A recognized leader in the historic railroad preservation community, the 2,500 member Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Inc. is the official museum arm of the 64-mile Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The Friends manage the preservation, interpretation, museum and restoration efforts of the railroad. In particular, the Friends assume the responsibility of preserving the railroad’s historic assets that are not utilized in regular tourist train operations and interpreting the railroad to the general public.
The Friends got its start in 1981 when Founder Bill Lock, an Albuquerque Attorney, grew concerned that no one was caring for the railroad’s irreplaceable collection of historic rolling stock and structures. Bill had recently read “The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, The Historic Preservation Study” by Spencer Wilson and Vern Glover. That year he convinced railroad management to allow him and a friend to paint and refurbish an old refrigerator car body. Attorney Lock and a growing number of volunteers returned to the railroad each summer thereafter, primarily concentrating on the stabilization and restoration of the historic rolling stock fleet.
The Friends then officially incorporated in 1988 as a 501(c)(3) New Mexico non-profit organization. The long weekend work gatherings evolved into our present week-long work session format. Now, the Friends offer seven week-long work session opportunities starting in May and concluding in September where groups of up to 125 volunteers gather along the railroad to work on specific preservation projects.
Over the years, these projects have encompassed virtually all of the railroad’s historic buildings, restoration of a good cross section of the rolling stock, renovation of line-side signs, brushing and landscaping improvements.
Typically during the work session season over 400 work slots are filled contributing in excess of 25,000 hours of labor. In addition to the work sessions the Friends supply four docents daily to ride the regularly scheduled C&TS trains providing approximately 4,500 hours of volunteer time. Our Dorman Photo Collection team works tirelessly and provides in excess of 1,000 hours scanning, identifying and cataloging these historic images. Collectively, our volunteer Board of Directors has donated in excess of 10,000 hours per year to the Friends organization in addition to their work session activities. These numbers do not include the many hours that are contributed by our Colorado Springs work site team.
The Friends work sessions are amazingly productive because of pre-planning that clearly defines work, provides leadership, identifies and assigns needed skills and pre-positions material and tools. Moreover, an exceptional work ethic has developed that keeps people focused on the tasks at hand.
The Friends are recognized for authoring the nomination that attained National Historic Landmark status for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (Denver & Rio Grande San Juan Extension) on October 16, 2012. In 2013 the Friends completed a $1.3 million restoration of D&RGW K27 Steam Locomotive 463 to fully operational condition. The Friends are a member of Heritage Rail Alliance formerly known as the Association of Tourist Railroads & Railway Museums.