Day 6, Chama, Abiquiu, NM

After yesterday’s long riding day, I slept deeply last night and woke up feeling better. After a good breakfast, I was ready to roll again, and we packed up the bikes. Our plan was to ride to the trains. We thought there was a museum in Chama, but there is not. Also, the steam trains, run by the Cumbres and Toltec railroad, do not come to Chama at the present time. Last summer, the Lobato Trestle burned and the trains cannot access Chama until the trestle is rebuilt. Work has been ongoing, and it is due to be fit for use in about three weeks. So, for us to see the steam train, we had to ride up to Cumbres Pass.

The road

I say “had to,” but I loved every moment of being on that road. What a find! It is NM 17, and snakes up the mountain and down the other side, each turn perfectly engineered, some of them tight and endless, and wonderful to ride. This is what I live for! Then, when I got to the top, the train was sitting there, engine 488 up front (one of the K-36 class steam engines that I love so much), breathing steam, like a vision on top of the mountain. I looked up, and suddenly there it was.

I had to slow down quickly, and then turn into the gravel parking lot, which I didn’t even complain about, even though it was rough, I was so glad to see the train. It was idling, waiting for the passengers to arrive by bus so it could begin its run to Antonito.

We stayed there for almost an hour, waiting for all the buses to arrive and the passengers to board. I wanted to get photos of the train under power as it left on its run. So, I waited. Meanwhile, I noticed that the elevation of Cumbres Pass is 10,022 feet, there was still a lot of snow hanging around, and the wind was very cold! I had plenty of layers on, though, so I was fine.

The 488 as she leaves Cumbres Pass

Disappearing around the bend. Notice all the snow to the right.

After the train left, we continued on NM 17 all the way down the other side of the mountain to Antonito. Of course, the train would be arriving long after we’d departed, but we still looked around in the station’s version of the roundhouse, the gift shop, and talked to the girl in the ticket office. I got the “scoop” on the trestle fire, and heard about how the complete train had to be transported by truck to Cumbres Pass. Wow, what a major undertaking. Here is the link to the video that shows the locomotive being moved. I was fascinated to watch it:


The journey for us to Antonito on the road was just as fun and beautiful as the way we’d come up from Chama. We crossed briefly into Colorado, which made me stop wondering why the scenery was such a treat. Colorado is heaven on Earth, in my opinion. We gassed up in Antonito, then headed back the way we’d come so we could experience the road going the other way.

The history of Chama

Back in Chama, we walked around, had a piece of blueberry pie, and tried in vain to find the vaunted museum, but without result. There was a train station and a ticket office, but no museum. Ironic, since all the years we’ve come up here headed toward Taos we’d seen signs advertising the museum and always wanted to stop. In that way, Chama was a bit of a disappointment, but the hotel we stayed at last night was great, and breakfast this morning was good.

The 483 engine awaiting repair in Chama. Bet it's a lot more expensive to fix than my motorcycle!

We got back on NM 64 toward Abiquiu, another place we’d heard so much about but were disappointed with when we got there. It isn’t even a town, it’s a wide spot in the road. But, I still had a wonderful riding day with all the great roads around here. It’s pretty hard not to love it in New Mexico, at least in the mountainous and forested areas, if you are a motorcycle rider and love to ride fast curves, which I do!


One thought on “Day 6, Chama, Abiquiu, NM

  1. I have not been able to comment on your site since last week. Some vagary of Firefox, I suppose. Yesterday, I decided to use a Windows browser via emulator on my Mac and voila, the comment saved. When I first tried to comment on this post, I had some clever comments and then pointed you to a photo of the Durango-Silverton train that I photoshopped to remove traces of 20th century and added some aging and sepia. However, that was last week and I must have been more creative back then. I do like the shot of the engine pulling away under full steam and that is what reminded me of my own photo. (Here is the link:

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