Imagine if you could turn the railroad clocks back to say 1950 and relive the days of Rio Grande narrow gauge freight trains storming over Cumbres Pass. Well in the fall of 1992, photographer John Craft, organized a series of 5 trips over a one-week period that was the first time such trips were operated since the last Rio Grande freights of 1968. The trips consisted of re-lettering three 2-8-2s with Rio Grande on the tenders and cab sides just like in the past. Also the freight trains were operated like the old days as well. 2 hours of Rio Grande steam!! We watch long freight trains with an engine on the front, and a rear pusher ahead of the caboose storm up the 4% grade from Chama to Cumbres (elev. 10,015), and then the helper is cut out and run light ahead.
The next day the train goes from Antonito to Chama, with a prototypical mid-train helper engine in the consist of freight cars. All this was repeated again the next weekend with slightly different freight and engine configurations using engines 484, 487, and 497. On a separate run we watch an afternoon train depart Chama with two engines up front, and a rear pusher, making an incredible sight with three engines climbing the grade to Cumbres, and along Windy Point at last light. Another attraction is the grouping of 5 steamed-up engines in Chama for all to see, then the 5 are taken to the wye and all operated together in a procession coupled together back to the Chama yard. You’ll see great action runbys in the Rocky Mountain scenery, and even ride in a freight car ahead of the mid train helper, and ahead of a rear pusher. You’ll quickly forget that it’s really 1992 and not 1952.