Passing Los Pino Tank. Having just rounded the hairpin at the north end of the Los Pinos Valley, Train 215, the Cumbres & Toltec daily westbound out of Antonito is now passing the Los Pinos Tank on her way toward Cumbres Pass, just about 5 miles ahead. The power on this day is the former DRGW 487, a K-36 Class Locomotive built in 1925. This particular engine is sporting a plow pilot, which looks a little out of place on this fine, early September day, but even though it is shirt-sleeve weather now, the snows are not that far off here in the high country, at just over 9,700 ft. MSL. I have personally seen several inches of snow in this very spot on more than one occasion, literally a week before the month of September was over.
The Los Pinos Tank that appears in this photo has been a fixture here since the 1890s. In fact for many years, there were other facilities here as well, including a section house, bunk house and coaling station. These facilities were often very handy for rotary crews working to keep the Cumbres line open in the winter. All except the tank have long since been removed. Until recently, the tank itself had been out of service for quite some time, but an effort by the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec has given the old tank a new lease on life. When this photo was taken, the tank was again active, although not typically used by the daily tourist trains. That all changed in 2015, when water problems at the Cumbres Pass Standpipe resulted in this tank being used by trains running in both directions for much of the season. Since the Los Pinos Valley is a popular spot for charter activity, the tank also quite handy, as charters have a tendency to use up water very quickly.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad are all that remains of the legendary Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow gauge system. Here you'll find some of my favorites from these two beautiful railways.