Anatomy of a Rotary. High above Highway 17, and just north of Lobo Lodge, the Cumbres & Toltec's Rotary Snow Plow OY continues to slice through the snow-pack as she clears the line from Chama to Cumbres Pass. Standing in the pilothouse door of this 1923 Alco product is Rotary Pilot and RR General Manager, Marvin Casias, a 3rd generation railroader. He is accompanied in the pilothouse by a copilot, John Mathews, who has control of the discharge chute and would also normally be raising and lowering the flanger blades. In the rear cab, we see Max Casias, Marvin's son, who is the Engineer, handling the throttle and reverse gear. Max has control of the power, speed and direction of rotation of the impeller, which is blowing the snow off the tracks. On the tender deck, a pair of Firemen, Jake Vigil and Lucas Maez maintain the steam pressure to provide power to the impeller. The rotary firemen fire the boiler and run the injectors to manage the water, just as they would on a regular locomotive boiler.
The rotary plow shares a lot of the very same features of a steam locomotive, except that it is not self-propelled and requires at least one pusher locomotive to move it along. The rotary has two cylinders, one on either side, again, just like a locomotive, except that these two cylinders rotate the central impeller shaft through a series of gearing arrangements. The steam engines are located behind the dark hatches that you see below the C&TS lettering. The rotary also has other appliances in common with a locomotive, such as an air pump to provide brakes, and a dynamo to power the armored headlamp and interior lights. It also has flanger blades underneath, which can be raised and lowered from the pilot house. In the case of Rotary OY seen here, everything except the flanger blades was operational for this trip. The actuator mechanism still needs rebuilding, but that was not an issue for this operation, as the crew was only demonstrating the operation of the rotary for the 150 attending photographers, and not truly opening the line. The railroad's operating season doesn't begin until around Memorial Day.
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.