Historic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Rail Trip
I recently had the pleasure of riding the rail on a vintage narrow gauge steam train through some of Colorado's most dramatic fall scenery. I was treated to vistas of Toltec Gorge, climbing over 10,000 feet on the Cumbres Pass, and the season's first snow fall upon the golden aspen.
Volunteers have kept this beautifully restored treasure, which is the longest and highest railroad, delighting passengers as it chugs up and down on its unusual "narrow gauge". The track was built to accommodate tighter turns in the mountains reducing construction costs in the 1880s and to support the mining industry. A network of railroads put into service at this time were instrumental in developing northern New Mexico and southwest Colorado.
A coal powered steam engine, which I can attest to, spewed coal in my scalp and particles lodged painfully in my eyes, as I insisted standing on the platform behind the engine to snap pictures. I loved the ride swaying side to side in the cold.
Occasional stops were required on the trip to fill the engine with coal and water which enabled us to complete the run as not enough could be stored on board for one trip. We snaked up and down and around then entered a mud tunnel's ink blackness which required wooden supports over its 342 foot length hoping it was still shored up.
I survived the frigid, unheated car for the five hour trip - body frozen but what an experience!