Trains photo charter at Cumbres & Toltec: We're going back to 1968. Care to join us?

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Sunday, February 11, 2018

We’re throwing a steam-powered party this August, and you’re invited. We’re sponsoring a photo charter with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, that 64-miles of serpentine narrow gauge tracks that seem to dart across the state line more than there are peaks in the spectacular San Juan Mountains that is home for this line (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it sure seems like it at times). We’re there to commemorate the last runs of Rio Grande freights across 10,000-foot Cumbres Pass 50 years ago. Yes, as a child of the 1960s myself, it is hard to believe that 1968 is that far back, but it is. The end of regular service freight on the Rio Grande that year was not only an important milestone for the narrow gauge: It also was the last time a Class I railroad ran steam-powered freights that weren’t part of an excursion or public relations program. This was the real deal, and this was the final curtain.

So, for two days, Aug 25 and 26, a pair of K-36 Mikados will be powering a freight that looks and feels as close to the one that took place in late August 1968. I won’t call it a replica because that’s not possible: Neither all of the freight cars nor all of the locomotives that made history in 1968 are still with us or in operation. But we will get close. Mikado No. 484, there for the last westbound train, will be part of the motive power. No. 483, which was on the point, is inoperable, but we’ll renumber another K-36 to represent it just for this event.

Never been on a photo charter and wonder what it’s all about? The best way to describe it is as a step into a time machine and setting the destination for the 1920s: You’ll be on board a real freight train, watching it from a vantage point on board that would be much like that of a brakeman. You’ll stop often at great photo locations, get off the train and assemble so that nobody is in the way, and let the train back past so that it can pull forward just for your enjoyment and photography. In the last 20 years, I’ve been on three such outings at the Cumbres & Toltec (the photos are from a July 2008 outing with Rio Grande 2-8-0 No. 315, now temporarily in residence at the CT&TS), and each gave me a new appreciation for railroading as it was almost 100 years ago, thousands of great steam action photos, and memories of good times and great railroading with friends, old and new.

So, if you’re ready to board the time machine, we’ve got it steamed up and ready to go. Check out the details below, and join us!




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