Just not a great day for a scenic train ride. Having topped Cumbres Pass, Train 215 drifts down the 4% grade toward her home station in Chama. In this view, she's passing the S-curves beside Highway 17, near the Colorado-New Mexico Border, in a driving rain. With water cascading off the coach roofs, the normally scenic and sensory experience of riding this beautiful line is all but lost for these passengers. It's just not a great day for a scenic train ride.
Riding downhill on the 4%, particularly on a wet day like this one, is quite the experience. Brake retainers are used to maintain some braking action in between the brake applications from the cab. The smell of brake dust is in the air, and the steady din of steel on steel is broken only by the occasional lifting of the locomotive safeties, as her boiler vents off the steam she is making but hardly using. Getting the trains down this 13-mile roller coaster on a daily basis is serious business, requiring a lot of skill and judgement on the part of the crew, and the fact that they've been doing it safely for well over 40 years is testament to the quality of the folks who operate the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
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.