Coal smoke, chill air and rampaging color. Can’t beat the high country as your train whistles and chugs above 10,000 feet and through the aspen groves on a splendid fall day.
For this trip it’s the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad out of Chama, N.M., a last remnant of the spider web of narrow-gauge tracks once stuck in the damnedest places all over this territory. Another steam-powered train started about the same time from Antonito, Colo., meeting us at the lunch stop at a remote station in the San Juan Mountains before continuing onward.
The C&TS season wrapped up last weekend, so think about next year. It’s a good ride anytime, but trains tend to fill up as the aspen change color and elk run wild leaving hunters in their dust. Not too far to the west another survivor of the silver boom, the Durango & Silverton, trundles its passengers up the canyon of the Rio de las Animas Perdidas, that’s the River of Lost Souls, all year shortening the trip in the winter.
If the steam whistle, clickety-clack and cinders in your eye aren’t enough of a throwback to a time long gone, a shot of rye across from the Chama station at Foster’s Saloon should do the trick.
(Click on the photos to enlarge them.)
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