American Heritage Railways, which owns the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, has reached an agreement to manage the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which runs between Chama, N.M., and Antonito.
Were really excited about it, said Al Harper, CEO of American Heritage Railways. Its all about the preservation of history.
An oral agreement was reached Tuesday between Harper and the chairman of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission, which operated the railroad for the states of Colorado and New Mexico, which jointly own the railroad.
The agreement tentatively calls for American Heritage Railways to operate the line for five years, Harper said.
He declined to disclose financial terms of the agreement until they are finalized in writing. American Heritage Railways tentatively is scheduled to take over operations Jan. 1.
The Denver & Rio Grande built the railroad in 1880, and it was linked to Durango in 1881. Most of the track was dismantled about 1969, but a scenic portion of the line was saved and purchased in 1970 by Colorado and New Mexico for historic preservation.
The thing thats most significant to me is the history behind it, Harper said.
The 64-mile line between Chama and Antonito travels over the 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass.
It averages about 40,000 passengers per year, although numbers have been down the last two years because of a fire last year and the down economy, said Nick Quintana, spokesman for the railroad.
But things are looking good, he said. The tracks are in really good shape.
Mr. Harper has a pretty clean operation out there, and were excited to be a part of the American Heritage Railways family.
The Cumbres & Toltec is a narrow-gauge railroad, which means the steam engines and boxcars are transferable with the Durango & Silverton railroad.
Its the exact equipment all sister equipment to what we have here, Harper said. We may exchange some equipment, and we may send some of our equipment over there to have special events.
Harper said he plans to create special events for the Cumbres & Toltec, similar to ones he puts on for the Durango & Silverton railroad.
We really believe we can do some great things for the Cumbres-Toltec, he said. Its already a great railroad, and were just going to open it up to give more people an opportunity to enjoy what it has to offer.