Thursday, October 4, 2012

All photos (C) Steve Douglass

click to enlarge 

Cumbres & Toltec scenic railway - photographed at Sublette, Colorado. Perfect timing on my brother Paul's part. We took a long slow tour through the mountains - jaw agape after photographing the aspen trees and thought we might have missed the train. Obviously we didn't. We hadn't been in Sublette ten minutes when this slice of the old west came chugging around the track. Standing next to this mechanical wonder was awesome. It breathes like a big beast -whuff -whuff - whuff and lets out clouds of smoke and steam. I'll never forget it.

"Hi - handsome - you want to take my picture?" the flirty pretty redhead said from the window of the train. 

I looked around - knowing I hadn't shaved in two days and must have looked like a railroad bum. 

"Who me?" I replied. 

She answered, "You're the one with the camera."

"All aboard!" the conductor said. The metal beast began to chug and chuff. I new I only had seconds to get the conductor's photo. I took two quick snaps and this was the best. I raced ahead to photograph the engineer.

Whuff - chug - woooo! The locomotive begins to lurch forward and lets out a blast of coal smoke. The ground rumbles as the entire train shudders. It begins to move faster and faster. I literally have to catch the train - but first I have to capture the engineer.

I fail to beat the train to get the shot I wanted. Still - it is exciting to have a living-breathing-snorting heavy-metal locomotive shaking my bones and rumbling by. The engineer gives us a final long high-pitched toot-toot as he leaves the watering station. It echoes through the countryside and instantly I'm transported to another time. My brother has a plan. It's a scenic railway - not a high speed railroad. We race ahead and meet it a mile out from the station. It comes out of the mountains and into the high desert - proud and strong - but an anachronism I photograph with a digital camera.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TS) is a narrow gauge heritage railroad running between Chama, New Mexicoand Antonito, Colorado. It runs over the 10,015 ft (3,053 m) Cumbres Pass.
The track was originally laid in 1880 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. In 1970 the C&TS began to take tourists on six-hour trips between the two towns, using steam locomotives.
As Denver & Rio Grande Railroad San Juan Extension, the railway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The boundaries of the NRHP listed area were increased in 2007.[1]