Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
As we wandered through northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, we stumbled across this great narrow gauge railroad at it's northern terminus in Antonito CO. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the highest and longest narrow gauge scenic railroad in the USA. It utilizes 64 miles of twisting, winding tracks stretching from Antonito to Chama New Mexico.
This is a Baldwin 2-8-2 Mikado K-36 Narrow Gauge Locomotive pulling out of Antonito CO.
The railroad is owned by a the taxpayers of both Colorado and New Mexico as authorized by Congress back in 1973. When the railroad was purchased by the Commission representing both states, it included the most scenic portion of the line, all related operational & historic structures, 9 steam locomotives and 130 freight and work cars.
This was the San Juan Extension of the Rio Grande Railroad. It was built in 1880 to support the silver mining industry...and starting with WWII, it supported natural gas exploration in the area. Eventually, business fell off and in 1969 the Interstate Commerce Commission granted a request from the Rio Grande Railroad to abandon the line. That marked the last use of steam locomotives in general freight service in the USA.
There is a rail yard at either end of the line. The yard at Antonito was built in the 1970's to support the C&TSRR at that location. However, the yard at Chama was built in 1881 and many of the old buildings remain. For much more information along with great photos and a lot of interesting video clips, check it out at http://www.cumbrestoltec.com/.