Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad - A Life Chasing Trains

When the Rio Grande filed for abandonment of the narrow gauge mainline west from Alamosa, a grass roots campaign evolved to convince the states of Colorado and New Mexico to save the line between Antonito and Chama as a tourist railway and museum.  The political logic was that the area was economically depressed and needed to develop more tourism.  The energy came primarily from a well organized group of railfans.  The effort succeeded, the states appropriated money, an unusual bi-state pact establishing a railroad commission was approved by the U.S. Congress. and the purchase of right of way, track, and equipment was negotiated with the railroad.  Volunteers initially opened the line and move equipment from Antonito to Chama for storage.  Much to the disappointment of the volunteers, the Commission contracted with Scenic Railways to operate the line. The tourist railroad business grew very slowly and eventually Scenic went bankrupt. The second operator was Kyle Railways, and under Kyle the C&TS's ridership slowly grew, the states invested money in new passenger cars, and the business stabilized. Kyle bowed out and management passed to George Bartholomew.  Bartholomew marketed the line aggressively and patronage grew, but track and equipment deteriorated.  The Commission dismissed Bartholomew, and when another private sector manager could not be found, management passed to the Friends of the C&TS, a volunteer group.  The volunteer group struggled and patronage declined. Finally the Commission assumed operation of the railroad directly.  In recent years significant investment has been made with state and Federal funds to improve track and equipment, but patronage continues lag behind what was achieved by Kyle, and the level need to make the railroad fully self supporting.  So it continues to get an annual subsidy from the two states.