Cumbres and Toltec Rail Road

Bucket List Item Crossed off: Cumbres and Toltec Rail Road

I have a journal dedicated to my bucket list items.  And I regularly work it.  I try to add any thing I want to photograph, trips I want to make, things I would like to own.  I put the things that I am going to actually do or figure out how to buy and part of the journal is to figure out how.  especially on some of the items that are more difficult. So for instance I want to photograph the northern lights so I add some of the research as to where is the best places and what is the best times.

One thing I have always wanted to do was ride an old fashioned steam engines.  So when my great friend Damon and I headed to New Mexico for the 49.5 (49th got canceled because of covid) we added into the trip a side jaunt to Chama, New Mexico to jump on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

The rail road and trains are maintain jointly by the State of Colorado and New Mexico as a living museum.  The tracks start in New Mexico but end up in Colorado.  These old steam engines are nearing 100 years old.  The cars however are more modern I found out.  Even though they look old they are really modified flatbed cars from the 1980s but wow, they look authentic.  The engines though are the real deal lovingly restored and cared for.

My first great photo op came when we were waiting to board.  The engineer climbed out of the engine and onto the top and started working on the smoke stack.  I was perfectly in line to catch him silhouetted by the sun with smoke from the smoke stack.  I am not sure what he was doing but neat photo op.

Boading the train we found our seats.  The crew are so nice and really proud of the train and trip and filled with all sorts of tid bits of history and point up upcoming photo opportunities.


They even punch your ticket via conductor!  This guy was fun to talk to and very knowledgeable about the train and cars (that is how I found out about the actual age of the cars versus the engine.  The car in front of us is a gondola car with open top for photo bugs like me to gawk at the scenery.

And believe me there is a lot of gawking on the trip with scenes like this as you head from Chama at 7000 feet and climb to nearly 10,000 feet into the mountains.  And we couldn't have picked at more photographic perfect time as the aspens were golden with fall.


The train follows a 3 foot track or narrow gauge.  This allows for the train to make tighter turns in the mountain than a normal track.  I found out that there is another train in Durango which is now on my bucket list.  The other item added was not another train ride but next year in the fall I want to chase the train as the highway crisscrosses the track in places.  Photographing the train from the train was slightly problematic.  The only time I could see the engine is when we went round a bend!

You know the funny thing about crossing items off my bucket list is it always seems that I add several more things to do such as chasing the train and doing the train in Durango.  This was such a wonderful trip.  Made so much more fun with my great friend Damon.  A few more photos and I'll see you next month!  Be sure to follow me on social media, Facebook and Instagram!