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:
Stopped momentarily at Hwy 17 Crossing:
The photoline observes the rotary in action:
Rounding Orgasm Curve:
Cresting the top of Cumbres Pass: