On May 25, 2019, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad opened its season with doubleheaders, departing from Chama, N.M., and Antonito, Colo. The 64-mile route goes through the scenic Toltec Gorge and climbs the 10,000-foot Cumbres Pass. It is one of the most beautiful scenic railroads in the United States as voted by the 2018 USA Today 10 Best Reader’s Choice Award, “Best Train Ride in America.”
Chris Collins, a local John Denver tribute artist, provided entertainment during the opening ceremony, which was conducted by the legendary John Bush, Cumbres & Toltec president. Billy Elbrock, the mayor of Chama, says, “On May 25, 2019, we not only celebrate the beginning of the 49th continuous year of our Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad’s operation as a tourist railroad, but we honor the memory, time, and labor of those that made it a reality, and those that have worked to keep this dream alive.”
The train leaving Chama was led by D&RGW No. 315, a restored Baldwin 2-8-0 built in 1895 for the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad. Leaving Antonito, Cumbres & Toltec No. 463, a 1903 Baldwin-built 2-8-2, led the train to Chama. After reaching Cumbres Pass, both lead engines were decoupled and continued as light power to their destinations.
While perfect weather prevailed for Saturday’s opening, remnants of heavy snow are still apparent on Cumbres Pass where snow along the tracks is still high. Both trains were sold out giving promise to a busy season that runs through October.