Cumbers Toltec Scenic Railroad officials said Feb. 13 during the Commission’s quarterly meeting in Chama that they are fully prepared to reopen this year.
CEO Eric Mason said in his report to the commission there had been an uptick in both reservations and school sales since last year. The Railroad trains people in different aspects of the operation.
“We’re actually sold out of school sales,” Mason said. “We’re ahead on all fronts compared to last year.”
The Railroad generated $53,000 in revenue from reservations so far this fiscal year compared to $23,000 at this time last year Mason said. The Railroad this year had also made $97,000 in revenue from school reservations.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic fewer passengers will ride the trains each trip.
“Normally trains carry 60 people, with COVID precautions, we could be as low as 30,” Mason said.
With lower passenger counts the Railroad has looked into changing its programming, including longer day trips with more time for shopping and visiting tourist locations in destinations such as Chama. Manson said previous attempts and long trips had been explored in the past but filling trains was difficult so the pandemic restrictions gave them time to experiment.
Mason said the Railroad is in the process of rehiring its seasonal workforce, as well as hiring additional staff this year. The only major change to their operations this year was training the staff to properly handle oil fires due to the addition of an oil burning engine.
The Railroad is also adding to the fire department with a fifth fire speeder.
General Manager John Bush said there were events planned for the year already but details were still up in the air The dedication event for the Railroad is slated for May 29.
The Galloping goose event is scheduled for July 16 through 26.
The Victorian Iron Horse Roundup is set for Aug. 21 through Sept. 8, and has been extended one week. The Railroad is honoring tickets for the event from last year that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pagosa Mercantile, a historic storefront, is now set to be moved to the Pagosa Springs Fairgrounds. There is currently no time-line for the transfer.
“We think it would be appropriate in Chama, but our primary concern is the preservation of the building,” Bush said.
Maintenance Manager Stathi Pappas said they were in the process of restoring only one artifact passenger car.
“It’s condition is severely deteriorated,” Pappas said. “We’ve identified all the conditions we need to rectify. The roof structure needs to be rebuilt, we need to work from the bottom down instead of the top up when a car is really far gone you need to do it that way.”
Pappas said the goal was to restore the car to how it looked in 1908 or 1909.
There are also several freight cars that Papas said need work to be safe to climb and operate on for engineer and firefighter training.
Ed Bustamante, the financial officer for the Railroad also said there were three trucks that needed to be built from scratch. The trucks cost $73,000 each to build but the materials were already purchased so the Railroad just needed to pay for labor at this point.
Trucks are the metal frames upon which the car sits.
The Railroad has received around $500,000 from Colorado this year Bustamante said, which is a reduction from previous years, and has applied for $1.1 million in capital outlay grants from New Mexico but is still waiting to see how much they receive.
Bustamante said he hopes to have the Railroad independent of taxpayer dollars by as soon as 2025. His largest concern is how much the railroad would be making in July which is usually their busiest month. Beyond that, the balance sheets were where he expected them to be with the pandemic.