The Cumbres-Toltec scenic railway is a narrow gauge railroad that is one of the most interesting tourist attractions that New Mexico has to offer its visitors. This amazing and beautiful railroad runs at a height of more than 10,000 feet from the Cumbres Pass and passing through the Toltec Gorge, the two places that eventually gave this railroad its name. Trains run from both ends and meet in the middle, offering the travelers with a greatly mesmerizing view from the train. As far as narrow gauge railroads with steam powered trains are concerned, this is the highest one in all of United States. While it used to be the railroad through which precious metals used to be hauled across the Cumbres Pass during the early 20th century, it now serves an entirely different purpose and that includes providing a unique experience to those who are looking for something out of the ordinary. The old look of the railway is still intact and while traveling on this railroad in the incredible train, it feels like the time has frozen in the 20th century’s first half. Read on to find out more about this great tourist attraction.
Built in 1880-1881, the main reason for its existence was to provide transport for mining operations that were being conducted in the San Juan Mountains. The constructing entity was Denver and Rio Grande Railroad who made this as an extension to their railroad and it was to match their trains that the line was created narrow gauged. While the mining operations started to crumble during 1950s, the town of Farmington in New Mexico saw an oil boom which led to another decade of service for this railroad. However by the end of 1960s the traffic was virtually zero and the line was abandoned. It was in the year 1970 that Colorado and New Mexico decided to start the joint tourist operation here on this part of the line.
The Train Ride
In New Mexico, you get on the train on its stop in Chama. During the peak season, you can find yourself a reservation on practically every single day of the week. The point that the trains from both the New Mexico end and the Colorado end meet is Osier. This is the place where the tourists are served their lunch. After reaching this point, the passengers can either continue towards Colorado State or switch trains to return to Chama. There are three types of tickets available, the Coach class, the Tourist class and Parlor class. There gondolas too for parlor class passengers who want to enjoy the open air during their commute. One thing that must be kept in mind is that during peak season there are a lot of tourists planning to take this trip so make sure you get a reservation ahead of time. Getting a seat upon walk-up is very rare during this time. You can buy snacks and gifts from the train too.
It is particularly interesting to see the trains leaving from Chama as the starting portion here is quite steep and the steam engines put in all their energy to make it over this steepness. The resulting visual and acoustic spectacle is quite an amazing sight. As you travel through this place you get to see cliffs, rocky ledges and formations of a lot of different types. The Toltec Gorge, although a short sight, is a very spectacular thing to view from the train. The aspen trees are also a particularly beautiful sight, especially in the fall season when they get a brilliant yellow color. As you go on the landscape changes into scrubby rolling hills and you will encounter several structures from the old times including bridges and two tunnels too.
This train ride from Chama, New Mexico is certainly worth each and every minute of the time you spend on it and considering the priceless beauty that you will experience on the ride, there is no way that you can miss this ride if you are in New Mexico. So make sure that you set aside proper time for this because once you take the ride, you will be so glad that you did.