A scenic trip back to yesteryear
This is the second most fun thing to do in northern New Mexico, second
only to the hot-air balloon
The Cumbres & Toltec
Scenic Railroad is a narrow gauge railroad constructed in 1880.
Owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico, it is now an amazing trip
through the mountains of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.
Two depots serve the railroad -- Antonito, CO and Chama, NM. With the
Osier restaurant in-between the two depots (lunch included in fare), one can
ride round trip from either Chama or Antonito to the restaurant, or go the
full length from either depot to the other and return by deluxe motor coach.
(The return trip was on a new Volvo bus, and was extremely comfortable.
It takes a little over an hour to return, and the bus driver pointed out
scenic areas on the trip. The only negative was we had been in the
adult-only Parlor Car, and we now had a screaming baby in the seat to the
front of us.)
The scenery is
nothing short of beautiful, with our preference being the Antonito to the
restaurant segment. We took the round trip, departing from Antonito,
as it is closer to the Enchanted Circle than Chama, NM (trip
leaving Antonito, one can view a trestle used in a movie starring
and Jack Elam.
There are three classes
of service -- coach, tourist, and parlor; we highly recommend the Parlor
Car. You also get a souvenir glass. The Parlor Car is restricted to
age 21 and older, has a hostess that serves complimentary soft drinks, morning
snack, and afternoon cake, and is absolutely the most comfortable area on the
train. Seats 1 - 10 have a better view, but seat 1 is often in the way of
the rear door. The other seats are on the "mountain" side of the car and
the visibility is not as great.
You can see the different classes in their
website. "Coach" has bench seating similar to a school bus.
"Tourist" has individual chairs, 3-across, facing forward. The
Victorian Parlor Car has much nicer seats, 2-across, and you can turn them
any direction you desire. The Parlor Car is accessible only to Parlor Car ticket holders. There
is a rear deck on the Parlor Car that you may visit; as the Parlor Car
is the last car in the train, the rear deck provides a view of where you've
been. It's where most of the videos below were taken. The restroom in
the Parlor Car was amazing -- for a train.
There's also an "open-air" car where one must
stand. We saw no appeal to this car, and your handicapped webmaster
couldn't use it, anyway.
We first rode the train in June, 2010. We returned in September, 2010,
to see the Aspen turning gold (pictures coming soon). The September
trip was quite a bit different from the June trip. A trestle had
caught fire shortly after our June visit, and the Osier to Chama leg is
greatly shortened. They no longer provided a souvenir glass, providing
a plastic button, instead. Our seats, which had been reserved
7/30/2010, had been changed, but a friendly chat with the station manager --
a really great guy -- rectified that. This is too nice an attraction
to have seating so messed up. We were a family of four, we reserved
seats almost 2 months prior so we could sit together, and they still screwed
As we left Osier, it appeared a few passengers
hadn't made it back from the restaurant in time. Our attendant stated,
"Well, it won't be the first time we've left people up here" and laughed.
The Osier to "can't get to Chama" leg was not only
shortened, it was pretty much worthless. The famous mountain track
segment was cut-off, and the scenery isn't nearly as pretty as you go from
the gorge to a valley as you climb to the peak of the trip.
The service was lousy. Our afternoon cake
was served on a plastic disposable plate, which didn't really bother me (she
explained she didn't have time to wash the dishes). However, I never
even got a soft drink. The attendant constantly whined about how busy
she was and how inconvenient it was to have to serve everything so quickly
-- no doubt the reason I never got a soft drink. At the start of the
trip, she loudly announced she liked to walk up and down the car (a
requirement IF we had been provided decent service), and demanded we keep
our chairs tucked against the edge of the train so she would have a clear
walkway. I wasn't sure if we were in the parlor car, or if we had
mistakenly joined the Army. I tipped the Antonito-Osier attendant $20
for the 4 of us. For the last leg of our journey, I got off the train
as fast I could.
If we were to take the train again, we'd do the
Antonito-Osier-Antonito run and save time and money. If you take
the Chama-Osier-Chama trip, you're missing out on 90% of the scenery, even
when the train can go all the way to Chama.