the BLM campground after a good night's sleep and headed into
Grant's, NM for a re-supply. From Grants, we headed north
to the Pueblo Pintado ruins and then on to the Heron Lake State
Park near Chama, NM. Our plan was to stay two nights, but
we decided to ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad steam
train to Osier and back.
The photos below are what we saw.
fuel stop, we spotted another Hi-Lo camper, just like Thor's
house. But, this one was 22 feet long.
the highway north from Milan, NM toward Pueblo Pintado.
arrived at Pueblo Pintado, we lined up for a group truck photo.
Pintado is one of the larger free-standing Anasazi ruins.
Mortar was used to hold the flagstone together to make the
walls, The stone was cut to make smooth edges.
Pintado was active in the early AD900s.
mortar between the stones.
holes in the wall were for timber to support the flooring of the
upper levels. The wood has since decomposed or was stolen
linear surfaces of the walls.
window cap was still intact in this window. Note that they
also attempted to use a cap made of stone in addition to the
classic style, the central kiva was circular and recessed into
was nice enough to take a photo of me.
ruins of Pueblo Pintado were on a hill that had a commanding
view of the surrounding territory. The current theory is
that the weather turned against the Anasazi and produced an
extended draught, thus starving them out and causing a
migration. Today, the terrain is quite inhospitable and
dry. It is hard to imagine where sufficient food and water
would come from for these people under the current environment.
Pueblo Pintado we continued north toward Heron Lake State
Park. The lake is large, but water levels were low.
It took us quite awhile to find a set of campsites that could
accommodate the large number of trucks in our group, but we did
succeed. We had a pleasant night in preparation for our
of us in the group (Mark, Gail, Tony, Bill and Kathleen) decided
to check out the steam train ride from Chama to Osier and
back. So, we broke camp and headed into Chama. The
ticketing process was punitive and took 30 minutes. I
assume it was due to the competence level of the clerk, but who
can say. We checked out the rolling stock in the yard
prior to departure.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad (CTSRR) runs steam engines
from the Denver and Rio Grande Western. These engines are
narrow gauge and designed specifically to operate on the steep
narrow grades that are common in the inter-mountain western
U.S. These engines were designed to run on coal, which is
quite dirty. Note the smoke from the front engine.
the complexity of a steam engine is the valving used to control
steam flow. The rods and linkages are part of that valving
mechanism in the center of the photo above is the air
compressor. The pipes to the left are the heat exchanger
for the pump allowing the air to cool before going into the
reservoir. I believe this is a two-stage pump which can
achieve higher pressures than a single stage pump.
one of the steam engines.
passengers boarded and we set out from the Chama Station.
There is an RV park right next to the station and most of the
campers fell out to see the departure. Note the
smoke. Did I mention that coal-fired steam trains are very
near Chama has very nice, lush meadows that support cattle, deer
bridge at Wolf Creek can only support one engine at a
time. Due to the steep grade from Chama to Osier, 2
engines are required. So due to the load restrictions, the
lead helper engine has to de-couple, cross the bridge alone and
then re-couple on the far side.
crossed the bridge and re-coupled, we started up the steep
grade. The engines were working hard.
speed was slow at at the limit of the output of the
engines. Note the smoke. We were all coughing before
the day was done.
to hide from the smoke. These engines were working at max
capacity hauling the passenger cars.
track curves, we could get a clear view of the engines.
Note that the lead engine has the CTSRR signage and that the
rear engine still says DRGW. Also, there were a group of
cars that shadowed the train from the time it left the
station. Since the road runs close to the tracks, the path
allowed many vantage points of the train.
rear was an open "observation car" where you had an unobstructed
view but also a continuous rain of coal cinders on your head.
engines worked hard getting up the grade but for whatever
reason, the front engine was much dirtier.
rounded a bend, we got a clear view of the Chama Valley far
passenger cars were actual cars from "the day" and with the
exception of some new upholstery are exactly as when they were
reached Cumbres Pass at just over 10,000 feet elevation, the
lead engine decoupled and turned around for a "naked" run back
to Chama. The steep grades are on the Chama side of the
pass with the Antonito side requiring only one engine to get to
There was one
good-sized trestle between Cumbres Pass and Osier, our
turn-around point. From Cumbres, it was all downhill to
Osier is the halfway
point (by time) between Antonito and Chama. The railroad
has operated a station there for over a hundred years.
Today, it is converted to a large food service area and gift
shop. We were in Osier about 90 minutes and they fed
hundreds of passengers within that short time. And,
surprisingly, the food was good. In the photo above, the
engineer is oiling all the open joints with an oil can.
Some of the joints have oil cups, others were open to the
environment. Frequent lubrication is a must to preserve
The badge on this
engine states that it was manufactured in 1925. Note the
rough cut marks on the rectangular steel bar at the top left
of the photo above. That pattern is a characteristic of
a hand-held oxy-acetylene cutting torch.
Above is another snow
removal device: a side plow. The blade extends from the
side of the car to push the snow away from the tracks.
The shack is the operator's compartment and the tank is for
compressed air to actuate the blade.
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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2016, all rights
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.