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Letter to the editor: Cumbres & Toltec is moving forward, rapidly and successfully

Posted: Friday, Jul 18th, 2014

I am pleased to report to you on behalf of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad the positive news on where we are this season to date. Our reservations are up 8 percent and our revenue is up 22 percent. We had a banner year in 2013 with a 19 percent increase in ridership. We had 34,525 riders in 2013 compared to 28,991 in 2012.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is jointly owned and operated by New Mexico and Colorado. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar designated the railroad as a National Historic Landmark in 2012. It is the highest and longest authentic steam-powered, narrow-gauge railroad in the U.S. We are proud to operate out of Antonito and thank many of the residents in Antonito for your contributions to our operations. The mission of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, a historical 19th century railroad “Museum on Wheels,” is for the education, enlightenment and enjoyment of future generations and economic development of southern Conejos County.

In the previous 43 years, the Cumbres & Toltec has been operated by seven different companies; four were for-profit companies and three were non-profits. In 2012, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission decided that the time had come for the railroad to be run by the employees of the railroad as their own operating company. This decision has resulted in rapid and successful growth.

For the first time in years we have five operating locomotives in service and our fleet is looking great and operating well. Our roadbed is in the best condition it has been since the railroad was acquired by the two states in the early 1970s. All of this has been possible with the continued great support we receive from our dedicated workforce evenly divided between Chama and Antonito, and the importance the two state owners place on the railroad.

In the past few years, we have invested in the Antonito terminus. New repair and storage facilities have been erected and more are under construction. A new historic car rehabilitation facility is being built for service. And the best news is that we have returned Antonito to daily scheduled service and have upped the special event originations dramatically. We will continue to focus on profitable ways to increase both our hiring and traffic in Antonito.

It is clear that the future of the railroad and that of Antonito are closely tied together. Antonito must become a destination unto itself and the railroad must tap the long sought goal of penetrating the Front Range market more effectively than it does today. Both of these require coordinated efforts within the San Luis Valley as a whole to achieve these objectives. I have recently joined the San Luis Valley Tourism Association as vice president and we are also working closely with the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

We have a shared responsibility to work with Antonito in ways that can enhance our mutual benefit in support of fulfilling our mission to preserve and develop the railroad. The extent to which this relationship is made to work will be a key component of our collective success.

Announcements of all of our commission meetings are publicly posted at the Antonito City Hall, the Post Office and at the Commission Office (5250 S. Hwy 17, Antonito) at least 10 days before the Cumbres & Toltec Commission Meeting. They are also posted in Chama, N.M. Our meetings are open to the public and we invite you to join us. All of our minutes are available to the public by calling our office at 719-376-5488. Additionally, all of this material will be available on our new commission website (commission.cumbrestoltec.com) which will be going live soon.

Our staff’s professionalism and enthusiasm has resulted in happy customers and glowing reviews that will continue to help us this year and into the future. From maintenance to marketing, ticketing to track, operations to administration we all have come together and showed our riders and rail fans that riding the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a unique and special experience.

We look forward to seeing all of you on the train this season. We have a great schedule of daily excursions and special trains including the Sunset Dinner Trains that start Saturday, July 19 and runs through September 13. To book a seat on this or any of our other trains, please visit www.cumbrestoltec.com or call 888-286-2737. We invite you to enjoy all we have to offer this season.


John Bush, President

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

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