Cumbres & Toltec

Thunder Chicken Rides Again!

May 18, 2013

This 4-day, marathon trip almost didn’t happen. I started a new job in February and, naturally, lost all of my flexibility and half of my vacation time in the move. But, being able to see the historic first run of the newly restored #463 (affectionately called "Thunder Chicken") was something I simply couldn’t miss. So, I approached my new boss and we were able to work out a deal for a few days off. This translated to a 4-day trip, 2 of which were to be spent driving up there and back. This is the second time I've done this. It makes for a LONG weekend...


That settled, I needed to figure out a way to get there. My Ford F150 is 10 years old and rapidly closing in on 210,000 miles. In addition, she’s been in and out of the shop for the past year for various reasons. So, taking her to Chama, New Mexico one last time wasn’t going to be a good idea. We’re not quite ready to get a new truck (but will soon), so I settled on renting a vehicle. As it turns out, this was a good call because three friends later decided to tag along. In fact, I sucked up my pride and rented a mini-van so we’d be more comfortable. For the record, the Toyota Sienna will comfortably do 103 miles per hour… with pedal left to spare. Go figure.


I’ve known Barry and Blake Bogs for several years. Barry is a Master Model Railroader and the President/General Manager/Chief Mechanical Officer of the Colorado & Western Railroad in Spring. His layout is nearly as good and being in Colorado. It’s a wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling all-encompassing experience that is not to be missed by any serious fan of Colorado narrow gauge. In short, it’s absolutely incredible! His son, Blake, is an aspiring modeler and is quite accomplished as well. He’s also quite a good photographer. I met Brian Jansky at the Texas State Railroad a few years ago. He’s a great guy and a heck of a good photographer. We’ve taken a few trips to the TSR since then and have become friends.


As in a few previous trips, my work weeks have been insanely busy and I was pretty well worn out when it came time to go. I was so tired Friday night that I couldn’t sleep. As crazy as that sounds, it’s not an infrequent predicament I find myself in. So, when the alarm went off at 0300 Saturday, I’d been asleep for about 3 hours. Not how I wanted to start my weekend…


Brian spent the night and was already waiting for me when I stumbled into the kitchen. Barry and Blake showed up shortly after and we loaded up and headed out. Michele, being the smarter of the two in our relationship, decided to sit this one out. Shortly after departure into the inky darkness of East Texas, the guys crashed. It was quiet, dark, and cool. I was EXHAUSTED and no one was awake to keep ME awake. But, I got through it and we lived. The sun came up around Ft Worth and I felt quite a bit better after that.


We stopped in Amarillo to check out “Madam Queen,” AT&SF #5000. This was the 3rd time I’d stopped by, but the first time I spent the time to get up close. If you haven’t already heard it, I highly recommend getting a copy of “Madam Queen” by Ed Stabler. GREAT song. We also stopped to see AT&SF #5030 in Santa Fe. I’ve been by that spot a dozen times and never saw her. My thanks to Blake for showing me.


As we began the final push north from Santa Fe, Blake suggested that we visit Embudo on the famed Chili Line. Barry knew the way, so off we went.  The Depot and water tank were immediately obvious, as were several people staring back at us on the other side of the “No Trespassing” signs. We decided not to push our luck and got photos from afar. One more item checked off of the “bucket list.”



"Madam Queen" - AT&SF #5000 in Amarillo, Texas



For those that know him,

no one would agree that

Barry Bogs looks right in the cab of a broad-gauge

Santa Fe locomotive!!







Abandoned industrial trackage across from #5000

AT&SF #5030 in Santa Fe, New Mexico



Embudo, New Mexico - Once a helper station on the far-famed Chili Line of the

narrow gauge Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad



When you remove the stops in Amarillo and Santa Fe, we made the 1,000 mile trek to Chama in under 15 hours. This is a record for me!


On our arrival in Chama, we made the obligatory drive through the incredible Chama rail yard to soak in the long-awaited sights, sounds, and smells of a working, 19th century railroad.  We stopped by The Hotel (my preferred place to stay in Chama), to get my room key. I called Barbara Hogan the minute I found out that I could make the trip. To my great surprise, I was fortunate enough to get the last room. THANK YOU BARBARA!


Much to my chagrin, we hit the Subway for dinner. It’s the best Subway I’ve ever been in, but it’s just not Foster’s. I need to work on butching-up the intestinal capabilities of my buddies.




From the Camera of Blake Bogs

AT&SF #5000 in Amarillo, Texas

Jason in the cab on #5000

AT&SF #5030 in Santa Fe

Santa Fe Southern in Santa Fe, NM

Rail Runner in Santa Fe


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4