It has been said, “The West has to be seen to be believed. But it has to be believed to be seen.”
— Kiowa poet N. Scott Momaday.
The same could be said about the Cumbres & Toltec.
America’s most authentic steam-operated railroad, the Cumbres & Toltec, is a proud remnant of the spirit that won the West. In recognition for its place in our national history it was awarded National Historic Landmark Designation in 2012. 2013 marked the first year the C&TSRR operated under this prestigious designation.
Built in 1880, the track between Antonito and Chama was part of the San Juan Extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, with tracks running from Denver through the ore-rich Rocky Mountains into Silverton, Colorado. Its path through steep passes and deep gorges is the stuff of adventure novels and was an engineering feat for the time. The decline of silver mining in the 1890s ended the railroad’s vital role.
The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad filed for abandoment in 1969, but the most scenic part of its route, its equipment, and its buildings were saved by the states of Colorado and New Mexico in 1970.
Today the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad fulfills another important mission – taking passengers on the ride of a lifetime, connecting Colorado and New Mexico, the Mountains of the San Juans to the Conejos Valley, and allowing us to see where the deer and the antelope play.