in diverse environmental conditions." The conversion of locomotive 489 was completed in time for the opening of the 2021 operating season.
The T-12 No. 168 is a 4-6-0 "Ten Wheeler" type inside frame engine also built by Baldwin Locomotive Works. This is the oldest steam locomotive operated by the railroad. Restoration work on No. 168 was completed in October 2019, and it now continues to operate on occasional special excursions on the C&TSRR. Another engine that operates on the railroad is D&RGW No. 315. No. 315 is a C-18 class inside frame 2-8-0 "Consolidation" type locomotive. It is owned by the Durango Railroad Historical Society, but it is on indefinite loan to the C&TSRR. Restoration work on No. 315 was completed in August 2007, and it continues to operate on occasional special excursions on both the D&SNG and the C&TSRR.
The C&TSRR owns 2 class DE General Electric 44-ton center-cab diesel locomotives built in 1943, Nos. 15 and 19, for emergency use when the steam locomotives are inoperative. They are also used for operations outside the normal operating season. Both came from the Oahu Railway and Land Company; No. 19 was purchased by the C&TSRR in 1972 and No. 15 was purchased in 2013.
The C&TSRR owns two rotary snowplows, Rotary OY and Rotary OM. Rotary OM was purchased in the late 1800s by the D&RGW and has served the line ever since. It has not been run since the 1970s because of mechanical issues. Rotary OY was built in the 1920s and has served in several places on the line. It was last run in late winter of 2020 to begin the 50th anniversary of the formation of the C&TSRR. There are no current plans to run the rotary again anytime soon, but it is in good condition and fully functional.
In 2016, D&RGW No. 168 arrived in Antonito from Colorado Springs, Colorado for restoration to working order. The engine had been on display for a long time in a public park, but was in good condition. Restoration began in March 2017 and was completed in October 2019. The restoration project was headed up by Cumbres and Toltec Special Projects department and led by Assistant General Manager Efstathios Papas. The project cost $508,000 and spanned 27 months. The railroad intends to use this engine frequently in normal excursion service as much as possible. As of 2021, No. 168 continues to operate in occasional special excursions on the C&TSRR.
For passenger services, the C&TSRR operates a mixture of flat roofed and clerestory cars, with interiors corresponding with the railroad's three classes of service: Coach, Deluxe (formerly Tourist class) and Parlor. In 2019, the car shop in Antonito, Colorado, finished the first in a line of new clerestory cars that will serve as standard passenger cars and new Parlor cars. This is part of an effort to retire the older flat roofed cars due to their age. The C&TSRR also operates observation gondolas as well as special coaches configured to accommodate wheelchairs and house concession areas.
A typical C&TSRR train includes:
- 1 K-27, K-36 or K-37 2-8-2 steam locomotive (A second locomotive is normally added, depending on the length of the train)
- 3 Coaches (On some days, extra coaches are added to meet demand)
- 1 ADA/Concession coach
- 1 Observation gondola
- 1 Deluxe class coach
- 1 Parlor class coach
In popular culture
- The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, 1969
- Shoot Out, 1971
- Showdown, 1973
- The Fortune, 1975
- Bite the Bullet, 1975
- The Missouri Breaks, 1976
- Butch and Sundance: The Early Days, 1979
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989
- Ghost Trains of the Old West, 1990
- America's Historic Steam Railroads: Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, 1999
- A Million Ways to Die in the West, 2014
- Hostiles, 2017
- The Harder They Fall, 2021
- D & RG Narrow Gauge Trestle
- List of Colorado historic railroads
- List of Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad lines
- List of heritage railroads in the United States
- Narrow-gauge railroads in the United States
- San Juan Express
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Colorado § Archuleta County
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Conejos County, Colorado
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico
- List of National Historic Landmarks in Colorado
- List of National Historic Landmarks in New Mexico
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
- "National Historic Landmarks Survey, Colorado" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
- "National Historic Landmarks Survey, New Mexico" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
- LeMassena, R. A. (1984). Colorado's Mountain Railroads. Sundance Publications. ISBN 0-913582-35-2. OCLC 11876423.
- Chappell, Gordon S. (1971). Logging Along the Denver & Rio Grande: Narrow Gauge Logging Railroads of Southwestern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Colorado Railroad Museum. OCLC 251717.
- Norwood, John B. (1983). Rio Grande Narrow Gauge. Heimburger House Publishing Company.
- "Cumbres & Toltec will steam on this summer". Colorado Central Magazine. Cozine.com. June 1, 2003. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
- "Fire hits Cumbres and Toltec train line". The Denver Post. June 24, 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2018.
- Rodriguez, Juan Carlos. "Scenic Railroad Back in Service". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved May 28, 2018.
- Gantner, Bern (July 18, 1976). "Enchanted Trails". Albuquerque Journal. p. 58.
- "NRHP nomination for Denver & Rio Grande Railroad San Juan Extension (Boundary Increase)". National Archive. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
- "Full Steam Ahead! Make 2018 Your Year to Ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad!". Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Retrieved May 27, 2018 – via GlobeNewswire News Room.
- "Santa Trains". Retrieved November 19, 2018.
- "New President – Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad". Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. December 5, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
- "John Bush, Cumbres & Toltec president and GM, retires". Trains Magazine. November 16, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
- "Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad". Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Central New Mexico. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
- Papas, Efstathios. Personal Interview. March 11, 2020
- Bush, John. Personal Interview. March 15, 2020.
- "Historic Railroad Moves to Ensure Viability in Diverse Environmental Conditions". Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. December 15, 2020. Archived from the original on 2020-12-15. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
- "Full Day Trips". Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
- Hogan, Roger (May 9, 2019). "C&TSRR=Daily Train at the Narrows Eastbound". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved May 27, 2019 – via YouTube.
- "Trains and Cumbres & Toltec announce epic narrow gauge photo charter". Trains Magazine. February 1, 2018. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
- Arellano, Megan. "A 'Hateful' Question: What Movies Were Filmed In Colorado, But Set Elsewhere?". Colorado Public Radio. Archived from the original on January 7, 2016. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
- Doris B. Osterwald (1992), Ticket to Toltec: A Mile by Mile Guide for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad pp. 102–103, Western Guideways
- "GHOST TRAINS OF THE OLD WEST (105929-01) lifeisamovie.com". shop.lifeisamovie.com. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
- "America's Historic Steam Railroads: Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad - Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
- Norwood, John B. (1983). Rio Grande Narrow Gauge (1st ed.). Heimburger House Publishing Company. ISBN 0-911581-00-6.