ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After a year of waiting, today the historic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad will see the first passenger train traverse the Lobato trestle, four miles up the line from the Chama terminal.
“It was a long struggle, but we have finally succeeded in restoring the line to its full length. This has been the longest year of my association with the railroad,” Elmer H. Salazar, president of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Management Co., said in a statement.
A fire last June knocked the trestle out of commission. No cause for the fire was ever determined.
With the trestle back in service, passengers departing or arriving in Chama can experience the high trestle across Wolf Creek and the climb up out of Chama to Cumbres Summit, the steepest railroad grade in service in the United States.
According to information from the Cumbres & Toltec, funding from the states of New Mexico and Colorado, plus significant assistance from the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and the proceeds of the insurance settlement financed the repair.
The cost of repair was estimated at $1.9 million, but the bridge was insured for only $360,000. Then-Gov. Bill Richardson announced last year he would provide $1.1 million from New Mexico’s $6 million share of federal “transportation enhancement” funding toward repairing the trestle.
The Lobato trestle dates back to 1883 and is believed to be the oldest railroad bridge still in service in New Mexico, and the Cumbres & Toltec has been running between Chama and Antonito, Colo., on a seasonal basis for more than 40 years.
The trestle’s destruction last year created hard times for businesses that thrive on summer tourist dollars.
“(The fire) initiated a campaign of fundraising, engineering studies, consultation with historic preservation authorities and jury-rigging of passenger service while we and our partners in the Chama business community struggled to cope with this crisis,” Salazar said in his statement. “I cannot say enough about the close, coordinated effort between the staffs of the C&TSRR Commission and the management company in getting it done.”
Salazar said a celebration for the reopening of the Lobato Trestle would coincide with an Independence Day celebration on July 4.
Regular Cumbres & Toltec trains will run daily out of both Chama and Antonito through Oct. 16. Schedules, further information and advance ticket sales can be found at the railroad’s website, www.cumbrestoltec.com, or by calling 888-286-2737.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal