Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

The whole reason why Noelle and I decided to head to Chama was not just because of the higher elevation and cooler temperatures, but because of the chance to ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. We are very happy with our decision to change our plans. The train ride was awesome, probably even better than the Durango and Silverton Scenic Railroad ride which we took back in October of 2003.  

This morning we packed up camp and headed back up to Chama.
Noelle at Chama
We arrived early and ate our breakfast in the parking lot then picked up our tickets.
Tickets
After about an hour a bus arrived to take us to the other end of the line in Antonito, Colorado. It was a slow, winding, and scenic drive into Colorful Colorado. We arrived in Antonito, used the restroom, and I got a free coffee in the gift shop. We then boarded the train and found our seats in the coach section.
The  Engine
Within minutes we started up the rails in the dusty sagebrush desert.
Noelle on Train
It was hot and dry down there, but the train constantly ascended higher and higher up into the mountains and back and forth between New Mexico and Colorado.
Colorado

We crossed over the Hangman's Trestle.
Crossing Hangman's Trestle
Since there aren't any trees in Antonito, this was the only place for the townsfolk to hang a criminal back in the day. Soon we were up into the junipers and pinyons. We even saw some wildlife: a couple of elk. later on we got even higher and up into some spruces and mountain meadows. There was lots of beautiful scenery. We stopped for water and we had a great view of the engineer filling up the tank from our seats at the front of the first passenger car.
Noelle
Water Stop
We also caught a view of one of the crew oiling some of the locomotive parts.
Oiling
After the short water stop we were climbing higher once again.
Mountain View
High Grade
Garfield Monument
A monument to President Garfield erected after his assassination.
Train and Meadow

When we got into Osier, Colorado we stopped for lunch.
Eric in Osier
Noelle and I both got the turkey lunch and it was delicious. It was like a full Thanksgiving dinner with stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, dinner rolls and lots of deserts. For dessert we both got the buttermilk pie and it was delicious. After lunch we wandered around the "town' a bit and then got in line to board the train.
In Osier
There was a problem though. They had overbooked the train from this point. A school group from Dulce, New Mexico boarded at Chama and was to take our train back instead of riding all the way to Antonito. They took up the entire car Noelle and I had ridden to this point. We would get a free upgrade to the super-fancy Parlor Class!
Noelle in Tourist Class
The chairs in parlor class faced the windows and the car itself was decked out in ornate tin work with African mahogany woodwork.  

The tourist class car was the last car of the train.
Caboose
We got to watch the firemen follow behind and got to go out at the back of the car. We also got better views of the engine and front cars of the train as it snaked its way up to Toltec Gorge and the Cumbres Pass. There were again lots of great views and even some more wildlife: a bunch of mule deer. The mountain meadows we traveled through were just gorgeous!
Pretty Valley
After Cumbres Pass we started to descend.
Approaching Water tank
Our descent to Chama was much quicker than a our ascent from Antonito. Before we knew it we were back to the car and ready for the long drive back to Carlsbad. It was the perfect end to an awesome vacation!         

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