The states of New Mexico and Colorado jointly own the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which winds 64 miles between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado. Roundtrips are available from either station. It is North America’s longest and highest narrow-gauge steam railroad.
The railroad, which is a National Historic Site, was originally spiked in 1880 to serve the rich mining camps in the San Juan Mountains. Long after the ore was gone, the Cumbres & Toltec carried freight for small mountain towns in this Rocky Mountain high country. Service continued sporadically until 1951, carrying natural gas pipe-drilling equipment and supplies. The railroad competely ceased regular operation in 1968.
The 1925 coal-burning engines follow the Toltec Gorge of the Los Pinos River, climb 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass, cross high trestles and drop down a steep 4% grade into Chama. Most of the route travels through groves of pine and aspen, with spectacular view of the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain Ranges.
The narrow gauge is also a movie star. It was one of the sets for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
There are four basic ride options.
-- Round trip from either Chama or Antonito, to the Osier stop, and return. Hot lunches are available at Osier, an old stagecoach stop which is the transfer point. Once an important shelter for train crews, today Osier is nothing but a ghost town.
--Through trip all the way from Chama to Antonito, with return by van.
--Through trip all the way from Antonito to Chama, with return by van.
--Over night trip with a return by train the next day. This starts out from either depot and includes overnight meals and hotel accommodations.
Three classes of service are available: Coach, Tourist and Parlor. Parlor Cars have larger windows and personal attendants who serve continental breakfast and afternoon snacks. There is also a refreshment car available to all passengers that sells coffee, soft drinks, snacks and souvenirs.
Pay special attention to the schedules, particularly for Parlor Car trips. They sometimes vary station of departure (Antonito or Chama) on an every other day schedule.