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· Premium Member
664 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Now that I am retired (as of today!!!) I am going to take a long trip and Durango and Chama will be stops along the way, probably three days in each place.

Since I am not familiar with the places, can anyone who has been there tell me how to find some of the good picture taking places along the railroad?

I would really like to get some shots of the trains going through the canyons and any other scenic spot that would make a good picture.

I plan to spend quite a bit of time at the Chama engine terminal.

Can you follow the train in a car and get to good picture taking places before the train gets there and then go to the next, etc?

Any help would be appreciated.


· Registered
1,197 Posts
I can definitely help with Durango, and somewhat with Chama.

You can pace the trains (heading North) pretty much all the way to Rockwood via highway 550. Just north of Durango is a flat river valley and it stays this way until Hermosa. At Hermosa the train (which has been to your right) crosses highway 550 and the railroad is now on your left. At this point it's mostly hidden by homes, and pine trees. But keep going as there are some breaks which make for some pretty good places to take photos, especially the 550 bridge over the railroad. I would suggest taking a look at a few maps to get familiar with the area. After the bridge all you'll see of the train is smoke.

Rockwood offers some nice photo spots as well, however you have to get off 550 and take the road to Rockwood. Not sure of the road number off the top of my head (200? maybe), but it's a right turn off 550 and there's a big sign saying "Town of Rockwood", or "Village at Rockwood", or something similar. At Rockwood there's a wye, some MOW equipment, and a small depot. Some trains will stop at the Rockwood depot.

After Rockwood it's nearly impossible to see the train again until Silverton. Any photo ops north of Rockwood requires hiking out to the tracks. It's possible in some spots, but not recommended. You really need to know the area to do it. There aren't any well defined trails, or roads to get out there.

Follow 550 on this map to see how it follows the railroad:

Google Map Durango

I've only followed the trains here once, but highway 17 offers the best way to follow the trains. You can pretty much follow a train all the way from Chama to Cumbres. But after Cumbres the highway and railroad divert so you don't see much until Antonito. But there are some dramatic photo spots along the highway, including a grade crossing. And the train stops at Cumbres to take on water from the water column. Pretty neat stuff.

Follow 17 on this map and you can kind of see how it follows the tracks:

Google Chama Map

General Tips
It's pretty easy to track and pace the trains in a car. Use the smoke to spot the trains approximate location. The trains travel slowly so you can get ahead of them and and set up for photos. But here are some warnings to look out for when pacing on the highways:

1: You won't be the only person stopping their car to take photos. Many people do it, so look out for cars in front of you making a sudden turn to the side of the road.

2: 550 is a major highway. A lot of people speed on it (possibly even myself /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/blush.gif ). The posted limit is a joke, so just be aware that very few obey the actual limit unless there's a state trooper nearby. Average speed to expect is around 65 mph. So be careful when pulling to the side of the road for photos. Not everyone will stop to see the train. Watch for big trucks speeding down (south) the mountain too. Also don't cross the road at any times. It's curvy in spots and you can't always see far enough to be sure it's safe to cross. And traffic can be surprisingly heavy at times too.

3: Sometimes it's pretty annoying to other drivers when a bunch of people pull onto the side of the road to take photos. There's not much of a shoulder on either 550 or 17, so just be cautious. There are some larger "scenic" pull outs, so try to use these if possible. 17 is a bit better since there's not as much traffic as 550.

John, when are you heading out to the area?

· Premium Member
1,073 Posts

What you should really do is take a photo freight on either the Cumbres & Toltec or the Durango and Silverton. I don't know if there are any lined up (you'll have to check their web sites), but I believe that the Friends of the C&T have a photo freight with engine 315 (whichever one that is) around the exact day you mentioned. It's supposed to be for members, I think, but maybe if you asked...There's a fee, but given the amount of time you get to spend climbing on and off the train and shooting pixtures, it's well worth the money. And with gas at almost $4 a gal, maybe even cheaper. Or not.

· Premium Member
227 Posts
The best opportunities for chasing a train are on the Cumbres and Toltec out of Chama. You can't chase either train all of the way because of the tracks diverging from the highways but the run out of Chama gives you some really dramatic shots including Windy Point.

Do save lots of film or room on the disk for the rail yards in Chama and Antonito. Durango has limited access to the yards but both Antonito and Chama have open yard policies with lots photo opportunities. Lots of access to rolling stock in Chama including the MOV cars including ditchers, camp cars and two rotary snow plows. The C&TS also has several great K-37s in Antonito waiting on rebuilding that you can get up close and personal. Had a great day there once when one of the K-36s was switching a maintenance trains. Being within a couple of feet of a working steam engine is quite an experience.

If you ride the C&TS, during the lunch break sometimes you can talk your way into the cab while the engines are waiting to resume the trip. Just don't wear any fancy clothes. If you are going to shoot from a train, bring some eye protection.

· A Steamed Elder
3,912 Posts
June 16 -- Chama to Antonito

Leave Chama with a consist of 3 box cars, coaches and caboose #0579. Pick up six stock cars at Cumbres Pass. Photo run location to be announced. Lunch at Osier then this special train will go onto Antonito. There will be a return to Chama by motorcoach. Cost: $250

This is a paste from the Cumbres and Toltec site. Train pulled by #315. This would be a great reirement gift!/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/wow.gif
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