COAL SMOKE OVER the CONEJOS

High in the southern Rockies,
hauntingly beautiful hills.
A land where the wild still blooms,
a land primitive, free, and still.

Gently rolling hills
dotted with aspen, fir and pine.
Cool summer breezes
waving the lavender Columbine.

Nightly howling of coyote
drifts across the land.
Echoing the moaning
of the wind in the pines.

A rushing of clear waters
in deep rocky gorges.
Fallís golden colors
descending on the willows.

Winterís fierce storms
dumping tons of snow.
Howling and blowing
over the high Conejos.

Came the Denver & Rio Grande
into this land years ago.
To tap the San Juanís riches,
laying rails west toward Durango.



Then came sleek passengers
and long heavy freights.
Climbing west over Cumbres,
and with helpers, heading east.

Then came the years of
the fading glory of steam.
The narrow gauge was vanishing,
and almost passed from the scene.

Yet it is early morning in old Chama,
there is a damp chill in the air.
Soft hissing of pistons,
steam and smoke everywhere.

The beauty of a fall storm
hangs low over the Conejos to the east.
Of long eons past,
the wind and rain seem to speak.

Engines stop under the tank,
taking water to make steam.
Now moving down the track,
what magnificent machines!

Now past the Jukeís Tree,
headlight shining on twin narrow rails.
Up through the Narrows, across Lobato,
vanishing into the rain.



A long mournful whistle
echoes off the high peaks.
Stark bark of exhaust
fighting the four percent.

The pounding of drivers
slipping on shiny wet rail.
Rising columns of steam and black smoke
drifting over hill and vale.

Then emerging from the rain and mist,
like a ghost from the past.
Doubleheader over Cumbres -
it will send chills up your back!

Yes, today trains still climb
past rocky Windy Point.
And summer nights in Chama and Antonito
smell of sweet coal smoke.

Above Toltec, around Tanglefoot,
and down through Osier.
Beside the Chama and Los Pinos
the whistles still scream.

100 years of history,
drifting, like a ghost.
Above narrow ribbons of steel,
coal smoke over the Conejos!



CHAMA to CUMBRES





Train time in old Chama, New Mexico.





Denver & Rio Grande Railway 1882 coal stove,
Chama Roundhouse.



Highball!





JUKES TREE

Just outside Chama stands the large, distinctive old Ponderosa Pine known as the "Jukes Tree." This tree, already a mature pine when D&RG employee Fred Jukes photographed a train passing it in 1908 (above), has changed little in the ensuing century, as seen in the 2012 photos (above right), and (right) taken with a Holga camera to emulate an old tyme look.

(1908 Jukes photo courtesy History Colorado, Denver & Rio Grande Collection, # F-11720.)



Triple header leaving Chama.



Phantoms from the past! (The Narrows.)



Weed City movie town, near Lobato trestle.



Lobato trestle.






Is this 1940 again?!






At 2nd Hy 17 crossing east of Chama.







On this cool, misty September day, twin sets of drivers climbing the 4% fight to grip slipery wet rail,
while massive plumes of steam and smoke and echos of the locomotives' whistles fill the valley.




Cresco tank.







HY 17 crossing at Coxo.




Cumbres Pass

The remaining portion of the snow shed over the Cumbres wye is the last remaining of all the D&RG narrow gauge snow sheds.

A helper engine returns to Chama.


CALL OUT the ROTARY!

In May 1993 it took two days for this rotary plow train to reach the summit at 10,015 feet high Cumbres,
plowing trough hard packed icy snow drifts at times 22 feet deep.




Several feet of snow still covered the ground at Cumbres.




ANTONITO to CUMBRES

Early Morning in old Antonito, Colorado.



The D&RG got this far in 1901 with the standard gauging of its narrow gauge.



Rock Tunnel above Toltec Gorge.



Eastbound from Osier.



Osier






In the Rio de Los Pinos "River of Pines" Valley



Los Pinos tank.




Climbing westward toward Cumbres.



Approaching Tanglefoot Curve just below Cumbres.



Tanglefoot Curve.





Cumbres Pass!

Back to Top

The Modern Narrow Gauge Circle: Its Heritage     Squealing Flanges Along the Animas
Whistles Over Clear Creek     The Mystery of Jukes Tree

Back to Index Page