Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lobato Trestle Nearly Complete - Planned Opening Prior To Season Start

Important: See update at end of post

Chama is back!

The Lobato trestle is nearly completed and is projected to open mid-week, only days before opening weekend. Once in place, trains will once again roll from Antonito to Chama and back again, without having to halt progress at Cumbres Pass.

Obviously, this is huge news for Chama and her residents, whose businesses have flagged for the last 11 months. Here is the full text of the press release from Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

May 20, 2011
CHAMA, N.M. – It will be a very joyful day in Chama around the middle of next week, when the first steam train to enter the town in almost a year arrives from Antonito. Construction on the fire-damaged Lobato Trestle is proceeding on a pace that will permit the return of the train with days to spare in preparation for opening day May 28.

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad will kick off its back-from-the-ashes season on that Saturday, with opening day festivities in Chama and in Antonito, Colo., the two ends of the historic 64-mile mountain steam railroad.

“We are telling the world we’re back, we’re better than ever – and we’re ready to report to our visitors and friends on how far we’ve come,” said Elmer H. Salazar, president of the C&TSRR Management Co., which operates the line. “We were well along in our multi-year upgrading of the line and its equipment – when the Lobato Trestle fire sent us into a tailspin last summer.”

Salazar recalled how Chama was cut off from the line when the June fire rendered the Lobato Trestle unserviceable. Passengers were transported by motor coach to the Cumbres Station, up the line – but the rumor persisted that the line was closed down. It was a tense year in which the damage was assessed, the repair budget determined, the necessary funding secured and the construction project launched. The tourist economy of Chama was hard hit by the railroad’s setback.

But now all elements are poised for a big year for Chama and its visitors, as the trestle is almost completely repaired and service is set to be back to normal -- but better than ever.

“I can’t say enough about the can-do spirit of Reiman Corporation SW’s crew (the contractor for the trestle repair). We experienced a delay in the start of the project, but even with the shortened timeline they pitched in and got it done, Salazar said. “Now the trestle’s ready to go, the years of work are evident in the condition of the track – and we’ve given special attention to the locomotives and cars, painted and shined to possibly the best condition they have ever been in.”

The staff and crews of the line are anxious to show off their work in getting equipment and operations to a high degree of readiness for the season.

“This line belongs to the people of New Mexico and Colorado – literally, and we hope they will come up in large numbers to inspect our stewardship of this unique treasure,” Salazar said. “We expect to make them proud of how much we have accomplished.”

A variety of events, from posting of the colors, to Indian dancers from Santa Clara Pueblo and the Jicarilla Apache nation, and comments by local civic leaders will highlight the festivities. Trains will depart from Antonito and Chama bound for Osier, Colorado for the classic “mid-day, mid-way feast stop” especially prepared by Narrow Gauge Catering to inaugurate the season. “From our office staffs to our train crews, everyone is enthusiastic about this year’s season,” Salazar said. “This train has been a part of the two communities since its construction in the 1880’s and these people have worked for generations to keep it alive and exciting. “

With the smell of coal smoke and the echo of the steam whistle, the railroading heart of Chama and Antonito will come to life on May 28. For information on tickets and times, visit www.cumbrestoltec.com or call 1-888-286-2737.
Everyone who has an interest in seeing the line back in service, from the Friends of the C&TS to the Commission, has pulled together and made the restoration happen. I know I'm not alone in wishing the C&TS the best this season. God bless you guys and give you a great year!


For more news and details on the construction, visit the C&TS news site.

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Update as of 6/18/2011

 The Lobato Trestle is NOT in service. On 5/25, after no word on the trestle's status for days, a press release came out. 
“We were all focused on being ready for opening day, but circumstances combined to pull us up short,” said Elmer H. Salazar, president and CEO of the C&TSRR Management Co., operators of the line. 
There is no solid start date for through service to Chama, but I'll keep my ear to the ground. Here's hoping for better communications. Until then, C&TS will continue busing passengers to Cumbres Pass.

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Update as of 6/21/2011

 The Lobato Trestle is OPEN and in use! Read Highball! First Run of Passengers Over Lobato Trestle From Chama To Osier.

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