After delay, it’s full steam ahead for Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

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CHAMA, N.M. — Fire danger and extreme drought not only closed New Mexico forests and recreation areas, but it brought a lengthy delay to one of the state’s tourist attractions. Now with cooler and rainier weather, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is hoping to get back on track.

Scott Gibbs, the president of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, said he was keeping a close eye on this year’s historic fire season.

“We watched the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fire, the fire down in southern New Mexico and we had one that popped up between Chama and Antonito as well. The commission looked at the fire danger from us operating and what resources were left,” Gibbs said.

And those resources were scarce, so they decided to delay the start by a month in hopes of rain.

“We couldn’t in good faith operate, so we said, looking at the forecast, it appeared like monsoons were going to come in the last week of June which they have,” Gibbs added.

But that wasn’t the only bump in the road, the Village of Chama was sidelined by a water emergency days before the first train was expected to depart. However, Gibbs said over the last couple weeks things are starting to get back to normal. 

“The village has been able to get the water turned on throughout the village… so, many of the restaurants are back open, people have a place to eat, we got bottled water for making coffee and things like that for the train, so we are 100% functional here at the railroad,” Gibbs said.

Now it’s full steam ahead, and Gibbs encourages everyone to come to Chama and take a ride in a piece of history.

“This is a wonderful piece of Colorado and New Mexico’s history, you come ride this little gage railroad, it was built 142 years ago.”

The first train takes off Friday, and it will be pulled by a locomotive that was converted from a coal-fire engine to an engine that runs on oil in order to reduce the risk of sparking a fire.