Hidden away in a little-known corner of the southern Rocky Mountains is a precious historic artifact of the American West. Built in 1880 and little changed since, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the most spectacular example of steam era mountain railroading in North America.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was originally constructed in 1880 as part of the Rio Grande’s San Juan Extension, which served the silver mining district of the San Juan mountains in southwestern Colorado. Like all of the Rio Grande at the time, it was built to a gauge of 3 feet between the rails, instead of the more common 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches that became standard in the United States. The inability to interchange cars with other railroads led the Rio Grande to begin converting its tracks to standard gauge in 1890.
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