Cumbres & Toltec holds first test run for 136-year-old Rio Grande locomotive

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Denver & Rio Grande No. 168 makes its first test run in the Antonito, Colo., yard on Sept. 27, 2019.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

ANTONITO, Colo. — One of the country’s smallest and oldest steam locomotives was doing its best to grab the spotlight this weekend, even as two of America’s largest and most modern steamers — Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 in Wyoming and Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 at Pennsylvania's Strasburg Rail Road — were attracting crowds.

On Friday night, 3-foot gauge Denver & Rio Grande 4-6-0 No. 168 ran for the first time in 70 years, following an extensive restoration at the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Friday’s test run consisted of a brief trip around the Antonito yard. C&TS Assistant General Manager Stathi Pappas says the 136-year-old Baldwin locomotive was being fired up again on Monday for another test.

“The test went great,” Pappas says of the locomotive’s first run since 1938.

No. 168 has been under restoration for the last few years and will be matched up with a set of historic wooden passenger cars currently under construction to replicate the Rio Grande’s San Juan Express. The completed train will likely be one of the highlights of next year’s 50th anniversary celebration of the C&TS.

The Cumbres & Toltec received Trains Magazine’s 2018 preservation grant for its work on No. 168. [See “Western narrow gauge steam locomotive wins Trains’ 2018 Preservation Award,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 10, 2018.]

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