Saturday, May 19, 2012

Choo-Choo Chama, New Mexico

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Train
Chama, New Mexico, with its population of 2000 and an elevation of 7,850 feet is a tiny town in the northwest corner of the state. It's probably less than 20 miles from the Colorado state line.  
The train above and red clock area are Chama's highlights.
Chama seems to hibernate in winter -- coming alive over the Memorial Day Weekend.  It's claim to fame is the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, which was not yet open for the season when we were there. It runs a tourist route from Chama to Antonio, Colorado.
We, along with five other rigs, were camped at Sky Mountain RV Park in Chama.  It's a peaceful park just a few miles from the center of downtown activities.  During our only full day here, we took a whole day to see this quaint town that could have easily been seen in 30 minutes. 
The railroad came to Chama in December 1880 but in 1889 a fire burned the depot and most of the city.
It was rebuilt the same year.
The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad named for the highest (Cumbres) pass and the lowest (Toltec) gorge along the rail route. It was built as a "narrow gauge 36" (standard is 4'8.5") railroad and could take on the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains going around the tight Rocky Mountain curves.

An old car of the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad, predecessor to the Cumbres and Toltec.

This is a Rotary Snow Plow. It operated by steam boiler and could move the heaviest snow and highest snowdrifts.
However, it could not move itself, so as many as three locomotives were needed to push it.
In it's time, the rotary snow plow was the only railroad equipment that could clear high cliff drifts.

Another view of the railroad yard.

We got a little carried away with the trains...
All the Chama retail stores are lined up along the main street across from the railroad depot. I stopped for coffee and browsing at Mountain View Mall, buying only a jar of chokecherry jelly.

For lunch we took a local's recommendation: Fosters. It's a hotel, a bar and a restaurant operating in one big old building. The "Foster burger with onion rings" was good and so was the restaurant ambiance.
Been awhile since I've seen one of these wood burners.
This one is extra fancy...

Also inside Fosters Restaurant.
Being so close to the Colorado state line, we couldn't pass up a short drive up the mountain, traveling parallel with the railroad most of the distance up to Cumbres Pass at 10,022' elevation.

The weather and the scenery were pretty nice today. 
Just as we crossed the railroad leaving town, we could see the headlight of an oncoming locomotive.  Wayne pulled the car off the road and I jumped out, ran back and snapped a few pictures. This one is my favorite.
As the train approached, the whistle nearly burst my eardrums.
I feared for Lexie and Ozzie in the car a few yards away.  I forgot all about the whistle.  
Spring comes! We're still in Northern New Mexico here.

The drive going up into Colorado.
Cumbres Pass - Elevation: 10,022'

...and so our visit to Chama comes to an end. We'll leave tomorrow heading to our last stop in New Mexico for awhile....

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