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A Narrow Gauge 4-4-0 on the
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Contributed by stan Jennings

I have a fascination for the American type 4-4-0 locomotives. They built the railroads in the United States, they fought in the Civil War, they helped join the nation on May 10, 1869, and for more than fifty years they were the most important and most used type of locomotive in the United States. Two of the most impressive representatives of this class, the beautiful replicas of Central Pacific's Jupiter and the Union Pacific's Number 119 are at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, Promontory, Utah, an hour and a half north of my Salt Lake City area home . The restored locomotives of the Virginia & Truckee are a day's drive away in Carson City, Nevada. I've been to the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento, California which displays some beautiful 4-4-0's. However, one recently restored treasure escaped me: the three-foot gauge Eureka, which was originally built in 1875 for Nevada's Eureka and Palisade Railroad.

After its rescue and five-year restoration by Dan Markoff and friends, the Eureka made it's first public exhibition at California State Railroad Museum's "Railfair 91". In 1992 the Eureka returned to it's original home in Eureka, Nevada. The next year, 1993, United States Gypsum's track at Plaster City, California allowed the Eureka to really show its capabilities. For the Ken Burns special, The West, filmed in September 1994, the Eureka was trucked to Durango, Colorado. I had heard about these trips well after the fact, but in September 1995, I was in Durango for a special run where it was announced that the Eureka would be back in Durango the next weekend. I had previous commitments and missed this trip also. Nevada State Railroad Museum's 1996 Transportation Fair in Carson City, Nevada included the Eureka, but once again I couldn't attend Then in early 1997, I started hearing rumors about a return of the Eureka to Colorado, but this time to the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. Rumors abounded: "It is going to operate only out of Antonito", "It will cost a small fortune to ride it", and so on. Despite the discouraging aspects of some of the rumors, a friend and I started making plans to be in Antonito by Friday June 20, 1997. Originally, we were only going to stay in the area Friday, then head toward Denver to join the the madness that we were sure would accompany the Union Pacific 844's trip from Denver, Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah via the Royal Gorge and Tennessee Pass. A long-sold out Eureka train and the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad changed our itinerary and the focus of the trip. Despite the rumors about the cost, I finally called the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic railroad about the Eureka trip. Earl Knoob informed me that the Friday trip, which was to operate out of Chama, New Mexico, had been sold out long before my call. He suggested I call the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad about their "1870's FREIGHT TRAIN: THE EUREKA" railfan photo excursion scheduled for Saturday the 21st of June, as it would feature the Eureka. After a few days of phone tag, I made contact with the Friends of the Cumbes & Toltec Scenic Railroad. It took only a few minutes to to change our plans and decide to ride the special instead of joining the 844 madness. It turned out to be an excellent decision.

tn_eureka-ctsrr-1.jpg - 7813 Bytes Thursday night, June 19, 1997.
After its arrival from Antonito the Eureka was allowed to rest in the remains of the Chama roundhouse. Only two stalls are left out of the original nine.

The trip from Salt Lake City, Utah to Chama, New Mexico on Thursday June 19, 1997 was uneventful, however, arrival in Chama was not. We happened to hit the railroad yards a few minutes after sunset but a few minutes before the Eureka arrived from Antonito. What a sight! The little 4-4-0 was as beautiful as I had expected! Just the sight of the Eureka arriving at the yards in Chama was worth the trip, but in the next two days, things were to get better.

Friday, June 20, was scheduled to be a test day for the Eureka. It was intended that in the morning the Eureka would be tested from Chama to Lobato and return, then, in the afternoon, travel to Cumbres and return. On the test run, the Eureka pulled a gondola and caboose #0503. Things seemed to go well until the grade gets steep about two miles out of Chama. It was quickly discovered why it has been almost a century since there has been a 4-4-0 on the line. We were waiting with a few dozen others just above the start of the steep grade and the Eureka was hidden from our sight by trees when we heard the Eureka stall. Three toots of the whistle (the signal to back up) made it obvious we were not going to see the train at that location any time soon. We headed back to Chama and, sure enough, the Eureka was headed back too.

tn_eureka-ctsrr-2.jpg - 10161 Bytes Friday morning, June 20, 1997.
This image shows the Eureka approaching the first highway crossing out of Chama during the test run. The destination was planned to be Labato, but the Eureka couldn't haul both the gondola and the caboose, so the run was aborted early.

Back in Chama, the gondola was dropped and the Eureka prepared for another assault on the grade, this time with only the caboose. The second departure was late Friday afternoon with arrival at Cumbres by early evening. Everything seemed to go well and several spectacular photo opportunities presented themselves. There seemed to be a bit of inconvenience at one point when the crew of the Eureka stopped and hand-sanded many feet of rail before starting again, but the little locomotive had no trouble. With the sun so low, the summit of Cumbres Pass presented several excellent photographic opportunities. Returning to Chama, the lower the sun got, the better the lighting got.

tn_eureka-ctsrr-3.jpg - 12362 Bytes Friday afternoon, June 20, 1997.
After returning to Chama and dropping the gondola, the Eureka and the caboose made the trip to Cumbres with no trouble. The train is near MP 337 in this view.

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The Eureka is approaching the highway grade crossing just before Coxo, Windy Point and Cumbres are still ahead.

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The Eureka is coming into Cumbres where it will take on water and wood-up before returning to Chama.

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The Eureka is leaving Cumbres after taking on water and wooding-up at the summit. The Cumbres section house, which in commonly thought of as Cumbres station, is in the background.

Saturday was the day we had paid the big bucks for. After the regular train left (with two tank cars that would be added to our train at Cumbres coupled between the two locomotives and three cars for the Eureka on the end of the train), the Eureka was to leave followed by our special train, which was pulled by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad's Mikado Number 463, a significant, historical locomotive in it's own right. The basic plan for photo stops was for the Eureka to stop ahead of the chosen location, the 463 to stop at the chosen location, unload the photographers, then both trains back up. The Eureka would do a photo run-by then head on up the track while the 463 would do its run-by, stop, back up and pick up the photographers before heading on up the line. There were some delays in leaving Chama, but it turned out to be beneficial that evening. By Cumbres, where the three cars were added to the Eureka's train, the tank cars added to our train and we met the train from Antonito; we were wondering if we were getting our money's worth. Despite some very nice photo run-bys, the chasers seemed to be getting all the good photos. After Cumbres, we got our money's worth and then some! At Tanglefoot Curve, we stopped on the upper track while the Eureka did a very spectacular photo run-by for us on the lower track. A few more great photo run-bys and we arrived in Osier where the trains were turned and serviced. Despite the late hour, we did two more photo run-bys on the return trip. The late evening lighting was awe inspiring! Yes, the trip was worth all the trouble and expense, and, no, the chasers did not get the best photographs.

tn_eureka-ctsrr-7.jpg - 19274 Bytes Saturday morning, June 21, 1997.
A locomotive like the Eureka must always present a top-notch image. Here the Eureka is getting a final polish before being topped off with water and wood. The locomotive will then back onto its train.

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The Eureka is leaving the Chama roundhouse (two stalls are all that remain of the nine original stalls).

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At Tanglefoot Curve, the 463's train stopped on the upper track while the Eureka did a very spectacular photo run-by on the lower track.

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The Eureka taking on water at Osier. Both trains participating in the "1870's FREIGHT TRAIN: THE EUREKA" railfan photo excursion were turned and serviced here for the return to Chama.

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The Eureka put on a great show at Long Creek for the "1870's FREIGHT TRAIN: THE EUREKA" railfan photo excursion. Sunset is only a few minutes away.

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The last photo run-by of the day for the "1870's FREIGHT TRAIN: THE EUREKA" railfan photo excursion. The train is approaching Los Pinos from Osier. With the sun very low in the sky, lighting was spectacular.

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The C&TS 463 also put on a spectacular show during the "1870's FREIGHT TRAIN: THE EUREKA" railfan photo excursion. Here is the 463 approaching Los Pinos from Osier on the last, and most spectacular, photo run-by of the excursion.

Sunset came shortly after leaving Cumbres. The sun had completely disappeared and stars had begun to appear when someone said, "This is the longest day of the year, I didn't think I would need a flashlight". Arrival in Chama was well after dark and well after the eating establishments in Chama has closed. The railroad had contacted the Chama BBQ and they waited for us. Over half the passengers on our train partook of their great food. Many thanks to the Chama BBQ. We had a great two days on the C&TS, but being somewhat crazy, we left Chama and headed north to intercept the 844. We arrived in Salida about 3 A.M. Sunday morning, but those adventures are another story.

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