It’s a clear, cool autumn day in the mountains of southwestern Colorado. Beneath your feet, you feel the rumble of a 100-year-old steam engine. You hear the train’s whistle piercing through the wilderness. You see the smoke curling back in the breeze. The aspens, turning golden now, reach their branches out towards the tracks, nearly touching. If you didn’t know better, you might think you’d been transported back to 1880.
The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is the world’s longest and highest steam-powered railroad. It’s 64 miles of narrow-gauge track stretch from the small town of Antonito, half an hour south of Alamosa, Colo. (gateway to Great Sand Dunes National Park) and an hour north of Taos, N.M. and Chama, N.M., nestled in the heart of the New Mexican Rockies. What was once a bustling transportation line for miners nearly fell into abandonment in the late 1960s until the states of Colorado and New Mexico purchased the tracks and trains, creating a National Historic Landmark and an experience like none other for visitors.