"Double Trouble"

   It's been almost a month since I visited the Cumbres & Toltec, but I still remember my entire time there as I was shooting there yesterday. To date, the railroad is my favorite location to shoot steam railroading. With the original engines, freight cars, and passenger coaches from the 1920s (and earlier) running on the line they were built for, and many original structures still standing, the railroad is a total time warp. It's 64 miles of mind-boggling scenery and tough grades, and rich history. 

   The folks at the C&T are some of the nicest I've ever met, and they are pretty open about letting photographers and railfans explore their yard, as long as you aren't being an idiot (climbing on equipment without permission, going into the engine house without permission, etc). It was nice to shoot around and not worry about being arrested or being accused of terrorism or crime. Any employee I talked to expressed genuine interest in my work, and in their job. It's a nice balance of being friendly and professional. 

   The town of Chama, NM is a little town that nobody has ever heard of unless they live there or know about the railroad. It's got that charming small town vibe that is becoming harder and harder to find elsewhere. It really seems like time forgot about little Chama. 

   When I was booking my ticket in January, I entered a promo code to win a free cab ride (Normally a $1,000 value) and long story short, I was invited up into the hot cab of engine 488 at Cumbres (summit of the line, elevation 10,022 feet). The engineer and fireman were very easy to talk to, and most of our conversation revolved around anything but trains. We stopped for lunch in Osier and I had the best salad bar of my life, with a view to kill too. I was in the middle of having my third bowl when I heard the whistle from the other train coming in. I hurriedly shoved lettuce in my mouth and ran up the stairs three at a time and composed my shot as soon as the ground shook as locomotive 489 came rolling by. The rest of my cab ride to Antonito was largely the same, this time with a cloudy sky and a light rain to make the slow ride very relaxing, and I almost fell asleep a few times. I also got a lesson on locomotive firing and the local history as well, which proved to be interesting and humorous. If my time and resources permit, I will most definitely be coming back to visit some of my new friends and make some new memories and inspirational images. 

   Every morning, before the train leaves and most of Chama is just waking up, I was down in the Chama yard watching the morning crew get the engine (s) ready for their daily run. I didn't experiment too much for the first morning, as I wanted to get familiar with the area and operating procedures before I tried anything crazy. The second and final time shooting was when I whipped out my wide angle lens and decided I was going to use my feet to compose my shots, not my lens. With photography, you can't be afraid to fail or to try something new, because there's always that feeling of satisfaction when you release the shutter on that one shot that nobody else has ever gotten before. I've learned to stray from the photo line or the crowd and do the unthinkable, and I had been doing so in smaller amount, but the C&T was where I really hammered this concept home. As you go through the Cumbres & Toltec gallery, examine my photos to see what I mean, and how much of a difference a little creativity makes.