A Day on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic – Oct 2001

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic is currently probably the best preservation effort that the Denver & Rio Grande Western will ever know. They maintain 64 miles of the original narrow gauge line between Antonito, CO, and Chama, NM – the eastern end of the line that brought the miners and supplies to the San Juans of southwest Colorado and the line that brought the minerals out. Thanks to the Friends of the C&TS coming to the rescue in March of 2000, the railroad is recovering from a bit of neglect and once again is becoming a world-class operating museum. In addition to providing an operator for the line, the group has also restored a great deal of equipment and sections of track.

Not having been down to the C&TS since my first visit in 1990, I decided to head down on Saturday, 6-Oct-2001. I’d heard a rumor the day before of a triple-header, but I didn’t put much faith in that due to tourism being down lately (for obvious reasons). However, after wading my truck through a few cattle drives between Antonito and Chama, I found CATS 463, 497, and 489 heading up the train sitting in the Chama yard. Due to the delays inevitable in getting all those tourists on board, the eastbound train didn’t actually pull out until almost 1040h, 40 minutes after scheduled departure. In the meantime, what seemed like half the population of Colorado and New Mexico showed up, ready to follow the train up the hill.

The aspen trees were just finishing their fall colors, and the weather held out nicely until around 1300h, making for a great morning to photograph all three working uphill. Once the train had left Cumbres, I headed back down the hill to Chama to have a look around. After the somewhat accidental discovery of Bob Zorn’s Trackside Emporium and buying a couple books (Rio Grande in Color Volume 3, which had just been released, and Short Line to Cripple Creek – Colorado Rail Annual No. 16, since I live almost at the base of the line here in the Springs), as well as a quick lunch at Fosters, I went back up to await the westbound train at Los Pinos.

The westbound, lead by CATS 487, showed up around 30 minutes late – not bad, considering the delay placed on it by the eastbound train. Since traffic on the line only moves at around 15 MPH, it’s not hard to run off a hundred shots between Los Pinos, CO, and Chama, NM (especially when I’m shooting digital and don’t have to reload). By the time it had arrived down in Chama, it, too, had picked up a sizable quantity of pursuing fans. At this point, though, with the four hour drive back to Colorado Springs, I decided to call it a day and head for home.

Since there’s not much more to say that hasn’t been written before, I thought I’d just leave you to the photos. Enjoy!

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