Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

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The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad was originally part of the San Juan Extension of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. D&RG also pushed west from Walsenburg, Colorado over La Veta Pass by 1877. At the time the 'Uptop' depot on La Veta Pass, rising over 9,500 feet in elevation, boasted the highest elevation for a narrow-gauge railroad. The railroad reached Alamosa by 1878. From Alamosa, a line was pushed south through Antonito eventually reaching as far south as Santa Fe, New Mexico, and west as far as Creede, Colorado.
From Antonito a line was built over the 10,015 foot Cumbres Pass, along the Colorado-New Mexico border, reaching Durango, Colorado in August 1881 and continuing north to the rich mining areas around Silverton in July 1882. A line was also constructed in 1902 as a standard-gauge line, perhaps in anticipation of possible standard gauging of the entire line, south from Durango, Colorado to Farmington, New Mexico. Originally hauling mainly agricultural products and serving as a deterrent to the Santa Fe building up from the south, the line was converted to narrow gauge in 1923, and later delivered pipe and other construction materials to the local oil and natural gas industry into the 1960s.
The Sherman Act in 1893 had a devastating effect on the silver mining industry and traffic over the San Juan Extension failed to warrant conversion to standard gauge. Over the ensuing decades it became an isolated anachronism, receiving its last major upgrades in equipment and infrastructure in the 1920s. A post-World War II natural gas boom brought a brief period of prosperity to the line, but operations dwindled to a trickle in the 1960s.
Portions of the Alamosa-Durango Line survive to this day. The Walsenburg-Alamosa-Antonito line survives as the standard-gauge San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad, with passenger excursion trains provided by the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. Two narrow-gauge segments survive as steam railroads, the Antonito-Chama line as the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad and Durango-Silverton as the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Glen Brewer, a renowned railroad historian, visited Chama in 1965 and took these wonderful photographs which he has been kind enough to let us use. The structures and much of the rolling stock seen in these pictures are still present today.
It’s an early fall morning in Chama New Mexico and the crews are getting Engine 489 ready for its run to Antonito, Colorado. After filling the tender with water, the engine backs down to the switch and moves forward to the coal pile. A front end loader tops off the tender and the engine is backed up to the passenger cars and coupled. At precisely 10 AM, the train departs east for its journey to Antonito. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.