Riding over La Veta Pass

Starting on Memorial Day weekend 2006, the San Luis & Rio Grande started their new passenger service between Alamosa and La Veta as well as Alamosa and Antonito – the first scheduled passenger service over La Veta Pass in 53 years. I wasn’t able to be there on opening day, but did make it two weeks later, on Friday, Jun 9, 2006. I’d been out to photograph the initial media run back in February (see that trip report), and was anxious to ride the new service. After all, the section of track over La Veta is quite possibly the most isolated and inaccessible piece of the old Rio Grande system.

While I was there, High Iron Travel’s Caritas was still on the property from the February run, and for an additional fee ($90, as opposed to the usual $40), passengers could ride in the luxury of a private car with an open rear platform. Knowing what private varnish usually costs to ride, this was the bargain of the century. So, I snapped up a seat as soon as I could, knowing that would be the last weekend Caritas would be on the train. As of the next Monday, it would leave the San Luis & Rio Grande for a fan trip over Kyle’s ex-Rock Island trackage east of Limon, CO.

What follows is not so much a trip report in the conventional sense around here – it’s more of a look at what you’ll see as a passenger on this rare mileage trip. It’s a look at the hidden spots on the ex-Rio Grande La Veta Pass route, both from a railfan’s point of view and from that of someone just enjoying the ride and taking in the scenery. For those interested in riding it themselves, please see the San Luis & Rio Grande’s Official Website to see schedules and purchase tickets.

All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 20D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM or a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.3 IS/USM.

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