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Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, often abbreviated as C&TSRR, is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge heritage railroad running for 64 miles (103 km) between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico, United States. The railroad gets its name from two geographical features along the route, the 10,015-foot (3,053 m)-high Cumbres Pass and the Toltec Gorge. Originally part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad's narrow-gauge network, the line has been jointly owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico since 1970.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.png
LocaleConejos County and
Archuleta County
in Colorado and
Rio Arriba County
in New Mexico, United States
Dates of operation1970–present
Track gauge3 ft (914 mm)
Length64 miles
HeadquartersChama, New Mexico
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad
San Juan Extension
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad excursion train headed by locomotive 484 in 2015.jpg
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is located in Colorado
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is located in New Mexico
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Nearest cityAntonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico
Coordinates36°54′N 106°35′W / 36.900°N 106.583°W / 36.900; -106.583Coordinates: 36°54′N 106°35′W / 36.900°N 106.583°W / 36.900; -106.583
Area1,430 acres (580 ha)
Built1880 (1880)
ArchitectDenver and Rio Grande Western Railroad
Baldwin Locomotive Works
Architectural styleLate 19th And Early 20th Century American Movements
MPSRailroads in Colorado, 1858-1948 MPS
NRHP reference #73000462[1] (original)
07000374[1] (increase)
CSRHP #5AA.664 / 5CN.65
Significant dates
Added to NRHPFebruary 16, 1973
Boundary increaseApril 24, 2007
Designated NHLDOctober 16, 2012[2][3]
Designated NMSRCPNovember 20, 1969


The rail line over which the Cumbres & Toltec operates was constructed in 1881 by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) as part of their San Juan extension stretching from Alamosa, Colorado to Durango, Colorado. The line was originally built to support mining operations in the San Juan Mountains, mainly around Durango and Silverton. By the mid 20th century, the ore traffic had dwindled but the line continued to support various 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, the states of Colorado 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.[4]

Current operationsEdit

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad operates between late May and late October with two trains (one in each direction) departing each morning from Antonito and Chama. Both trains are timed to meet at Osier, an old section town located about halfway along the route, for a lunch stop. Afterwards, passengers continue with their train to its destination or switch trains to return to their original terminal. Through riders are returned to their starting place by motorcoach after the train arrives at its destination.

In addition to the through service, the C&TSRR operates various special excursions during the season such as dinner trains.[5] On certain days during the holiday season, the railroad offers special "Santa Trains" from both Chama and Antonito and guests are encouraged to bring gifts and/or food for the less fortunate.[6]

Operator changesEdit

After the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was formed, a bi-state agency, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission was created and railroad operations were then contracted to third party rail operators. In 2012, the Commission formed its own operating company, Cumbres & Toltec Operating LLC,[7] with the hiring of John Bush as president on December 13, 2012.[8]

Friends of the C&TSRREdit

In 1988, a nonprofit organization called Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was established to preserve the history of the railroad and help maintain infrastructure and rolling stock. The Friends of the C&TSRR also participate in various education programs and provides the railroad guides, known as docents, who inform passengers about historical aspects of the railroad as well as locations of interest.[9]

Notable incidentsEdit

2002 shutdownsEdit

In 2002, the C&TSRR was shut down twice, first in the spring to resolve track bed issues. In the summer, operations were suspended again because of wildfire dangers.[10]

Lobato trestle fireEdit

On June 23, 2010, an unknown fire severely damaged Lobato Trestle, a deck girder bridge located about 4 miles east of Chama. While the bridge was out of order, the C&TSRR operated limited services from the Chama end while trains from Antonito only traveled to Osier and back.[11] After undergoing extensive refurbishment, the bridge was reopened on June 20, 2011.[12]

National Historic LandmarkEdit

In 1973, the Cumbres & Toltec was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the boundaries were increased in 2007.[1] In 2012, the railroad was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Rolling stockEdit


All of the steam locomotives currently operating on the C&TSRR are former Denver and Rio Grande Western 2-8-2 outside frame engines built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in the early 1900s. Among these are K-27 #463, the K-36 class, and the slightly larger K-37 class engines. In addition to the steam locomotives, the C&TSRR also operates two GE 47-ton switchers for light duties.[13]

D&RGW #168Edit

In 2015, D&RGW #168, a 4-6-0 steam locomotive, was transported from Colorado Springs to the C&TSRR shops in Antonito to be restored to operating condition. The 168 is one of two surviving class T-12 locomotives built for the D&RGW between 1883 and 1885. The other T-12, D&RGW #169, is on static display in Alamosa, Colorado, and is not operational.[14]

Passenger carsEdit

For passenger services, the Cumbres & Toltec operates a mixture of flat roofed and clerestory cars with interiors corresponding with the railroad's three classes of service: Coach, Tourist, and Parlor. The C&TSRR also operates observation gondolas as well as special coaches configured to accommodate wheelchairs and house concession areas.[15]


A typical C&TSRR train includes:[16]

  • 1 K-27 or K-36 2-8-2 steam locomotive (A second locomotive is normally added depending on the length of the train)
  • 3 Coaches (On some days, extra coaches are added to meet demand)
  • 1 ADA/Concession coach
  • 1 Observation gondola
  • 1 Tourist class coach
  • 1 Parlor class coach

Freight wagonsEdit

The Cumbres & Toltec also owns a varied collection of former D&RGW narrow-gauge freight wagons for both display and for use in nostalgic railtours.[17]

In popular cultureEdit

Over the years, the railroad was featured in several documentaries and films.[18] Among these are:

Route descriptionEdit

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
to Alamosa (San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad)
Mud Tunnel
Rock Tunnel
Cascade Creek trestle
Lobato trestle
to Durango (Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad)

Locations along the lineEdit

Chama to OsierEdit

Beginning in Chama (Milepost 344.12), the railroad proceeds northeast after leaving the yard and crossing the Rio Chama. About 1 mile (1,600 m) later begins a 4% grade which is nearly constant from there to Cumbres. The first siding on the line is located at Lobato (MP: 339.99), where the remnants of a stock pen and a water tank made for a movie in the 1970s can be seen. The tank was used later in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The water tank was knocked over in 2006, due to age and high winds. Just under a 14 mi (400 m) away, is Lobato Trestle, the second-highest trestle on the line, built in 1883. Due to weight restrictions, only one locomotive at a time is allowed to cross; therefore, all double-headers must separate and rejoin on the other side.

C&TS#487 in the Chama Yard

From here to Cumbres, the railroad operates on the north side of Wolf Creek. On the journey to the top at Cumbres, the train passes Cresco Siding and water tank (MP 335.10) and navigates a small canyon past Hamilton's Point. Exiting the canyon, the track makes a turn to the northwest and up the Wolf Creek drainage through Coxo. At a narrow point of the valley, the track makes a horseshoe turn up to Windy Point, which the train rounds to enter Cumbres Pass.

At Cumbres (MP 330.48), elevation 10,015 ft (3,053 m), is the Car Inspector's House, Water Standpipe, remnants of the extensive snow shed, and the Section House, which replaced the original depot after it was demolished in the 1950s. Cumbres is the highest point on the railroad. From here east, the track heads down at 2.5%, and descends the Cumbres Loop, more commonly refer to as "Tanglefoot Curve". After exiting the loop, the track follows a general easterly direction until Milepost 327.6, where they turn north up the Los Piños Valley.

Heading north, the track loses elevation, while the valley slopes up, with the track and valley floor finally meeting at Mile 325, where the track once again changes direction, heading south on the other side of the valley, following the Rio de Los Piños toward Osier. After Mile 323, the track again leaves the valley, on a much steeper grade, while the track clings to the valley created by the river. Along the way, the track crosses Cascade Trestle (MP 319.95), taller than the Lobato Trestle, at 137 ft (42 m). Approximately 1.5 mi (2,400 m) later, the track enters Osier, Colorado, the midpoint of the railroad where the two trains meet for lunch. Here, riders may switch trains and return to their point of origin, or ride to the opposing terminus.

Antonito to OsierEdit

C&TSRR steam locomotive #484

This section covers the eastern portion of the line from the small cattle and junction town of Antonito to Osier, the midpoint of the line.

Antonito (MP 280.70) is a small company town of the former railroad main line. It is home to the C&TSRR car shop, a water tank, and other relics. Most of the facilities were built by the Cumbres & Toltec, as the original rail yard, wye, and station were not sold to the states of Colorado and New Mexico.

Shortly after leaving the station, the train heads straight for 3 miles (4.8 km), until coming into some hills. Shortly thereafter, the train crosses Ferguson's Trestle (MP 285.87), named for a man who was hung from a locomotive there. The original trestle was featured in the 1988 television movie Where the Hell's That Gold?, starring Willie Nelson and Delta Burke. In filming, a planned explosion ended up getting out of hand and the bridge was burned down. Traffic was halted for a week while the C&TSRR built a temporary bridge; the following winter it rebuilt the trestle to match the original. About three miles (5 km) later, the train makes the first of 11 crossings into New Mexico, and climbs a ledge up to a lava mesa. Lava (291.55) has the old water tank from Antonito, which was moved here in 1971. The track goes around a horseshoe curve that is also used as a reversing loop to turn the rotary snow plow trains from Chama. The Cumbres & Toltec has two rotary snowplows — Rotary OM and Rotary OY.

Heading west, the track rounds Whiplash Curve, a double horseshoe curve. About 1 mi (1,600 m) from Whiplash Curve lie the sidings and wye at Big Horn. Past Big Horn the train loops around the sides of mountains going through horseshoe curves before reaching the first water stop at Sublette.

Sublette is an abandoned railroad section camp, consisting of a log bunk house, a section house, a siding, and other buildings. There used to be a water tank at the western end of the siding, but today, in its place, is a standpipe. After filling the tender with water, the engine and the train slowly creep into lush aspen groves.

After departing Sublette comes Toltec Siding, which in the 1950s was the meeting place of long oil well pipe trains moving between Chama and Farmington to Alamosa. Shortly afterwards, trains pass through Mud Tunnel, which is unique, because it is lined with wooden pillars, since it is bored through soft volcanic ash. When the beams in the tunnel collapsed, the D&RGW made a "shoo fly" (a temporary by-pass) to allow passengers and small cars to be moved around the tunnel to an awaiting train. After passing through this, trains pass around Phantom Curve and through Calico Cut, and then the trains slow down as they enter the longer Rock Tunnel. Trains exit the tunnel, entering the Toltec Gorge, where the track is 600 ft (180 m) above the river. The line follows the river the remainder of the distance to Osier.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "National Historic Landmarks Survey, Colorado" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  3. ^ "National Historic Landmarks Survey, New Mexico" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  4. ^ "DRGW.Net | The San Juan Extension". Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  5. ^ a b Railroad, The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic. "Full Steam Ahead! Make 2018 Your Year to Ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad!". GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  6. ^ "Santa Trains". Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  7. ^ "16cumbres.html".
  8. ^ "New President - Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad". Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  9. ^ "Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad". Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Central New Mexico. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  10. ^ "Colorado Central Magazine - The monthly magazine for the illuminated - Cumbres & Toltec will steam on this summer". 2003-06-01. Retrieved 2015-05-01.
  11. ^ "Fire hits Cumbres and Toltec train line". The Denver Post. 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  12. ^ Writer, Juan Carlos Rodriguez | Journal Staff. "Scenic Railroad Back in Service". Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  13. ^ "Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR". Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  14. ^ "Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Announces Lease To Fully Restore T-12 Engine 168". Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  15. ^ "".
  16. ^ roger hogan (2019-05-08), C&TSRR=Daily Train At the Narrows Eastbound, retrieved 2019-05-27
  17. ^ February 1; 2018. "Trains and Cumbres & Toltec announce epic narrow gauge photo charter | Trains Magazine". Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  18. ^ Arellano, Megan. "A 'Hateful' Question: What Movies Were Filmed In Colorado, But Set Elsewhere?". Colorado Public Radio. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  19. ^ "GHOST TRAINS OF THE OLD WEST (105929-01)". Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  20. ^ "America's Historic Steam Railroads: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2018-05-27.

External linksEdit