Steamscape: Lava Loop. The late afternoon sun is beginning to cast long shadows as Stock Extra 315 rounds the Lava Loop, passing the old D&RGW Water Tank. Located just about 10 miles southwest of Antonito, Colorado, Lava Tank sits atop a lava-capped mesa which likely gave it its name. Once a frequent water stop for thirsty freights bound for Cumbres Pass, this tank is no longer operational. The present-day Cumbres & Toltec K-36 Locomotives can run all the way from Antonito to Sublette without taking water. Just in case however, the railroad still maintains an emergency tank car, which is tied down on a siding just a few hundred yards from this location. Water for the Lava Tank was drawn from the nearby Rio de Los Pinos. A pump house was located along the river, about half a mile from the tank and at an elevation some 500 feet lower. The pump house originally used a steam engine to pump water from the river to the tank. In the later years of the D&RGW Narrow Gauge, a diesel-powered pump was used.
For the benefit of the history buffs, the tank seen here is not the original Lava Tank. The original was apparently lost in a fire back in 1971. It was replaced by the old Antonito Tank, which was dismantled and brought to this site after the fire. The current tank in Antonito was built by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in the late 1970s.
Photo shot from the rear platform of the caboose on Freight Extra 463.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad are all that remains of the legendary Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge system. Here you'll find some of my favorites from these two beautiful railways.