The railroad originally ran from Alamosa through Antonito and Chama to Durango and Silverton, CO.
It is known as “America’s longest and highest narrow-gauge steam railroad.”, and “America’s Most Spectacular Narrow Gauge Steam Railroad”.
Today the train, powered by 75-year-old and 97-year-old steam locomotives, travels 64 miles between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico, with highlights such as the colorful San Juan Mountains, 10,000-foot Cumbres Pass, the Mud and Rock Tunnels, Toltec Gorge, Phantom Curve and other curves, trestles, and bridges that offer breathtaking views.
The old steam engine chugs its way along the narrow gauge line, climbing to Cumbres Pass and drawing passengers along one of the most scenic routes and on the highest train line in North America. This is the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, an actual journey of 64 miles but — in the mind — a leap into the past amidst scenes of Rocky Mountain splendor.
The line was built as the San Juan extension of the Denver & Rio Grande in 1880 to service the mining camps in the San Juan Mountains. It is now owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico.
The Rockies poke southward into New Mexico, and this railroad provides one of the best ways to see them. The line operates from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October from the depot in downtown Chama, traveling the 64 miles to Antonito, Colorado, and back again. A road joints the two communities, making it possible for visitors to take the train one way and return (or drive to Antonito) by car. You can also book a van ride for one-way transportation — either to or from Antonito. Osier is the high half-way point where the train stops and lunch is available. There are actually two trains that exchange at Osier and both have cars that are either fully-enclosed or open.
Colorado – New Mexico Scenic RailroadFrom Taos travel west across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the second highest bridge on the U.S. Highway System. The bridge is a three-span steel continuous-deck-truss structure with a concrete-filled steel-grid deck. It was called the “bridge to nowhere” while it was being built because the funding did not exist to continue the road on the other side. Continue to Tres Piedras – see if you can locate the three rocks this little town is named for – and through the Brazos Mountains. Stop at the Brazos Overlook for an inspiring view of the Brazos Cliffs. Continue down into the Chama Valley and detour west at Los Ojos to Tierra Wools, a spinning and weaving cooperative that sells the wool products of the valley. The Chama valley offers extensive outdoor opportunities such as cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, fishing and hunting, but the star attraction is the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which operates daily from June to October. This historic narrow gauge train gives passengers an authentic example of railroading in the 1880s. The steam train winds its way through 64 miles of mountain scenery to Antonito, Colorado, and returns, traveling through the 10,022-foot-high Cumbres Pass and the 1,100-foot-deep Toltec Gorge. While half-way trips are available from both depots at Chama, NM and Antonito, CO, Taos visitors can easily enjoy the full-day trip by driving to Chama, riding to Antonito and returning to Chama by train or bus provided by the railroad. Hot lunch is available midway at Osier, CO.
Elk, Mule Deer and Beaver are plentiful along the Conejos.