Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cumbres & Toltec

We could have done the bus-train combination in either direction, but for some reason (likely the direction of travel and light and time of day), I had booked us to begin with the bus from Antonito CO to Chama NM and then returning to Antonito on the train. The bus leg was a beautiful drive (and only a few of us on the bus, so all in front rows chatting with the driver and enjoying the scenery).

The 60+ mile train trip back from Chama was wonderful and took much longer - the whole trip takes all day. Lunch is served cafeteria-style in Osier, where the eastbound and westbound trains meet - and resembled a more civilized version of powerful childhood images I had from old train books showing people piling off trains into crowded lunch rooms. We had opted for the intermediate level of service - the tourist car - which seemed to have been a good choice. Comfortable seating, free soft drinks and snacks, and easy access to the open gondola car.

The Cumbres & Toltec was built in 1880 as an extension to the Denver and Rio Grande. The narrow gauge line runs up and over Cumbres Pass from Chama and then follows the Los Pinos River and Toltec Canyon as it winds its way back down to Antonito, zigzagging back and forth across the CO-NM line.

It's remarkable that a small organization can successfully maintain such complex equipment and so much right of way. I guess they are regulated just as any other railroad, so are subject to much of the same oversight that major carriers are.

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