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Ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Come along with us as we enjoy a fantastic ride on the longest, highest narrow-gauge railroad in the country. It's mid-October and the scenery was beautiful with some fall foliage, snow from a storm the day before and a brilliant blue sky.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is one of two remaining vestiges of the once-vast network of narrow-gauge railroads that weaved through Colorado and New Mexico. The three-foot gauge was chosen because the curves could be sharper and thus the right-of-way was cheaper to build. This empire originally was put together by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in the early 18880's and ran from Antonito to Chama, on to Durango and then Silverton. The section of track between Chama and Durango is long gone, but the Cumbres & Toltec survives, along with its cousin, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge RR. The C&T is jointly owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico.

There are several ways to enjoy the C&T Scenic RR - a one-way ride from either end (Chama or Antonito) to the other, with a bus ride the other way, or one can opt for a round-trip from Chama to Osier. We decided to take the bus from Chama to Antonito in the morning and ride the train back to Chama. During the first few miles out of Chama, the highway crosses the railroad several times.
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After a ride of about an hour, we arrived at the Antonito depot. On display beside the entrance is Mikado #495, a 2-8-2 locomotive built in 1929.
Before our train was due to leave Antonito, I had a few minutes to explore the small yard and engine facility. #315 was inside the enginehouse.
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Here's our train, ready to depart. Today's train has two flat-cars loaded with ties as well as its usual complement of passenger cars. The two flat-cars were good to have along - our passenger cars were further from the engine and thus we had a better view of the locomotive as we went around curves.
We had decided to splurge a bit and upgraded our tickets to Deluxe Tourist, allowing us to ride in comfort and with more freedom to move around.
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Lava Tank is located near Mile Post (MP) 292. The original tank here burned in 1971 and the current tank was moved from Antonito. The tank is not used at this time.

For your reference, Antonito is at MP 281 and markers go up as we head west. The reference point is Denver, CO.

Thundering along at about 15 mph.
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Mud Tunnel is 342' long and was dug through soft, weathered volcanic ash and mud. To stabilize the soft wall, the tunnel had to be lined with timber - an additional hazard for steam locomotives.
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We're approaching Osier at MP 318.4, the halfway point on out trip. Awaiting our arrival is the eastbound train from Chama with #489 up front. Both trains pause here while passengers enjoy a hot lunch inside the dining hall. Lunch...heck, it was a full dinner. One of the choices was turkey; we learned that some of the crew are up at 0300 to get the birds in the oven. It was delicious!
Before we headed on towards Chama, I was able to get a few pictures outside. This is our train paused near the Osier water tank.
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As we continued west, we could look back across the valley and see the Antonito train heading east.
Cascade Trestle is at MP 320. It was built in 1889 to replace a wooden bridge. It is 408' long and is 137' above the creek.
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Here we're heading into Tanglefoot Curve, a sharp reverse curve at MP 330.
Looking back, we can see the little speeder that follows the train, watching for any cinders that may have started a fire.
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Cumbres Pass is the highest point on the railroad at 10,015'.
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We've arrived in Chama and the locomotive has uncoupled from the passenger cars and is moving the tie-laden flat cars.
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#492 is a K-37-type 2-8-2, no longer in service.
The K-36 class is represented by #483, also no longer in service.
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As the sun sinks lower, #463 idles in front of the Chama enginehouse.