Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railway

Trip Start Aug 29, 2013
Trip End Sep 15, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Thursday, September 12, 2013

We got up at 6:00 today, luggage out at 6:30 and left at 7:15.  We left Durango and headed east on Rt. 160 that Larry and I took west to Great Sand Dunes last week.  Then we headed southeast on Rt. 84 to Chama (CHAH-mah), New Mexico to board the Cumbres (COME-breeze) and Toltec Scenic Railway.  This railroad is jointly owned by Colorado and New Mexico.  We arrived in plenty of time and were assigned to Coach G.  Before we took off Larry and Derek had a chance to go up into the cab of the engine to look around and got to see into the fire box.  We had to stay in our seats until after we were underway and the attendant came through to take our lunch orders.  This is a six hour trip with a lunch break half way.  After we gave our lunch orders Larry and Derek went to the open gondola car.  I opted to stay in my seat and put the window down because there is no place to sit in the gondola.

The first part of the trip was uphill at steep grades and you could really hear the engine working.  I think I can!  I think I can!  I think I can!  Black smoke and steam just poured out of the stack.  This is another narrow gauge railroad and our engine was pulling the maximum of 8 cars it could without adding another engine.  The part of the trip was mostly through open country paralleling Rt. 17 most of the way.  There were lots of "foamers" along the way.  Railroad fanatics who follow trains  to take pictures etc. are called foamers.  On this part of journey we crossed Lobato Trestle at 100 ft. above Wolf Creek.  We went by Cresco Tank where trains can take on water.  This tank was used in the movie:  Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade.  Then we came to Cumbres Pass the highest point on our journey at 10,015 ft.  Our next memorable experience was navigating around Tanglefoot Curve which is a loop which is almost a complete circle curving back on itself to gain 39 ft. in elevation.  Then we did a long horseshoe curve past Los Pinos Tank and then paralleling Rio de Los Pinos Creek.  At the end of the horseshoe there are several homes which are off the grid, no electric.  They run on generators and solar power and most are just summer homes.  Coming out of the horseshoe we tracked around the mountain and across Cascade Trestle over Cascade Creek.  This was the highest bridge at 137 ft. above the creek.  Descending  further we came to the old railroad toll station, Osier.  It was once a small railroad community but today it is our place for lunch.

For lunch we had the choice of a turkey dinner, meatloaf dinner or soup and salad.  Derek and I turkey and Larry had meatloaf.  When you went in, there were three lines for the three choices.  Most of the tables were like cafeteria tables and the food was served on cafeteria trays,  For dessert there were all kinds of cakes and pies.  Derek and I had triple chocolate cake and Larry had Old Fashioned Creme Pie.  Then Larry went back and got a piece of pumpkin, then so did Derek.  There was sign that said, "Take as much as you want, but eat all that you take."  While we were eating the train from the other end came into the station and it got really crowded.  After lunch we walked through the bookstore and then outside, where the predicted rain was spitting.  We walked around and took some pictures.  Mark took pictures of everyone in front of the locomotive by the cow catcher.  Before long we heard four long toots from the whistle and it was time to go.  The other train had just pulled out.  Mark told us to try and be on the right side of the train for the next part of the trip and that we could take a nap for the last hour as we would be in the flats of the San Luis Valley.

Larry and Derek headed for the gondola and I took their seats on the right sight of car G.  I had been on the left side in the morning.  There were fewer people on the train now as a lot of them got on the other train back to Chama.  The other option is to go the whole way and take a bus back to Chama.  Luckily our bus would be waiting for us.  Shortly after leaving Osier we passed a monument to President Garfield, then got our first glimpse of the Toltec Gorge, and immediately went through Rock Tunnel 360 ft. long.  Then we did another horseshoe curve called Phantom Curve that gave us great views of Toltec Gorge.  At the end of this curve we went through Mud Tunnel which unlike the rock tunnel, requires  wooden supports over its 342 ft. length.  We can still see the Rio de Los Pinos down in the valley.  As we continued to descend we did several smaller horseshoe curves going Sublette which was formerly a home for section gangs.  Whiplash Curve was two horseshoe curves right beside each other.  We went by Lava Tank and Lava Loop which is used for turning snow plows in the winter.  The only interesting thing in the last hour was Hangman's Trestle where a bad guy from Antonito was hanged by a posse.  The train seemed to be having trouble on the last part of the trip, it was really jerky and really slow.  We got into Antonito an hour late, after 5:00.  So we were on the train for 7 hours.  Once we had a restroom break we boarded the bus to Alamosa and the Inn of the Rio Grande.  It took about half an hour to get there.  Jose had taken our luggage to the Inn and brought our keys, so Mark passed out the keys and told us 7:30 bags in the hallway and 8:15 departure.

We arrived, found our room and deposited our stuff.  We went downstairs to the Clancey Restaurant because the San Luis Brewery is a mile walk from the inn.  They didn't have any local beers so Larry had a Fat Tire and Derek had a Guinness.  I had a quesadilla, Larry had a burrito and Derek had enchiladas.  When I was done I went up to take a shower.  Steam trains are really dirty and I had soot and ashes everywhere.  I removed cinders from my hair all day.  Larry said he could feel cinders in his shoes.  Larry and Derek had another beer and got to the room when I was finished with showering.  We all were on computers checking emails and downloading pictures and videos.  I took 237 pictures and videos.  I deleted almost 100 of them.  Derek filled up his 4G card and almost filled his 2G card.  Derek took 200 altogether but 50 of them were videos.  I ironed clothes for tomorrow and wrote the blog. 
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