ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — American Heritage Railways, which owns the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, has reached an agreement to manage the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which runs between Chama, N.M., and Antonito, Colo., The Durango Herald reported.
“We’re really excited about it,” Al Harper, CEO of American Heritage Railways, told The Herald. “It’s all about the preservation of history.”
An oral agreement was reached Tuesday between Harper and the chairman of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission, which operated the railroad for the states of New Mexico and Colorado, joint owners of the railroad, the paper reported.
The agreement tentatively calls for American Heritage Railways to operate the line for five years, beginning Jan. 1, Harper told The Herald.
The 64-mile line between Chama and Antonito travels over the 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass.
The Cumbres & Toltec, a narrow-gauge railroad like the Durango & Silverton line, averages about 40,000 passengers a year, but ridership has been down the past two years because of a fire last year and the down economy, railroad spokesman Nick Quintana told The Herald.
The Denver & Rio Grande built the railroad in 1880, and it was linked to Durango in 1881, according to The Herald. Most of the track was dismantled around 1969, but a scenic portion of the line was saved and purchased in 1970 by the neighboring states for historic preservation.