In words and pictures, Robert Falconer shares his experiences of participating in a week of photographic charters in the USA, resulting in the capture of a host of wonderful images of steam amid the stunning landscape.
Many of us have a wish list or bucket list, featuring amongst other things the places we have longed to visit. I have been lucky to see steam in action all over the world, from China to Cuba and around the UK, to some preserved lines in the USA. One place had eluded me however, a big railway with a big reputation for being a very impressive line – the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad.
This 3ft narrow gauge line runs for 64 miles across the Colorado and New Mexico border, climbing to Cumbres summit, just over 10,000ft and passing Toltec Gorge, 600ft above the river below, a stunning challenge for steam.
So when I heard Bob Branch mention in 2017 that the following year he was planning to head west to go on some photographic charters at the railway in the autumn, or ‘fall’ of 2018, I just had to take this chance to visit the line I had always wanted to see.
I met up with Bob Branch and David Huntbatch who had also been involved in planning the itinerary of our trip and booking hotels and car hire, in Denver. Another three enthusiasts would also join us there.
The first couple of days were spent photographing the many heavy diesel-hauled freights which cross America. Some of them can be two miles long and double stacked.
Sherman Hill in Wyoming was a very popular place. This was once the stomping ground of the mighty ‘Big Boys’ in the 1930s and 40s.
It would have been amazing to have seen these impressive machines, the largest steam locomotives built in the world – a single locomotive designed to pull 3600 tons.
Sadly, I had to use my imagination, but I was able to see one!
Amazingly, Big Boy No. 4004 is located in a corner of Holiday Park in Cheyenne. Standing next to it gives a sense of how much power these engines must have generated.
Read more and view more images in Issue 253 of HR – on sale April 12!
Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.