Trip Report – Snow Fighting on the Cumbres & Toltec

Hwy17 Crossing

The last time the rotary was used to remove snow on the Cumbres & Toltec was May of 1997, so when I saw the announcement over Easter weekend of 2019 that the railroad was planning to run the rotary again in 2020, I instantly emailed to get on the ticket waiting list. This was going to be the charter to attend in 2020!

For those not familiar with snow fighting operations on a railroad, small to medium amounts of snow are typically removed with pilot mounted snow plows or larger plows pushed by locomotives. Often spreaders are used to widen the clearances between the rolling stock and the walls of snow on either side of the tracks. Flangers are used to clear the snow from between the rails. When the snow is too deep for plows, flangers and spreaders, you call the rotary; a snow blower on rails.

During the common carrier days of the D&RGW, rotary plows were strategically stationed four rotary snow plows, OO, ON, OM & OY where heavy snow frequently occurred. Today only OM & OY survive. Rotary OY was typically based out of Alamosa and cleared snow east of Cumbers Pass. For this trip, it was running out of Chama, traditionally Rotary OM’s territory.

Less than a week after this event occurred, the world shut down due to the COVID 19 pandemic. How lucky we were to get to see the greatest show on rails!

The rotary exits the narrows on the way to Lobato Trestle:

The Narrows

Stopped momentarily at Hwy 17 Crossing:

Hwy 17 Crossing

The photoline observes the rotary in action:

The Photoline

Rounding Orgasm Curve:

Orgasm Curve

Cresting the top of Cumbres Pass:

Cumbres Pass

Through The Lens 177 – The Greatest Show on Rails

MP 341

In February 2020, the Cumbres & Toltec hosted a special photo charter featuring Rotary Snow Plow OY. This was the first time the railroad had run the rotary since the 1990’s so it was a special event; it was the greatest show on rails.

Check back on Tuesday for a trip report.

Happy Friday!

Through The Lens 62 – Snow Plow

Black Horse Cut

A year ago this weekend I stopped to photograph the Strasburg Railroad on my way to a photo charter on the Reading & Northern. ¬†Shortly after I arrived I saw Strasburg’s Russell Snow Plow heading out of the yard. I went straight for a cut hoping for deep enough snow to capture the plow at work. ¬†Fortunately I guessed correctly.