On the Road Adventures

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August 19 -- Cumbres and Toltec Railroad

What a fun day!  We’ve heard about this narrow gauge railroad for a long time and we finally got our ride. 

516 Cumbres and Toltec (640x480)

This is the steam locomotive that is going to carry us over the 10,000’ pass between Antonito, CO and Chama, NM.

516a Bob and Sharon (640x480)

517 PUlling out (640x427)


Here we are pulling out of the station.  Lots of black smoke!  The tender was full of a ton of large chunks of coal, and a skinny guy up in the engine was going to shovel all that coal, one shovel-full at a time, for the next 4 hours as we traveled over the mountains.

518 In sage (640x427)



We started out in sagebrush country.  Along the way we passed a herd of pronghorn antelope.  (Those white dots are their little butts.)

519 pronghorns (640x465)520 climbing (640x427)       Traveling thorough switchback after switchback, we climb out of the valley and into pinion and lodgepole pine country. 

This is origin of the phrase, “blowing off steam.”

523 blowing off steam (640x427)       524 higher yet (640x427)



                                       Going higher and higher.

526 t and g (640x427)  We’re enjoying the sunshine in the observation car, which is basically an open cattle car which offered truly unobstructed views.                                                                  


529 on the edge (640x427)

Bob and Sharon are checking out the view as we run along the very edge of the gorge carved out by the Rio de los Pinos a thousand feet below us.  That’s the view over the side looking straight down!

532 straight down (640x427)535 lunch break (640x427)

We stopped for lunch at the very top of the route.  There is a family that lives up there at the top of the world just to fix lunch for the train passengers.  We had a festive turkey dinner, very good, and then loaded back up for the run down the other side of the mountains.

Because we would be riding our brakes all the way down the mountain, we were followed by a crew in a “speeder”, a little electric powered 2-person car that zipped along the track behind us.  At one switchback there were cows who ran back and forth as the engineer blew the steam whistle to get them off the tracks.  Look carefully at the track ahead of the steamer – poor guys didn’t have a steam whistle and there was a bull standing astride the track who probably weighed more than the steamer did.  We don’t know how long they sat there, waiting for the bull to move, but we didn’t see them again by the time we got the station!

537 speeder and cows (640x428)

538 downhill (640x427)


As we went down the hill, it started getting cold, clouding up and began to spit rain on us.  Then the rain started feeling a little chunky – random hail bouncing on the deck.  Then not so much rain and a whole lot more hail!  Everyone abandoned the observation car for our warm seats inside.

539 hail (640x427)     Eventually we outran the hail and rolled over the last trestle before our arrival at Chama.

541 trestle (640x427) 

543 end of the line (640x427)

After we got off the train, everyone loaded on the bus back to Antonito and 45 minutes later we were delivered back to our cars and the day’s adventure was over.

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