Rio Grande Explorations


Friend's of the Cumbres & Toltec - Work Session A

May 20-24, 2015

Collaborative Video of Opening Day 2015

Special thanks to Jae Kanocz and Brian Jansky for use of their video footage.

Because three FCTS Members joined forces for this, I branded it as a Friend's Video.


This unplanned trip to Chama was a rare luxury in these days of having a toddler in my life. But, duty called and thanks to my gracious wife, I was able to answer.


[Back Story] Originally, the web camera project called for 3 cameras; the two on the Coal Tipple and a third on the Bathroom Building facing the Chama Depot. I was told that C&T GM John Bush nixed the third camera, but was never given the reason why. So, alternate ideas of installing it at Cumbres and Osier were batted around, but nothing was ever decided. The ideal spot would have been Antonito, but the internet infrastructure is insufficient to handle it. Actually, there's a better wireless connection (to Chama) on Cumbres Pass than standing in Antonito Yard with the town just a few blocks away.


[Present Day] In early-spring 2015 the idea of using the Chama web-cameras for TV weather/news broadcasts came up again. This time I called C&T Marketing Director Lee Bates and asked him directly what the situation was and offered to help. He told me that he'd already been in talks with a station in Albuquerque but that they wanted a closer view than the existing two cameras could provide. I mentioned the existence of the third camera and original plan and Lee jumped at the idea. He hung up with me to chat with John Bush. Not five minutes later he called back and said it had been approved. Then he asked when I could come up and do the installation. A flurry of activity followed as I got spousal permission and then called Tim Tennant and John Engs. Everyone was on board with the idea. My next calls were to Joe Kanocz, Rich Murray, and Steve Forney in an attempt to assemble a team for the project. Rich couldn't make it, but Joe and Steve could. Per a suggestion from John Engs, we planned to arrive at the end of Work Session A with the intention of having the new camera ready for Opening Day. Keeping this a secret, we were able to give the fans and supporters a pretty nice surprise.


Day I

Drive Day


I took Monday and Tuesday off to spend time with my son, Noah, before the trip. So, as strange as it may sound, I was fairly well rested come Tuesday night / Wednesday morning... and I couldn't sleep. After a few restless hours I gave up, got dressed and hit the road. Departure was around 0200. I arrived in Chama around 1800, I think. My memory of the trip is a bit fuzzy.


No pictures.

Day II

Work Day


Warning: Network Engineer Techno-babble. Read at your own risk.


There was FAR more to do than simply installing the camera. Because we'd used up our block of Public IP's, I had to put in a firewall capable of doing port-forwarding and NATing. Not an especially difficult task, but not one that I had personally done before. I built the config for the firewall well in advance and triple checked everything. So, while Steve, John, and Joe mounted the pole for the camera and ran the cabling for the grounding, I took down the camera network and re-IP'd everything to create a new private LAN. That done, I installed the firewall and started testing. Only a single glitch was found: I had the port numbers reversed in my NAT statement. Didn't take too long to figure out and I only lost a marginal amount of hair... not that it matters at this point.


After a few calls to the ISP that re-broadcasts the streams from the cameras, I was satisfied that the new network was working normally. I tested the heck out of EVERYTHING multiple times. I'm not about to make a 1000-mile trouble call if something breaks. In fact, a spare firewall and switch were labeled and staged in case there ever is a problem.


During a brief period of down-time (I forget what I was waiting on), I climbed the Coal Tipple to clean the lens covers. I also recovered one of the 2 mics mounted there and re-routed both the North and South camera through the remaining mic. The plan was to use the extra mic for the Depot Camera.


We got quite a bit done on the first day. Far more than I expected to. John, Steve, and Joe were freakin' awesome. When we called it quits late that afternoon:

-All of the devices on the network were re-IP'd

-The new LAN was in place and working

-The new firewall was in place and the NATing was working perfectly

-The camera pole was mounted and grounded

-North and South Cams had lens covers cleaned

-North Cam mic issue was resolved by re-routing to good mic

-The new camera was IP'd, configured, MOUNTED, wired, and tested

  (Steve & Joe patched the new cam into the network)

-The ISP was able to connect to and successfully re-broadcast the stream from all 3 cameras


Essentially, all that was left was adding the new camera to the webpage. That's one HELLUVA good day's work!


I quickly built a test webpage for the new camera and emailed my beta crew to test it out. In the cozy warmth of my room at The Hotel, I was able to watch the freezing rain fall on the yard near the new camera. Despite the weather, the view was every bit as awesome as we'd hope it would be.


Joe took us to Patsy's on the south side of town for dinner. It doesn't look like much, but the food was great.


No pictures this day. Too busy.



Work Day


Day 3 dawned and I was optimistic. So much had been accomplished the day before that we were sure to finish the few tweaks that remained... even if Murphy showed up. I wish I'd taken a photo of my "office" in the Depot. With my 2 laptops set up on a make-shift desk made of boxes, the web camera, 2 firewalls, a MiFi hotspot, a switch, and dozens of data and electrical cables running every which-way, it sure looked impressive. Probably the largest collection of electronic gadgetry ever assembled in the century-old Depot.


We hit one minor snag. The external mic had a bad short, rendering it inoperable. Fortunately the camera's internal mic worked just fine. John agreed to get the busted mic replaced and we left all the necessary cabling staged to make installation a relatively easy task.


Snow on my truck at The Hotel!


Morning view from the balcony at The Hotel.

I got some coffee and breakfast from the mall next door and savored the view in the cool morning air.


The new camera, as seen from the hotel.


A vague attempt at art.


Chama Depot is quiet and peaceful 24 hours before Opening Day.


Joe is painting the newly mounted pole and brackets on the Bathroom Building.



The handiwork of John Engs, Steve Forney, and Joe Kanocz.

Well done, gents. Truly outstanding work!


Steve takes a turn painting.


To adjust the view of the new camera, I got on the roof with my iPad.

This is certainly a different vantage point to see the yard.










The new Depot Camera






By lunch we finished tweaking the alignment of the new camera and had all the necessary mic cables run. Everything was working just as it should. I even did a full reset of all the hardware (cameras and network) twice to make sure everything would come back up as planned.  Then, I spent part of the early afternoon getting the webpage configured. About 1500 MT the Depot Camera went live and I posted the surprise on the Friend's web forum.


The final two tasks for the day were pretty simple. I climbed back up on the tipple, cracked the case on the South Camera and pulled back on the zoom to show the warehouse and ash pit, along with 483 and the roof of the Sand House. I used my iPad to adjust the focus. The juxtaposition of the technology at my fingertips while standing on a 90 year old coal tipple still blows my mind. I'm forever grateful to the Friend's for letting me do this.


While internet users everywhere gawked at the new view from the South Camera, I went to the Bunk House to fix the WiFi router. With all the other changes, I nearly overlooked this. Took about 10 minutes to change the IP and DHCP scope and it was back in business. That done, Joe and I put all of the FCTS gear back in storage and called it a day.


Another darn good, productive day!


Foster's provided the chow this night and, as always, the food was tasty... if marginally questionable. =)


I finished out my evening by chatting with my buddy, Brian Jansky and his wife Emily. They drove up from Houston and were starting a 10 day vacation in God's Country. Opening Day on the C&T was their first event. We sat on the balcony at The Hotel for a good bit and swapped stories while Emily looked at baby pictures of my toddler son. It was a good evening after a long couple of days.


Day IV

Chase/Explore Day

Opening Day 2015

I arrived early to get some photos before the crowd showed up.

The rumor mill was abuzz that NM Governor Martinez would in attendance. But, she was a no-show.





487 getting a 1472


The Friend's have been cosmetically restoring 483. However, she is now slated

to be traded to the D&S for 478, so I imagine these efforts will be curtailed.



Lose sander valve?



Cleaning out the ash pan




Winter remnants in the high country


The Swamp










488 was scheduled to be the Helper with 484 as the Road Engine. However, there appeared to be an issue with the grate shaker bar on 488. The crew worked on it for about 15 minutes, then moved her back to the Engine House and brought out 489 to run as the Helper.




















Hmm... I don't think that came from Baldwin.

This is a concession to running a 1920-era steam railroad in the mountain wilderness of 2015: you need good communications. This is part of the new all-digital system the C&T uses.


When you stand back a few feet, you really can't see the antennae.



The beautifully restored interior of RPO 054







Opening Day 2015 Festivities and Ceremonies.


C&T President & General Manager John Bush



Roger Hogan at work near Lobato


Joe Kanocz and I teamed up to get video of the double-header. So, most of my time was spent getting video shots and not still photographs. I think the completed video was well worth it. This was the second time Joe and I teamed up to do this.


At the top of the hill, 489 cut off and ran through the wye for the trip back down to Chama.



Pretty sure my 2015 Christmas Card is going to be one of these shots.






484 took the train on to Antonito. As it passed me, I threw a large snowball up to Brian and Emily in the gondola. It missed them both and smashed into the platform of the Parlour Car behind. Fortunately no one was standing there!


Looking east down the Rio de Los Pinos gorge towards Osier.




Some random snow photos on the hike back to the top.










The Car Inspector's House



Section House


My new truck. This was her first trip to Narrow Gauge Country.





I caught up with 489 at the 2nd Crossing...


...and then chased her to Dalton.




Passing Dalton and continuing down to Lobato.


Another shot of my truck. I couldn't be happier with her performance.




The hanger and terminal at Chama International Airport


After getting back to Chama, I checked in on the cameras and forum to make sure everything was working as it should be. I decided to chase and not ride for just this reason. This was my final day in Chama and if a problem was found I needed to be able to fix it and not be "trapped" on the train. Fortunately, there were no issues.


I got lunch at the Box Car Cafe and bought some souvenirs at The Hotel, the Chama Mall, and the new gift shop in the Freight Dock of the Depot. The new Depot gift shop is quite nice. Check out the graffiti on the wall if you go in there. Some of it dates back nearly a century.


All of my shopping done, I ran back up the hill to catch Train 215 coming over from Antonito.


Car Inspector's House still covered in winter snow.


Back door of the house and front of the "barn"


The "Barn"


I wrote my son's initials on the snow




The Section House as seen from the porch of the Car Inspector's House




Train 215 with 463 on point arrives at Cumbres





Train 215 at Windy Point



Windy Point as seen from Coxo / Perry's Pond



Crossing Highway 17 at Coxo



Old Highway 17 curves towards the abandoned crossing that 463 is passing.

Windy Point and Cumbres are in the background.


Perry's Pond. Named for famed railroad photographer Otto Perry.




Cresco, Colorado


Ess Curve










Engineer Jeff Stebbins




Dalton, New Mexico




Lobato Lake




Jukes Tree



Chama Native (center)



My buddy Joe cut about 7 cords of firewood from Cumbres and was kind enough to send me

home with a truckload, about a cord. This was a very generous gift. THANK YOU, JOE!


My new pile of Fir and Pine from Cumbres piled in my backyard to season all summer.


Day V

Drive Day

No photos. Too Tired.


Most of my solo trips between Chama and Spring were accomplished in right at 15 hours. However, I did this one in 13.5 hours. Totally blew my mind. Nearest I can figure is that the new truck makes better time and, truth-be-told, I rarely dropped below 80. I hit 100 at least a half dozen times. And, perhaps... since the route is primarily "downhill" all the way from Chama (7,800') to Spring (90'), all that extra weight from the firewood helped propel me along! =)