All Aboard in New Mexico!
Imagine climbing aboard a coal-fired steam engine that will carry you 64 miles through steep mountain canyons, high desert and lush meadows between the Colorado and New Mexico border. Relax in the full glory of Victorian elegance in a parlor car as you gaze upon unparalleled natural beauty.
According to the nonprofit group, Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Senic Railroad, “This old-west fantasy can become reality. Hidden away in a littleknown corner of the southern Rocky Mountains on the border of New Mexico and Colorado is a precious historic artifact of the American West that time forgot. Built in 1880 and little changed since, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the finest and most spectacular example of steam-era mountain railroading in North America. Its equipment, structures and vast landscape exist today as if frozen in the first half of the twentieth century.
The time has long passed when the railroad last hauled precious metals over Cumbres Pass. But its steam locomotives still labor up steep grades carrying visitors over high trestles, through tunnels, and along narrow shelves above yawning gorges...”
The rail line was constructed in 1881 by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) as part of their San Juan extension stretching from Alamosa to Durango, Colorado. The line originally supported mining operations in the San Juan Mountains. By the mid 20th century, the ore traffic had dwindled but the line continued to support agricultural and industrial operations until the 1960s.
In 1968, freight traffic was virtually gone and the railroad began the process of abandoning the line. However, Colora-
do and New Mexico purchased the 64 mile portion between Antonito and Chama in 1970 and began excursion services on the route as the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
One reviewer said “I love this train! It's a fun experience. We did this ride 15 years ago and looked forward to coming again.”
The views are amazing and the cost includes lunch. The train has room enough to walk around, and the private car is on the front, with for photos. According to reviews, “The Toltec feels like someone you know purchased and refurbished a steam train and has now invited you spend the day on it.”
The lunch is also notable, with reviewers commenting it is, “comfort food, made from scratch…”
There are several options for rides, with trains leaving either from Antonito, CO or Chama, NM. The trains meet at historic Osier, CO for a buffet lunch. You can begin your full-day trip with a morning motor coach ride along Colorado’s Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway, and return to your car by train. Or start the day on the train and return to your car via motor coach on a scenic byway. Finally, you can change trains at Osier, and return to your starting point by train.
Wildfires in southern Colorado have not impacted the train’s routes or its regular operations. The wildfires have closed the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, so the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the only narrow gauge operating at this time in this area.
The train operates from May through October. Fares are around $100 for adults, and half that for children, but the parlor car price goes up to around $200. More information and tickets can be purchased at cumbrestoltec.com. Group and charter rates are available, and there are discounts for military and AARP members.
It all sounds a perfect summer get away—and a must-do for train lovers. ◊●◊