Tracks of Gold

We just completed a dozen nights in Chama, New Mexico, doing research and taking photos of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad for an upcoming Colorado Life Magazine feature.

Lesser known than its Durango & Silverton counterpart, the Cumbres & Toltec runs on 64 miles of narrow-gauge tracks between Chama, New Mexico, and Antonito, Colorado.  From Chama where we camped, the first part of the route ascends a four-percent grade to the top of Cumbres Pass.  From there, it’s a long descent through Toltec Canyon to the San Luis Valley and on to Antonito.

Where the D&S traverses a wilderness canyon, the C&T stays high, offering panoramic views of aspen-cloaked hillsides studded in brilliant gold at this time of year.  It rivals the best fall color we’ve ever seen in the Rockies.

The train ride takes 6+ hours to ride from end to end, with an hour-long bus ride to the starting or from the ending point.  A full lunch is provided at Osier, an old station house located in the backcountry.  Best of all, beer is available for purchase onboard.

We spent several days chasing the train, taking photos from sites we could reach by car or short hikes.  We then enjoyed two days riding the train from end to end and one day riding Galloping Goose #5 from end to end.  Our final day was on a Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec photo-shoot featuring freight-train cars being pulled by a steam locomotive still bearing the old Denver & Rio Grande Western name.