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When I was no more than 4, I rode the train from Chama to Antonito with my Dad. It was a rather uneventful memory. The train had stopped in a grassy meadow for passengers to picnic. The wind made the grass move like the ocean and the sound lulled me to sleep. From my slumber I was startled awake by the train whistle. I re-boarded the train in a rather foul mood and anxious to finish the train ride. To say the experience formed a sort of nostalgia might be a stretching it.
As I grow older, I don’t often find myself visiting popular tourist destinations. If your at all familiar with my travels, this is an easy deduction. I still have a tough time entering National Parks without feeling like I’m at Busch Gardens. The farther off the beaten path the better. Amongst a few other American Southwest icons, I have a weak spot for anything related to trains. I leave all my travel inhibitions behind for a few good train shots. While you won’t catch me dead in a pair of Oshkosh overalls or in a conductors hat, I’d put up with just about any crowd for an open-air train ride. The billowing smoke and grumbling tracks numb the feeling of long winded snowbirds and screaming children. If I’ve offended you thus far, you had better stick with New Mexico Magazine.
I walked the tracks at Chama and couldn‘t help but be captivated while weaving and wandering in between the various abandoned railcars. Some were dilapidated and long past use while others had been restored to their original glory. The entire scene was eerily quiet but for my footsteps grinding into the gravel between the tracks. The dusk sunlight broadsided the railcars illuminating the contents of each. I peered between the wood slats and through the hazy car windows hoping to see something curious. It was a passenger car that provided most interesting. Whether it was retired or resting for the season, the passenger car’s worn floor and school chairs told of the thousands that had come aboard over the years. The silence seemed to heighten the feeling that this railcar was happy to finally rest. Possibly I had sulked in one of these plastic seats twenty some years ago.
This trip to Northern New Mexico was about having no plan, capturing the fall colors and experiencing solitude. When the weather warms next spring, I wouldn’t be against riding the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in classic tourist style; picnic lunch, grassy meadows…I had better stop myself there.
Possibly this trip was a bit more nostalgic than I thought.