San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad (SLRG)

Stourbridge Lion Feb 12, 2006

  1. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

    16,686
    46
    179
    San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad (SLRG)

    As reported by: Denver Post-Back on track (Article Launched: 02/10/2006 01:00:00 AM)

    Back on track
    Two new lines starting in May hark back to Alamosa's days as a rail hub.

    By Electa Draper
    Denver Post Staff Writer

    [​IMG]
    The San Luis Express, traveling through the San Luis Valley, will begin its daily 63-mile route May 24. Another new line will connect Alamosa to Antonito. (Post / Brian Brainerd)

    Alamosa - The first train of a new line left here for La Veta on Thursday morning, and along the way it restored something lost to this historic railroad hub for more than 50 years - passenger service.

    A crowd of more than 100 seemed genuinely giddy while witnessing the inaugural run of the San Luis Express. Well- wishers waved as the modern diesel locomotive pulled out with a single maroon- and-silver luxury car filled with media and railroad brass.

    Alamosa was reliving a little of the glory days, when it was "the narrow-gauge capital of the world" - a hub for passenger trains linking Denver and Santa Fe to La Veta, Alamosa and Durango. That all ended here in 1951 when passenger service, which was no longer profitable, stopped altogether.

    But the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad and its operating partner, the Denver & Rio Grande Historical Foundation, say they will provide daily scenic 63-mile excursions east to La Veta beginning May 24. At the same time, they will launch another new line, the Toltec Gorge Limited, connecting Alamosa to the tiny southern Colorado town of Antonito and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad roughly 30 miles to the south.

    [​IMG]
    Rancher James Vessels climbs down after taking a look inside the first passenger train to leave Alamosa since 1951. He drove 50 miles from San Pablo to witness the train s departure. (Post / Brian Brainerd)

    The C&TSR is a spectacularly situated narrow-gauge railroad that ends at Chama, N.M. Despite its status as the longest and highest scenic railroad in the country, the C&TSR is financially bedeviled by uneven ridership and erratic funding by one of its two owners, the state of Colorado. Since 2003, the other owner, the state of New Mexico, has more than tripled the support given by Colorado ($2.9 million compared with less than $800,000).

    In March, the Colorado legislature will look at Gov. Bill Owens' proposal for $500,000 for the Cumbres & Toltec. It falls far short of the more than $1million requested by the train's operator.

    "Because of the recession, many critical services were cut to the bone, including transportation, health services and higher education," Owens' press secretary, Dan Hopkins, said. "It was the fiscal reality. You don't make it up in one year."

    Railroad officials have estimated that the Cumbres & Toltec provides $42 million a year in economic benefit to southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. And the need for additional state funding is eliminated, railroad officials have said, when ridership is more than 50,000.

    Last year ridership was about 30,000, but the 50,000 mark was met or bested in the years 1995 through 2001. Then rail-maintenance problems and extreme fire danger in 2002 shortened the steam-powered locomotive's season, causing passenger figures to plunge drastically and increase only slowly in following seasons.

    San Luis & Rio Grande president Ed Ellis said he expects the two new lines will boost ridership on the Cumbres & Toltec by 5,000 to 10,000 by connecting it to people in Alamosa's 300 motel rooms.

    "We might not do that the first season. ... But I haven't heard one person say that (the La Veta line) will be competition for the Cumbres & Toltec," Ellis said. "Some 300,000 people go the Great Sand Dunes a year. Now they have something else to do while they're here."

    The new interim operator of the Cumbres & Toltec agreed.

    "We're going to attract riders to their railroad, and they're going to attract riders to ours," said Frank Turner, head of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Management Corp. The group recently replaced the previous not-for-profit operator. It had announced in October that it was pulling out because it never got the money it was promised to run the railroad.

    "We're going to have to have money from Colorado," Turner said. "We're more optimistic about funding this year than we have been for a long time."

    The financial uncertainty of launching new service didn't dampen spirits Thursday. Neither did it matter that the beautiful 1909 Denver & Rio Grande Railroad depot that served as backdrop for the train and brass band is now an office building housing the Alamosa County Department of Social Services.

    Instead, a small ticket office and waiting room have been added to the railroad's old freight office across the street.The proposed round-trip adult fare from Alamosa to Antonito is $12. The proposed fare to La Veta is $40.

    Alamosa's connection to the railroad, and its status as the center of commerce in this mountain valley, dates from 1878, when settlers from Fort Garland arrived via train and founded the town in an area shaded by cottonwood - "Alamosa" in Spanish - trees.

    Business leaders here anticipate a tremendous economic boost from the new line.

    Tom Bobicki, head of Alamosa Downtown Merchants Inc., said that on a scale of 1 to 10, the new rail's importance to Alamosa is an 11.

    His wife, Charlotte, the regional representative for Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said the entire San Luis Valley is excited.

    "Our visitors are thrilled this is happening. There are major hoteliers who think this is the biggest thing that could happen to Alamosa," said Debra Goodman, executive director of the Alamosa Chamber of Commerce.

    Rancher James Vessels and his 11-year-old grandson, Colten, drove 50 miles from San Pablo to witness the return of passenger rail to Alamosa.

    "I've been thinking for some time that this is something they should do," James Vessels said. "They should keep the rail industry alive in this country."

    Staff writer Electa Draper can be reached at 970-385-0917 or edraper@denverpost.com.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

    16,686
    46
    179
    [​IMG]
    Even More Information: http://alamosatrain.com/

    San Luis Express
    The route between Alamosa and La Veta was carved out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains over 100 years ago. The last regular passenger train was discontinued in 1953, and few travelers since have been privileged to see the highest standard gauge crossing of the Front Range in regular operation. All that is changing in 2006, with daily departures from Alamosa to La Veta, through the Forbes/Trinchera Park, around Horseshoe Curve, along the edge of the San Isabel National Forest, through two tunnels and into the historic 187-‘s town of La Veta, where the train pauses for lunch and shopping. Then it’s back across the mountains to Alamosa.

    Toltec Gorged Limited
    Originally, a narrow gauge train ran all the way from Alamosa to the edge of the Toltec Gorge. Now for the first time in a generation you can board a train in Alamosa and with only one change of cars be transported back in time. At Antonito, step off the standard gauge train and onto the steam-powered Cumbres and Toltec, wich will take you into the Conejos County high country, through two tunnels and alnont the Toltec Gorge. After lunch at Osier, CO, the train returns to Antonito where you change for Alamosa.
     
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,636
    4,273
    600
    What's the status of D&RGHF? Last I'd read, they were having some troubles with one of the towns along their original route?

    [​IMG]

    Boxcab E50
     
  4. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

    16,686
    46
    179
    Found this related to your question but I don't think it covers what you are asking either:

    "On June 29, 2003, the UP sold the Walsenburg - Alamosa, Alamosa – Antonito and Alamosa – Derrick (just west of South Fork) to shortline railroad conglomerate RailAmerica (RA). The Derrick – Creede line, which had been out of service, was sold to the Denver and Rio Grande Historical Foundation as a tourist line. RA sold the SLRG to Permian Basin Railways on December 22, 2005."
     
  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,636
    4,273
    600
    The D&RG HF had a really nice web site. But I can't find it. Seems to be gone! So I am wondering what happened to them. and their efforts to restore the Creede Branch?

    :(

    Boxcab E50

    [ February 13, 2006, 12:46 AM: Message edited by: BoxcabE50 ]
     
  6. Keith

    Keith TrainBoard Supporter

    4,093
    748
    65
  7. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,636
    4,273
    600
    Weird!!!! :confused: :confused: :confused: Nothing turns up on any of the search engines I was trying. Just a couple of brief mentions. I wonder why? [​IMG] And what happened to my old bookmark? [​IMG]

    Anyhow, am glad to read how the STB rejected the BS the town of Creede was trying to pull off. What shallow nonsense.

    :rolleyes:

    Boxcab E50
     
  8. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

    16,686
    46
    179
    Will get this added to RailSeek tonight...

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  9. sd70mac

    sd70mac TrainBoard Member

    343
    0
    17
    I am going to be on the Durango & Silverton and Cumbres & Toltec in June. I have plenty of buffer time so if I can manage to add some more trains to the trip, I am definitely going to do it. I am hoping to see more info and folks to contact.
     
  10. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

    16,686
    46
    179
    I have a ton of information for you on my new Railroad Adventures site as time goes by.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  11. sd70mac

    sd70mac TrainBoard Member

    343
    0
    17
    Excellent! I have taken a lot of trips myself over the years, unfortunately I have only recently started to phtograph them. But I would really like to be able to contact someone at the new lines so I can plan my trip while I am out there.
     
  12. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

    16,686
    46
    179
    The idea behind my Railraod Adventures web site is to document all my RR Adventures around the world and you will find that the Colorado NG lines are well covered. My wife and I are already talking about taking these two new lines soon. In the past I like others didn't take much film photos becuase of the $$$ but now with Video and Digital SLR cameras we will be posting MUCH, MUCH, More images of our latest adventures.

    Here is an example from our 2005 Railroad Adventures of the Durango & Silverton
    [​IMG]
    Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad / 16th Annual - Fall Photographer's Special / September 24-25, 2005
     
  13. sd70mac

    sd70mac TrainBoard Member

    343
    0
    17
    Very nice shot. I am looking forward to being there and my Canon S2 IS will be along!
     
  14. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,636
    4,273
    600
    Anyone going to the Narrow Gauge Convention in Durango this August? There'll be modelers, models, and train riding. Sure would like to see some photos!

    :D

    Boxcab E50
     
  15. sd70mac

    sd70mac TrainBoard Member

    343
    0
    17
    I didn't know about it. But I had to schedule around the family reunion in early July. Someday I'll be able to flit off to such fun things.
     
  16. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

    16,686
    46
    179
  17. sd70mac

    sd70mac TrainBoard Member

    343
    0
    17
    I think I might shoehorn the Royal Gorge into the trip but most of the rest will have to wait for a definite return to the area. I think I will also skip the new railroad that is coming online in May since there isn't enough info on it. They're making the staggering mistake of failing to publicize it prior to opening it.
     
  18. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

    16,686
    46
    179
  19. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    5,528
    376
    76
    Didn't we have a trainboard member who lived in antonito?

    I am very excited about this line being opened up again. I have spent lots of time in the Alamosa yard taking video and pictures with my wife. I've also driven that road to Antonito and the road that goes to Chama. It's a really great train watching day. Kind of sleepy , but sort of like a time machine into the old days.

    Lots of train cars in peoples back yards in the san louis valley too.

    I hope this helps the san louis valley out alot. A while back there was a different article about how Colorado was very low on the tourism advertising as a state. We don't even need new infrastructure, we just need marketing.

    Something not to miss in the San louis valley:
    http://www.nps.gov/grsa/
    Not trains , but simply awe inspiring.

    oh yeah, If you are going to be in that part of the country... Go here: http://www.ojocalientespa.com/ it is really worth the extra bucks for an overnight stay.
     
  20. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    59,636
    4,273
    600
    Now that you mention it, this does seem vaguely familiar...

    [​IMG]

    Boxcab E50
     

Share This Page