Toward Chama via Cumbres. DRGW 453 charges upgrade past the Los Pinos Tank toward Cumbres Pass, amidst the breathtaking display of fall colors on the hills to the north.
Of course, the locomotive depicted here is really DRGW 463, lettered for her dear, departed sister, which was long ago converted into razor blades. The 463 was lettered as 453 for a 2018 photographic charter that was organized by the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Speaking of the Friends, they have been instrumental, not only in the refurbishment of historic equipment, such as freight cars, but also in the refurbishment and maintenance of some of the historic structures along the line. A classic example is the tank seen here. For many years, the Los Pinos Tank had fallen into disrepair and was non-functional. For the most part, it was not missed, because the large, K-36 Locomotives that are used on the daily passenger trains are superheated engines, and do not require water between Cumbres Pass and Osier. But an effort on the part of the Friends in 2014 repaired the tank and got it working again, and none too soon. Since that time there have been periodic problems with the standpipe on Cumbres Pass, and this tank really came in handy, supporting daily operations. The tank has also proven quite useful on photo excursions, such as this one, because they tend to use up water much more quickly than regular operations. The extra water stop also supports smaller, visiting locomotives, some of which do not have superheat, and do not carry large supplies of water.
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.