Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Date: October 9, 2011
Location: Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is a steam-operated narrow gauge railroad that runs for 64 miles from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico.  The tourist railroad opened in 1970 and operates from late May to mid October annually.  It reaches an elevation of 10,015 feet at Cumbres Pass, the highest elevation for a passanger railway in the United States, and crosses the Colorado-New Mexico border eleven times.

The train approaching Osier

The Cumbres and Toltec follows the San Juan extension of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which was completed in the early 1880s.  This extension went to Durango, Colorado where a section is now maintained as the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  The Cumbres and Toltec is now listed under the National Register of Historic Places.

The locomotive in Antonito

One train operates in each direction between Antonito and Chama daily with a stop for lunch at the station in Osier, Colorado.  Six itineraries are offered for you to choose from, with the last two routes typically costing $25-50 less than the first four.  There are three ticket classes, coach, tourist, and parlor, but there is also a open air car that anyone can visit and listen to a guide's narration.
     1. Antonito to Chama by bus, return by train
     2. Antonito to Chama by train, return by bus
     3. Chama to Antonito by bus, return by train
     4. Chama to Antonito by train, return by bus
     5. Chama to Osier and back by train
     6. Antonito to Osier and back by train

Aspens above the Toltec Gorge

I took the train from Antonito to Osier and back and spent the previous night in Toas, New Mexico, just over an hour's drive to the south.  About the first 16 miles of this route are spent gaining elevation through the sagebrush flats to the southwest of Antonito where there were several herds of pronghorn and one elk herd.

Osier



By about halfway to Osier, you reach the water stop at the abandoned railroad section camp of Sublette, New Mexico.  From here there the railroad travels through the alpine forests high above the valley below.  The time of my visit in early October was the prime time to see the aspen leaves at their peak golden yellow, although an early season snowstorm had taken down many of the leaves.

Aspens above  the Toltec Gorge

A few miles before Osier you go through Mud Tunnel and come out on the other side at the top of the Toltec Gorge, 600 feet above the river.  This tunnel is named from the very brittle rock that it was built through, and as we were going through the tunnel we came to a sudden stop for a couple minutes.  I was on the open air car at the time and was later to learn that the stop was due to a large rock on the tracks at the other end of the tunnel.

The Toltec Gorge




© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.





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