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A Landmark Ride in the West

By Linda Tancs

Sixty-four miles of Rocky Mountain splendor await you on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad running between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado. A National Historic Landmark, the rails were originally constructed in 1880 as part of the Rio Grande’s narrow-gauge San Juan extension, which served the silver mining district of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Almost lost to history when the last freight train crossed the Cumbres Pass in 1968, the historic route was bought and preserved by both states. Unlike other legacy routes, it features original coal fired, steam operated, narrow gauge locomotives and 19th century passenger cars. Scenic highlights include the Rockies, Chama Valley, Toltec Gorge, Cumbres Pass (the highest mountain pass reached by rail in the U.S.) and alpine meadows lined with wildlflowers, along with an array of wildlife like elk, deer and bears. It takes under seven hours to traverse the entire 64-mile line from Antonito to Chama or vice versa. The regular season runs this year to October 20. Buy your ticket in advance to avoid disappointment.

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