The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is 64 miles of the former Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad. It is perhaps one of the most authentic steam experiences in the US, and is the longest and highest steam railroad. They offer a unique program whereby patrons can pay for the experience to be the engineer or fireman on a real steam engine. With one part of a day for classroom and orientation, there are still 3 full days of operating for the crews. These trains generally start early, around 8 am, so they can get out ahead of the regular excursion trains each day. This provides some nice morning lighting for video. K-36 2-8-2 provides the power for 3 days of these special trains. We enjoy 2 days of climbing the 4% grade between Chama and Cumbres, as well as 2 days climbing the west slope to Cumbres. Thus all freights are climbing to Cumbres either once or twice in a day, as some trains went to Osier and back the same day. On one day they went through to Antonito, and we have the next day as they travel from Antonito to Cumbres and down to Chama. This is all good steam action and with historic former D&RGW freight cars.
If all that wasn't enough a special move was made from Chama to Antonito to get 2 tank cars and a caboose across the railroad one morning. This was a great little chase from Chama to the summit of Cumbres as 2-8-0 425 works hard in the early morning light. None of these freight runs were photo charters, but honest to goodness railroad operated trips with the engineer school trains, and the one way trip of 425. If you like climbing grades of 4% to Cumbres, and good steam action, well this one is for you. Somewhat of a different concept as well.