What’s New with Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad


Don’t take our word for it.  “USA Today 10Best” – readers say that the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the best train ride in North America as well as the top attraction in both New Mexico and Colorado.  Traveling for 64-miles between Chama, NM and Antonito, CO, this is the longest and highest steam railroad in the nation…and the most scenic, crossing the border of Colorado and New Mexico 11 times as it chugs its way up and over 10,015 foot high Cumbres Pass.


And, of course, the best way to see the Rocky Mountains is from an authentic steam train.  Why?  Here are the top five reasons:


  1. The Cumbres & Toltec goes where no automobile can. Most of the route is through “off-the-grid” wilderness, inaccessible by road.  There is no cell phone coverage, so no worries about checking emails!  You will see views into canyons and over ridges that can’t be seen in any other way.  And you’ll do it relaxing in comfort, away from crowds, with no sounds but the clickity-clack of the wheels, the chugging from the locomotive, and an occasional steam whistle echoing off the mountains.


  1. The train travels at a relaxing top speed of 12 miles an hour. You’ll feel as if you can outrun the train and actually, many people can.  The world’s fastest runner, Usain Bolt, can sprint twice as fast as the train moves.  But that’s the beauty of it!  As you travel through aspen groves and meadows of wildflowers there is time to relax and enjoy the scenery, look for wildlife (deer, elk and even bears have been seen from the train), and peer down 600-feet into canyons and rivers far below.


  1. You can move around. The Cumbres & Toltec is not a tourist train.  It is a National Historic Landmark that moves.  You can ride outdoors on the gondola car, smell the smoke, open the windows, or ride between cars, holding on to the railing as you come around long curves where you can take photos of the steaming locomotive far up ahead.


  1. You can enjoy the scenery in comfort. The Cumbres & Toltec offers different classes of seating, including deluxe seating in the parlor car.  There are bathrooms on every train, and there is a concession car where you can enjoy snacks, local craft beer and cocktails.  Midway, trains from both directions stop at beautiful Osier Station for a delicious hot lunch of roast turkey, savory meatloaf, or soup and salad.


  1. You can learn about the flora, fauna, geology, history and wildlife you see while traveling. Docents on board will explain what caused the strange geologic formations you travel through.  They’ll point out the different trees and flowers, help spot wildlife, and talk about the history of the railroad and Colorado and New Mexico.  You’ll not only have an adventure in comfort, you’ll come away with a better understanding of all the scenic beauty there is to behold.


And don’t forget, in the fall, the Cumbres & Toltec passes through some of the most spectacular aspen groves in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.  There is simply no more interesting way to enjoy fall colors in the Rockies than on board this train.


KOB News cast of the Dec 17, 2016 Christmas Train in Chama, NM

Click to see the news coverage!

For Immediate Release
December 8, 2016

Efstathios (Stathi) I. Pappas
hired as new Assistant General Manager Trainee

Efstathios I. Pappas hired to be assistant general manager trainee


Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado…………………….The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad and President, John E. Bush are pleased to announce the hiring of Mr. Efstathios (Stathi) I. Pappas who will be assuming the position of Assistant General Manager Trainee and Project Manager on February 1, 2017.

Mr. Pappas brings to the C&TS RR a long list of successful accomplishments in steam locomotive restoration, tourist railroad management, experience with railroad museums and advanced academic teaching and studies in the field of Industrial Archaeology and Anthropology.  His most recent position was that of Manager of Steam Operations and Restoration, Chief Mechanical Officer and Curator of Large Objects at the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, WA.  Previously, he was the Assistant Operations Manager, Chief Mechanical Officer and Road Foreman of Engines at the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, in Washington.  His additional experience includes Machinist and Boilermaker at the Chelatchie Locomotive Company, Washington; Machinist, Locomotive Fireman, and Conductor at Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad, Felton, CA, as well as currently owning a consultant business; Stockton Locomotive Works, specializing in supplies and contract services for steam railroads.

During the period of 2004 to 2007 Mr. Pappas served as an Adjunct Professor and Doctoral Candidate at the University of Nevada, Department of Anthropology, Reno, NV.   He taught university classes on various topics including anthropology, archaeology, philosophy and executed research methods as well as developing original research in industrial history and archaeology, grant writing, publication/authorship in academic journals.

Mr. Pappas brings to the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad a high level of professional experience in museum curation, operations management experience including FRA Compliance, Safety, OSHA Compliance and crew training.  He is a seasoned steam locomotive maintenance and restoration expert in the areas of machining, welding, and complete locomotive rebuilding.

Mr. Efstathios I. Pappas will be accompanied by his wife and their two sons.  They will be residing in the Alamosa, Colorado area.

Richard J. Cowles Named
to Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission

Richard J. Cowles Named to Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission
Richard J. Cowles to Be Named the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commissioner

Cowles fills the seat recently vacated by Randy Randall of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Cumbres & Toltec appreciates the ten years of service that Randall provided to the Commission during a time of many transitions in the operation.

Cowles has been associated with the C&TSRR since 1999, serving as a volunteer advisor on virtually all aspects of the railroad’s governance, including relations with state and federal officials on preservation and operation, as well as providing key analyses of economic, legal, and financial matters. He has been the primary compiler of the C&TSRR’s Policies and Practices Manual, which sets forth the Commission’s authority and manifold responsibilities.

“It is a great honor to be part of this two-state project to preserve the history of railroading and give younger generations a glimpse at an authentic operating steam railroad,” Cowles said. “I hope to live up to the expectations set by my long time friend and mentor the late Carl M. Turner, a former commissioner who was instrumental in the founding of the Cumbres & Toltec. This railroad is fortunate to have had so many people dedicated to its success.”

Cowles has been active in the Friends of the C&TSRR (the non-profit group charged with the historical preservation aspects of the railroad) for more than 20 years, including four years as treasurer and six years as director. He initiated the successful project to give the railroad official designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2012. He has also been a leader in obtaining grants and funding for the C&TSRR, including securing a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Economic Dev. Adm. in 2003 and a pending grant from the New Mexico Department of Transportation for $325,000 for a new Visitors Center in Chama, NM.

The C&TSRR was built in 1880 as part of the San Juan Extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. The rail line was an engineering marvel of its time, climbing over steep passes and down into deep gorges.

The decline of silver in the 1890 ended the railroad’s vital role and in 1969 the railroad filed for abandonment. However, the most scenic part of its route, along with the equipment and buildings were saved by the states of Colorado and New Mexico in 1970. The two states jointly purchased the track and line-side structures from Antonito to Chama, nine steam locomotives, more than 130 freight and work cars, and the Chama yard and maintenance facility, for $547,120.

The C&TS began hauling tourists in 1971. Today, the railroad is operated for the states by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission, an under the terms of an interstate agency compact authorized by an act of Congress in 1974. There are four members on the Commission, two from each state.

Care of the historic assets, and interpretation of the railroad is entrusted to the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, a non-profit, member-based organization whose mission is to preserve and interpret the railroad as a living history museum for the benefit of the public, and for the people of Colorado and New Mexico, who own it.

In his prior professional career Cowles was a Senior Advisor with KPMG Barents Group. His primary role at Barents was to advise project teams and market participants in Georgia, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine on the application of securities market principles and practices in support of privatization programs in those countries.

As a founder of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, he served for six years as its Senior Vice President during its period of most rapid growth. Subsequently, he was appointed Executive Vice President of Telerate Systems, Inc., and over an eight-year period managed that firm’s rapid evolution into a major world-wide vendor of real-time market data.

Cowles noted, “I’m grateful there’s a very strong foundation to build upon as we work to ensure the railroad’s success by growing our ridership and securing necessary funding.”

John Bush, president of the C&TSRR said, “On behalf of the staff of the Cumbres & Toltec and our Commissioners, we warmly welcome Dick Cowles and are all looking forward to a long and successful partnership.”

Download the Press Release HERE

* The Fall Colors will be Spectacular this Year! *

Cool evenings and rain in the afternoons are setting us up for some of the best fall colors in the Southern Colorado San Juan Mountains in awhile. Seats are selling fast and rooms in Antonito and Chama are filling up just as quickly.

Your best bet is to make your reservations Now for train rides and lodging rooms, so you don’t miss out on one of the best fall seasons ever. Just 52 days remain in the 2016 Season. Don’t Miss Out!

S Curve
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad - Best American Train Ride!

USA Today – 10 Best ‘Reader’s Choice’ Award

“Best Train Ride in America”

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad ranks among the most authentic steam-operated railroads still in existence.
Passengers aboard this National Historic Landmark travel along a track laid in 1880 between Chama, N.M. and Antonito, Colo….

Tracks Across the Border – Scenic Byway

While in Chama enjoying the Fall Colors make sure to check out the spectacular scenery of Colorado & New Mexico’s newest Scenic Byway – “Tracks Across the Border”


Juanita Bridge

Become part of history and help restore the #168 Locomotive

Click Here to go to our Online Donation Page

Click Here to learn more about the #168 Locomotive

168 Locomotive Image


Taft Train