Approaching the S-Curves. The crew on Rotary OY has the safeties popping as the plow train continues the trek east toward Cumbres Pass, seen here approaching the S-Curves at MP 337.
Rotary OY is one of 4 Leslie-type rotary snow plows that served the Denver & Rio Grande Narrow Gauge System, and the last one built, having been acquired in 1923. D&RGW Maintenance of Way equipment was typically lettered, rather than numbered and the four plows were designated ON, OM, OO and OY. They were typically assigned home stations and were designated to plow specific sections of the narrow gauge system. OY was based in Alamosa, and typically plowed west as far as the eastern approach to Cumbres Pass. Rotary OM was the Chama-based plow and handled the west side of the pass. Of the 4 rotaries, both OY and OM survive, and both now "live" in the Chama Yard. Both plows have been run since the Cumbres & Toltec began operations in 1970, mostly during the 1990s to open the line for spring operations. The practice proved very costly, and rather hard on the equipment, as these plows were never intended to be used on deep, dense snow packs that had accumulated over a period of months. After 1997, the C&TS abandoned the practice and began using bulldozers, snow-cats and locomotive pilot plows to do the job more cheaply and efficiently.
The 2020 rotary run seen here was done primarily to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the tourist line, not to open the line. It is very likely that more snow will fall in the 3 months remaining until opening day. The operation was done as a private event for 150 participants, mainly photographers and videographers, and the funding was derived entirely from ticket sales. Unfortunately, because of the extreme cost of operation (the train alone cost $30,000 per day to operate), and the need to control the highway for the safety of the public, the railroad has indicated that it is very unlikely that OY will ever be deployed again on the west side of Cumbres Pass.