Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cumbres & Toltec

For years I've heard good reviews of the Cumbres & Toltec scenic train ride - America's longest and highest narrow gauge railroad.  It leaves from Antonito, CO, and goes to Chama, NM, or vice versa, with a bus ride back to your origin.  It's a little pricey at about $100 each, but considering we had been on the road for 3 weeks and had only spent $30 in 'camping' fees, we thought we could splurge a little.

Is this the engine?   Seems kind of small.

Now, that's better.

We stayed overnight on BLM land right next to the tracks.  Hmmm, that might have been a mistake.

The beginning of the trip out of Antonito is a slow climb through high desert.

We had to laugh when he blew the whistle at every dirt road crossing.

I began the trip in an enclosed car, but soon I braved the smoke in the open air car.

As we continued to climb, the scenery improved.

And the little engine kept on chugging.

Until it seemed like we were on top of the world.

We went though a couple of tunnels.

And places where the rock walls seemed way too close for comfort.

We had a bit of excitement when the engineer 'dynamited' the engine and all the air brakes immediately stopped the train.  (Are you impressed with my terminology?  I was in the open car when it happened and the docent explained the significance of the loud bang.)  It seems there was a large rock on the track.  The crew removed the rock and after the air brakes were re-pressurized, we continued on our way.

Soon we arrived at the halfway point and joined the passengers who took the train from Chama.  We were served a tasty lunch with unlimited desert bar!

After lunch, both trains continued on their way, but we again had an obstacle on the track.  Boy, did those cattle run when the train approached.  Unfortunately, it took them awhile to decide to run off the track instead of down it.

We followed a pretty river valley.

And crossed two trestles.  This is the Cascade Trestle which is 137 feet above Cascade Creek.

Soon we were back in the pine trees - cough, cough.

Then through some grazing land to Chama.  I love to hear a steam engine whistle so captured it with a video. As a bonus, you might be able to see the cattle running from the train.  I didn't know they could run so fast.

The trip was definitely worth the money and as a bonus, the bus ride back to Antonito was beautiful.  Even if you don't take the train, be sure to drive 17 anyway.

The next morning, I took a video of the train as it passed where we were parked.  I love the chug-chug sound it makes.


  1. OH what fun, I'd love that trip, must make a note of it in my Bullet list...if I can ever buy my life back from the hamster wheel.
    Your photos remind me of landscapes where I'd expect to see John Wayne ride up.

  2. The Cumbres and Toltec is our favorite tourist train ride. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. I suppose we are as close together as we have ever been. I am in South Fork CO which is just east of the summit of Wolf Creek pass on Hwy 160 east of Pagosa Springs. I don't know what your plans are but I would love to meet you folks somewhere.


  4. That really looks like fun - might have to break down and do it sometime!

  5. We've done it. In fact one year we left Chama. Got to where the road crosses the track & they sent us back to Chama as the snow was too deep further up and the road and tracks where far apart. They gave everyone a free meal in any restaurant in Chama and if you wanted to return another time a free ticket. So we like to say we have done it 1 1/2 times. I can say 2 1/2 times as I did it before I met Bob.

  6. I'm surprised you didn't mention your dad! I remember he is a great train buff. Great trip!!

  7. That is so cool, we love train rides and take one whenever we can.

    You are really styling with those sun glasses! Guess you needed them to keep out all the train's smoke.

  8. A great trip and from reading your write up well worth it. A nice adventure.

  9. My son who is with the Forest Service and lives in Tierra Amarillo, south of Chama, was assigned to ride the train back and forth last summer to check for sparks and potential fire. What a life! It's suppose to be a beautiful ride in the Fall.

  10. Love the shot of the train trestle! Looks like a fun time, I'll have to add it to the wish list.

  11. Great photos....expensive trip but we know what you mean about saving money in other places so you can do things like this. And, we get to experience the ride knowing that we might never quite get to the same area thanks to your blog! Thanks for sharing..

  12. I have a problem with the overall premise of your article but I still think its really informative. I really like your other posts. Keep up the great work. If you can add more video and pictures can be much better. Because they help much clear understanding. :) thanks

  13. At least you felt the ride was worth the money; think of how you would have felt otherwise. I like train rides, and this one definitely looks like one we would want to do.