Being born in the early 90s, I never got to experience big-time mountain railroading on both Tennessee Pass and Raton Pass. When Tennesee Pass closed in 1997, Raton Pass continued to host freight traffic up until 2008 or 2009 and then became only Amtrak. In the past few years, BNSF has sent multiple Maintenance-of-Way trains up and over the pass and down to semaphore territory to upgrade the trackage for Amtrak. On June 16, 2020, I finally got to experience one of these moves and it gave me an idea of what it used to be like on a daily basis.
BNSF brought up a loaded Herzog ballast train from Amarillo that was to be sent over the pass. The power came in arranged as 4x0 and needed to be run around and set up for distributed power. The plan was to double the hill and take one half of the train at a time from Trinidad to Raton. After getting everything all set-up, the train departed in the late afternoon for Raton Pass.
Seen here, the ballast train digs into the 3.5-percent grade around Wootton Curve on Main 2 on the last part of the climb to the summit of Raton Pass. They will meet Amtrak 4 at the end of double track at Wootton before crossing into New Mexico and take the train down the hill to Raton.