Chama Steam VI Fall Madness

Chama Steam was an annual photo charter put together by Jay Wimer in cooperation with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and Bob Manthey-Zorn of Chama’s Trackside Emporium. The first trip was back in 2002, with subsequent excursions at least planned every year after that. However, due to the precarious position of the railroad, both from a financial, operator contract, and state of equipment point of view, in many of those interveining years, many of those planned trips wound up cancelled. With the railroad on the rebound, however, Chama Steam V (2006) turned out to be a spectacular success. So, when the announcement went out that 2007 was to have a two day trip covering the entire line both ways – to be known as Chama Steam Fall Madness – I immediately signed up. I’ve always wanted to shoot a freight train in the high deserts on the east end, and this seemed like a good opportunity.

Saturday, Sep 29, 2007 – Double-heading to Cumbres

The original plan was to run a double-header to Cumbres on Sunday morning, and then continue east with a single unit. As a result of 489 taking longer to rebuild than was expected, Sunday’s double-header wouldn’t be possible, as one unit was still needed for the regularly scheduled eastbound. The powers that be were able to accomodate, though, and instead there was a special double-header on Saturday evening after the regular train got in (so that we could grab its power, in addition to the spare unit in Chama). The weather wasn’t terribly cooperative, as Saturday was mostly overcast and raining. In the late afternoon, though, the clouds finally broke, giving way to a little late sun for our trip. This gave us a twilight run to Cumbres, dragging a string of cattle cars to be staged for Sunday. I must say, I’ve never had as much fun as riding back down the hill on Saturday, when I was able to snag one of the seats in the cupola of caboose 0579.

Sunday, Sep 30, 2007 – Chama to Antonito

Sunday was perfect from a weather standpoint – a perfectly clear, crisp fall day. Having stayed in Alamosa overnight, I was running a little late, and when I showed up at 0730h, Alan was trying to get everyone on board for an early departure. Glad I hadn’t stopped to grab anything for breakfast! We left about fifteen minutes early, which probably bought us an extra run-by somewhere. We did a few on the way to Cumbres – two at Lobato and one at Hamilton’s Point – but mainly got to the top and hooked up the stock cars we’d dropped off Saturday night. In order for things to work out, we had to be into Osier with enough time to eat before either regular train arrived, but we did get runbys at the Long Creek fill and Cascade Trestle.

True to Alan’s word, as soon as the west train arrived at Osier, we were lined eastward and off like a shot. This gave us time for run-bys at several spots (Calico Cut, Phantom Curve, and Mud Tunnel) before ducking into Toltec to clear up for the regular eastbound train. From there, we got a couple more shots at Big Horn and Ferguson’s (Hangman’s) Trestle, and arrived in Antonito about 1730h. Accomodations for the night were included with the trip, and most of us wound up over at the Narrow Gauge Motel.

Monday, Oct 1, 2007 – Antonito to Chama

To give us some variety, the crew moved the stock cars further back in the train as we were preparing to depart Antonito on Monday, and hooked up 484 rather than 488 for the trip back. Monday’s weather wasn’t so perfect. The day started in Antonito with some high cloud cover, but more dense clouds could be seen to the west. We had decent sun through about Big Horn, and then the clouds started to take over. Not that diffuse light didn’t open up other new photo angles, such as the one at Los Pinos in Chapter 5, but was a big change from Monday’s fine blue skies. Operations were basically Sunday in reverse – out of Antonito two hours ahead of the regular train, do run-bys, duck in the hole at Toltec for the westbound train to pass us, more run-bys, arrive at Osier as the other two trains are leaving and eat, more run-bys up to Cumbres, and then straight on into Chama.

Monday night’s dinner in Chama was included, and hosted by Fosters in their back room. The food was excellent, and it gave us all a chance to eat, drink, talk, and thank everyone for their efforts. I couldn’t stay that long, as I had to be back at work on Tuesday, so I left about 2000h.

For the rivet counters, the freight consist was (in no particular order): DRGW 157 (reefer), DRGW 774 (drop bottom gon), DRGW 6200 (flat), UTLX 13084 (tank), DRGW 5691, 5600, 5841, 5633, 5706, 5549 (stock cars), DRGW 6708, 6755 (pipe idler flats), DRGW 1557 (pipe gon), DRGW 04909 (water service car), DRGW 3669 (box), DRGW 6205 (converted rider gon), DRGW 3244 (unlettered, converted to concession/restroom car by the Friends), CATS 214, 205 (rider boxes, ex-DRGW boxcars 3161 and 3475, respectively), and DRGW 0579 (caboose). Power was CATS/DRGW K-36 488 on Sunday and 484 on Monday.

A big thanks to all who made this happen. Of course that includes Jay, but it also includes the C&TS Management Corporation folks, the railroad employees who put up with the long hours and the constant “back it up, that’ll do, now bring it forward with medium smoke”, the railroad employees running the show (particularly Alan Loomis, who managed to herd cats by getting us all on and off unbelievably quickly and set up incredible run-bys), and many of the volunteers helping out (Ed Baudette, William Diehl, Dave Boyer, Bill Noe, and Paul Uhland). Most of surely would have frozen without Dave’s heaters and the fire William built in 0579’s stove. I’m sure I’ve missed a few, and I apologize for that. Thank you all for a great trip.


All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 40D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM or a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM.

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