Cumbres railroad earns preservation award for Engine 168


ANTONITO — Thanks to a $10,000 “Trains Preservation Award” from Trains Magazine, fundraising for the $501,000 restoration of Engine No. 168 by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TSRR) has been completed. 

Built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1883, No. 168 worked for 50 years on these same tracks as part of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, before being retired in 1933 and resting for decades in Antlers Park in Colorado Springs.

“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” said John Bush, president of the C&TSRR.  “We are taking a locomotive that was specifically built for and used on these tracks in the 1880s, then retired and placed outdoors in a park for 85 years, and now it is being restored to once again steam across the Rocky Mountains.”

Jerry Dziedzic, co-chair of the fundraising team for the restoration of No. 168, said, “We wish to thank Trains Magazine, the magazine of railroading, for their prestigious ‘Trains Preservation Award.’ This pushes our campaign over the top and will allow us to ‘steam up the dream.’ It is humbling to have this award join prominent philanthropic foundations and many hundreds of individuals who have contributed. Railroading is an important part of the history of Colorado, and now for the first time we will be able to showcase a historic locomotive specifically built for and used on this railroad in the 1880s.”

The road to the restoration of No. 168 has not been easy. The locomotive sat exposed to the elements for 75 years. “I dreamed about seeing 168 back in steam ever since I completed its cosmetic restoration in the 1980’s,” Bush said. He compared the task of restoring the engine to the actual building of the railroad in 1880. “Like laying track over the San Juans in the 19th century, we put a good team together and attracted funding. The ‘Trains Preservation Award’ caps that effort, lifting the campaign past its goal. It’s a reflection of human spirit: We can do anything, if we put our minds to it!”

Stathi Pappas, assistant general manager of the C&TSRR and head of special projects, said, “You can’t help but be inspired by the historical connections, which have been recognized by Trains Magazine with their award. We have an 1883 engine that Baldwin built in Philadelphia for General William J. Palmer, who constructed the railroad line we operate on in 1880. No. 168 is in remarkably good condition, a testament to the skill and craftsmanship that went into building it.  We have something rare, an ancient steam locomotive, hand-made.  Its wrought iron frame bears the marks of the craftsmen who labored on it.  The frame’s details show how they forge-welded the pedestal jaws. Now, we’re adding our own marks, writing more narrow gauge history.”

In addition to restoring No. 168, the C&TSRR is also working on restoring four wood passenger cars from the same 1880s era so that they will be able to create a complete historic train, just as it would have appeared at that time, steaming over the very same tracks. 

“This is remarkable. We are restoring the actual equipment that was used on this line and will be able to let visitors see an actual piece of history, just as they would have witnessed it more than 100 years ago,” Bush said.