FROM THE BEGINNING
The states of Colorado and New Mexico jointly purchased 64 miles of the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) narrow-gauge railroad between Antonito, CO and Chama, NM in 1970, acquiring a large collection of historic buildings and rolling stock as a result. When the two states combined efforts to launch the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in 1971, they turned day-to-day operations, including upkeep of equipment and track, over to a contracted operator. The contractor’s responsibilities, however, did not include maintenance of the unused equipment, rolling stock and historic buildings, nor the interpretation of the history of the railroad to the visiting public.
OUR FIRST VOLUNTEERS
By 1980, much of the unused historic property was falling into decay. Recognizing the need to do something, Albuquerque attorney, Bill Lock, approached the railroad about establishing a volunteer preservation program. In 1981, Bill and a friend undertook their first project, an old refrigerator car body in Chama that had once served as a bunk house, performing minor carpentry repairs and repainting the car. The following year, Lock and a few more friends returned to renovate caboose No. 0503, the only caboose the C&TSRR was allowed to purchase from the Rio Grande.
By 1987, these weekend work parties grew to over 70 volunteers whose efforts focused on restoring historic Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) rolling stock in the Chama yard. In 1988, this now large group of volunteers incorporated as The FRIENDS of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Inc., setting the stage for an impressive string of achievements.
Over the years, the FRIENDS have restored and returned a significant number of rolling stock to their home rails, including a rare D&RGW short refrigerator car, six double-deck sheep cars, two D&RGW passenger coaches, the Pile Driver (OB), a rotary snow plow (OY), Locomotive 463, the Pullman Tourist Sleeper 470, Cook Car 053, many drop-bottom gondolas, several freight cars and six former UTLX narrow gauge tank cars, the latter of which hauled oil between Chama, NM and a refinery in Alamosa, CO in the 1960’s. The FRIENDS have also restored buildings, including the Car Inspector House, and have maintained landscaping and signage in the yards and along the tracks.
As The FRIENDS matured as an organization, interpreting the railroad and presenting the history of the area to C&TSRR guests became a major goal. To that end, the FRIENDS provide a free walking tour brochure of the facilities at both Chama and Antonito, with tens of thousands printed and distributed to the public to date. The FRIENDS have also established a docent program to provide interpretation and information to passengers riding the trains. And to help preserve C&TSRR’s rich history, and that of the FRIENDS, volunteers work year round to catalog our extensive photo collection and maintain our non-circulating library, which houses a host of books, maps, photos and other documents.
THE FRIENDS TODAY
Today, the FRIENDS of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Inc., is an organization of thousands of members, many of whom serve as Volunteers, from all 50 states and several countries. The FRIENDS office and library are located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Become a Friends Member
Your tax-deductible membership will put you in good company with so many others who, like you, want to see the C&TSRR survive and thrive for future generations. We thank you for your support!