Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cumbres & Toltec Serving Up A Hot Fourth of July

If you have not made any solid plans for next weekend's Fourth of July festivities, consider heading down to the Cumbres & Toltec for a weekend that promises to be unforgettable. They have a full plate of Independence Day activities. A photo from last year's celebration found itself on the back inside cover of Trains Magazine. If you need any more encouragement to go, read on!

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad issued a press release yesterday:
CHAMA, N.M. – The sky-dazzling Chama Independence Day fireworks extravaganza coupled with the formal ribbon-cutting for the return to service of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad's Lobato Trestle will make July 4 a day to remember in this mountain town near New Mexico's northern border.

“The most-loved patriotic holiday on the American calendar provides a most fitting occasion for us to officially return our trestle to service,” said Elmer H. Salazar, President and CEO of the C&TSR Management Co. “As we honor the founders of our country, we will also pause to honor all those who worked so hard to enable us to extend our rail line back to its rightful starting point here in Chama.”

“We honor the return of the trains to Chama – and the 2011 'We're Back, Bigger and Better than Ever' season is off to a flying start,” he added.
A full afternoon and evening of railroad and historic fun is being planned. A barbecue dinner at Cumbres Station, highest point up the mountain from Chama, a ribbon cutting at the rehabilitated trestle, Wild West Show excitement – and back to the track near the Chama Fairgrounds for the annual fireworks display – worth the visit all by itself. Rail passengers will be able to view the show from the comfort of the train – with open gondola cars available for an unrestricted view. Chama's fireworks display rivals that of any anywhere in the state, with a dizzying array of complex air splashes of color and sound that elicit an unending chorus of oohs and ahhs from spectators.

Passengers will begin boarding the 4th of July special in the Chama terminal at 5 p.m., with departure at 5:30 p.m. The train will proceed to Lobato Trestle for a brief dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony. Following the trestle crossing, the train will proceed up the steep grade toward Cumbres Station.

“The fire that knocked the Lobato Trestle out of service just over one year ago could have spelled the beginning of the end for the Cumbres and Toltec,” Salazar noted. “But this train is too tough to die – and its supporters in the communities of Chama and Antonito – and all over the world – all pitched in to make the repairs happen. The governments of New Mexico and Colorado, owners of the line, stepped up with the bulk of the necessary funding – and we got it done.”

But passengers should not expect an uneventful climb up the mountain. Shortly before the train is due to arrive at Cumbres, its journey will be interrupted by a bit of wild west excitement. Noisy and boisterous, it will give the passengers an pulp fiction taste of life in the west back when the train first came through. Hamburgers and hot dogs and all the trimmings will greet our steam train passengers when they arrive at Cumbres at about 7:15 p.m.

Following dinner, the train will depart about 8:15 p.m. for the return trip to Chama, past the depot to the vicinity of the fairgrounds for the 9:30 p.m. start of the fireworks salute. The train will return to the Chama Depot shortly after 10:30 p.m. to cap a loud and colorful salute to American independence – and the return of the Lobato Trestle -- and trains to Chama on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

The Independence Day special is one of many special event trains that will be run through the 2011 “We're Back, Bigger and Better” season. Regular C&TSRR trains will run daily out of both Chama and Antonito through October 16. Schedules, further information and advance ticket sales can be found at the railroad's web site, www.cumbrestoltec.com, or by calling 888-286-2737.

A friend of mine and her family attended the Fourth of July last year in Chama, just after the Lobato Trestle burned. She said it was one of the best Independence Day weekends her family ever had. High praise for the Cumbres & Toltec!

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