This is my documentation from the
aspect as a reporter. This is NOT any official documentation of the
Cumbres & Toltec railroad, nor the Commission. If you saw this document via some
other web site, the original site of this document is
of the commission meetings can be viewed
Steve Forney provides most of the equipment required to record these meetings (and create the video clips, above). My thanks to him for doing so. It allows me to gain a copy of the audio to create this document.
The official commission site is: http://commission.ctsrr.com/
I may not have all of the “legal” terms correct. There may be spelling errors of persons or businesses. I paraphrase much of what was said. I try to indicate what the speaker means. This document serves to give the readers not present at the meeting a “pretty good” idea of what happened.
Content of this document is © 2022, Samuel B Seiber, all rights reserved.
Colorado Commissioners: Scott Gibbs, Mark Graybill
New Mexico Commissioners: William Lock, Billy Elbrock
President of the Cumbres & Toltec railroad: Scott Gibbs
Glossary (initialisms that may appear in this document):
C&TS: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
C19: Covid-19 virus
CRF: Car Restoration Facility, Antonito
CS: Colorado Springs, CO
CTO: Cumbres Toltec Operating company
D&RG: Denver & Rio Grande Railroad
D&S: Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
DFA: Department of Financial Administration (NM)
DRHS: Durango Railroad Historical Society
DTS: Dynamic Ticket Solutions (the ticketing company used by the C&TS)
FY: Fiscal Year
FRA: Federal Railroad Administration
HPA: Historic Preservation Account, or Historic Preservaton Association
HR: Human Relations
JBC: Joint Budget Committee (CO)
LFC: Leglislative Finance Committee (NM)
MOW: Maintenance Of Way
NF: National Forest
NM: New Mexico
NOI: Net Operating Income
ROW: Right of Way
RPO: Railroad Post Office
RR: Railroad, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, unless mentioned otherwise
SHF: State Historic Fund (CO)
TABB: Tracks Across Borders Byway
VIHR: Victorian Iron Horse Roundup (August 2021 special event)
YTD: Year To Date (fiscal normally)
‘the Friends’: The Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR, the museum arm, http://www.cumbrestoltec.org
Announcing the 2022 schedule November 15, and opening the web site for reservations made a huge impact on advance ticket sales.
The RR rescheduled or refunded 2,808 tickets due to the delayed opening from June 11, 2022 to July 1. The RR has exceeded
14,500 reservations as of July 27. Based on 2019 ticket sales of this time in 2019, the RR is projecting 31,000 guests.
By taking June off the operating schedule, cost the RR about 14,000 guests (compared to 2019), a significant impact to the
RR. Also the Chama water situation* also had significant impact on the RR. During the first two weeks of July, about every
reservation call asked if Chama had water. Albuquerque TV stations had several news stories of Chama NOT having water, but
not much about Chama HAVING water. That hurt early July ridership. In 2019, there were about 33,000 riders from July 1 to
end of season. It is hoped that this year the 31,000 number can be reached. Group sales to date are 3,258 compared with 3,808
in 2019. Scott acknowledged Amanda for recovering from the complete loss of institutional knowledge of the group sales process,
due to personnel transition. The RR finished the Chama express in July (ride from Chama to Cumbres pass and back). It was
interesting to see how many toddlers were on board. With those toddlers are parents and grand parents. The RR had 326 riders
on full trains, mostly families with small children. The delay in opening from Memorial day to June 11 allowed time to rebuild
part of the Osier station (due to last years fire). The early season fire danger led the commission to delay the opening to
July 1. This had an impact to the RR revenue of about $750,000. Based on past studies, the impact on the 5 county region is
about $2,600,000, a significant hit. In talking with both legislatures, and the NM governors office, the RR was thanked for
delaying the opening. It is unknown if the legislatures will help financially with recovering the loss.
The RR has taken on the management of recovery operations at Osier this last spring. Supply chain issues are quite a challenge, as they are for everyone else. During the delayed opening, employees were working on Osier station to recover from last years fire, to prepare the building for limited operations July 1. The upper floor and its bathrooms were first priority. The lower floor and its kitchen were second and third priorities. Most of the pluming has been repaired from melted and damaged piping. Most of the wiring has been replaced. Much of the sheetrock downstairs has been reinstalled. The sheetrock upstairs is nearly complete. The upstairs is waiting for texturing and paint. The layout of the upstairs is being modified to allow for more guest seating indoors. The current estimate of the recovery is going to exceeded $2,000,000. This revealed that the RR was under insured. The RR is reviewing all of the property insurance. The values of the structures and rolling stock will need to be increased, adjusted for inflation, as well as replacement costs. The property insurance to the commission increased by 50% this year. Liability and property insurance (combined) this year has increased insurance costs this year by 31%. Some was due to the increase in property values. The second reason is due to the adverse claims on the Osier property. This will create significant issues with increased costs.
This year the fire management plan was redrafted. Information regarding cinder size and temperatures for causes of ignition, and tables from the forest service on ignition, the RR came up with a three tiered approach. The oil burners could be operated during high probability of ignition. Oil, or coal burner operated by a master mechanic could be operated in a middle tier. Any locomotive could be operated in current conditions (as of the day the commission met). Both forest services and state forestry departments reviewed the plan. The Carson forest said it was the best fire management plan they have seen. They are going to refer that to the San Juan NF, and to Washington DC. This year there have been two small fires (between the gauge). One by the oil burner, one by a coal burner. Neither were from stack cinders. One from a burning rag that fell out of the firebox, another from a cinder from same. Due to changes from the Carson &Rio Grande NF, any future scattering of ash (human remains), will be very limited in nature. It will require much advance planning and permitting from the NF's.
Attendee John Bush asked if the fire plan was due to regulatory requirements by the NF's. Scott replied that the plan was drafted so as to stay ahead of the NF's telling the RR what to do. The NF's have not told the RR they can not run. The NF's trust the RR's plan. Unlike the San Juan NF, that tells the D&S when they can and can not run, The C&T manages its interface with the NF's. This keeps the RR out of the box the D&S is in. Commissioner Greybull mentioned the influence the D&S fire had on the insurance costs of the industry. It is very difficult to get insurance right now. Scott noted the RR gained its insurance 48 hours before the July 1 opening. Stressful! It was repeated that the entire insurance package increased 31%. There were substantial increases in the deductible, very substantial.
*This year, Chama had domestic water supply issues.
To have the RR ready to open July, there were several challenges. First getting Osier station ready for the guests. Getting test runs in on the equipment. The NF closures in June limited track availability. The first week of operations was a little rough, some trains running late. The bugs got worked out, and the trains were on time. Water sources have been established. When the current heavy rains end, there will be issues. Fire patrols should have access to water as needed. Water is available at Laboto, as well as the other common sources. Water is available in the trouble areas. Marvin said the NF's were happy with the RR's setup. The NF asked if they could use the RR's water if needed. Yes. The work on Osier has quick processes, as well as slow processes. Recent access was impossible due to the road conditions (heavy rain). Work will continue as conditions allow. Locomotive work is nearly complete (details later in this document). Some parts are yet on site. Outside shop work is delayed due to supply issues nation wide. The track department has been busy doing ditching. The recent rains have required good ditching to protect the ROW. The day before the meeting, it there were heavy rains on the Antonito side. A lot of running water in those first 10 miles out of Antonito. Minimal tie work has been done due to the other work being done. The current operational locomotive fleet can handle current business. Another locomotive should be ready for operations shortly. Work on the new parlor car is nearly at a halt due to lack of people to perform the work. It is close to completion. Commissioner Gibbs mentioned that the base wage on the RR was increased 19% last year. It is still tough to find help. It was asked if the track department is fully staffed. Marvin replied the track department is fully covered. A couple more would be nice. Not many people want to spike ties. It was asked how the recent weather is affecting the track crew. Marvin mentioned that the track crew has been working all over the line to clean up the issues. It was asked if the delay on the parlor car was due to being short handed. Marvin replied Yes. Attendee Joe Kanocz (a member of the friends) said that he asked several other members if they would be willing to pitch in on a special session to get the new car ready. He got a Yes from those members. This may be an avenue to speed up getting the new car ready to go.
Nothing mentioned at this point. The topic was addressed later in this meeting.
The HPA for FY 22 is not where desired due to the delay of opening day. Compared to last year, things are not as good. Things will improve as the funds from July operations are received. Commission balance sheet is where it should be for the end of June. Insurance money from the Osier fire has been received. Costs this year are much higher than last year, as the commission owns the buildings. The budget has been adjusted due to these costs, required for the NM audit process. The balance sheet for the commission remains strong. The funding support from CO was received. Thus the cash position is a lot higher than last year. Since the FY 21 &22 funding from CO was late, received last November. That is why the cash position is higher than last year. The operations balance sheet for June was not as expected. Operations expenses were less than last year, mostly to not running trains in June. June saw no operational income. The increased cost of insurance was mentioned. Also the period of insurance went from 12 months to 18 months. The CTO cash position was less than the prior year. This was due to refunds caused by the late opening this year. The RR applied to the IRS for the employee credit. That money has been received. The RR received (garbled) funds from NM. The RR is sitting on those funds pending instructions from NM on how it may be spent. Capital funds are a little more than last year. That fund is being used in part for Pay car F (part of the historic car fleet), as well as on new premium cars. Preparations for the annual audit are in full swing. The audit must be submitted to NM by November 1. The budget for FY 23 has been submitted. Commissioner Greybill mentioned that the delayed opening did impact the books. He also mentioned that community as well as government response to the delayed opening was the right choice by the RR. Attendee John Bush asked about the schedule for Pay car F, and how grant funding might be impacted. History Colorado will be asked to extend the deadline for the funding (grant), due to C19 delays. The extension is expected to be granted, thus no grant money should be lost. No completion date is yet available. The siding has been installed. Sill work is complete. the shell is moving forward. The roof structure is in place.
Marketing was impacted due to the delayed opening. The advantage of digital marketing is it can be adjusted quickly. Print ads were submitted, but could not be adjusted as easily. Even with the delayed opening this year, the digital marketing effort created 475 hard conversions. The web user saw the C&T ad, leading them to the RR's website, and booked a trip. There have been a lot more impressions. They get to the book now, then don't book. Possibly due to the gas prices. The ticket office is also getting calls regarding the Chama water situation. In the past, many bookings were done one to two weeks ahead of the trip. This year is seeing mostly three to four days prior to the trip. There are a lot more walk ups, than planning two weeks out. The major advertising efforts are through the CO & NM tourism sites. Those numbers are down from last season. They compare well with the 2019 season. Between June 18 and July 22, there have been 87 known media stories about the RR. The budget for the digital marketing can be adjusted based on performance. Commissioner Gibbs commented that numbers coming in from the CO hospitality revenue streams across the state is kind of a disaster. The fact the RR is doing as well as it is is good compared to other locations. Commissioner Graybill mentioned that the economy has softened up in the retail stores. Spending in the stores the commissioner operates has gone down about $2 per guest. The RR is doing pretty well considering the economic conditions. He is looking for a normal year in the near future.
Commissioner Graybill stated that Abby covered his portion.
Billy, in his contact with members of the Chama community, mentioned that they supported the delayed opening. They understood the reason, as much as they were disappointed it was required. The biggest disappointment was not having a normal big opening day like normal. Kim Casford &Abby have been out on the street quite a bit. The reporting was turned over to Kim. She said that she spent three days contacting the businesses of Antonito and Chama regarding the delayed opening. In general the feedback was disappointment, but appreciated the RR's stewardship of the property. The Chama radio station is back on the air, and the RR has a weekly show on Thursdays at 8:45. The plan is to have employees of the RR chat on the radio. Currently that is difficult due to the operational needs of the RR. The marketing budget found funds so the RR can build a parade trailer to build a float to be used in various community parades. The RR hosted “business after hours”, a chamber event during a time the RR was not running, and local businesses could attend. It was a chance to communicate together. Local appreciation days have been established. It will be August 16-31. It allows locals within a 50 mile radius 50% off the train fare. Attendee John Bush mentioned the Chama water problem. The fundamental problem still exists. Until there is a 60,000 gallon pretreatment tank, Chama is still in a tenuous position. Chama may need to purchase water from emergency funds. Conservation within Chama is very important to avoid a future crisis. There currently engineering challenges to design and build the tank. He mentioned during the meeting that several people thought the Chama water issue is over, when in fact it is not. The big issue is getting the water source pretreated fast enough. There were two major leaks in the water system, which have been fixed. There are still a lot of other leaks. A lot of them are at fire hydrants. There is a fair amount of work needed on that system. The major leaks have been addressed. There may be a need to buy water by Chama Days. Conservation is being very much encouraged. Kim mentioned that the RR has its own water supply, and does not use Chama water.
Scott wanted to add details to Marvin's presentatioin. Engines 168, 463, 484 &489 are currently operational. 484 spent the
winter in Antonito and had 16 tubes replaced as well as repairs on its tube sheets. 489 received extensive work on its firing
system. It is now much closer to the system used on the D&S K-36's. Parts supplied by the D&S have been installed. The 489
has run very well so far this season. The fire is very stable. Its prior puffing issue has been resolved. It has been a good work
horse so far this year. Parts are on order, as well as on hand to convert another K-36 to burn fuel oil. This year, used lubricating
oil from Aztec is being used, rather than used crankcase oil. A second K-36 will be converted over the coming winter. The entire
passenger car fleet saw work this year. Premium cars all received new carpeting. New woodwork was installed. There are piles and
piles of costly (brand) new ties to be installed. John Bush asked which engine will be next up for conversion to oil. Scott replied
that is will be either 484 or 487. 488 got a new smoke box this last winter. It also got its arch tubes replaced, along with other
work. It should be rolling out in the next few weeks. John then asked about 487 being ready for fall colors. Scott answered that
the supplier in Aztec is waiting for steel to make the parts. If they get the supplies on time, 487 will be ready to go. Steel is
the pacing item right now. John asked if a delay in 487 would affect the fireman/engineer schools. Scott said that with 488 rolling
out soon, things will be fine. Attendee Ken asked why it looked like the shops were empty on Mondays. Scott mentioned that the shop
guys are needed to fire locomotives, or run locomotives, like in past years. When trains operations are not running on Mondays, the
guys don't report to work, to save a service day. Work on Mondays are done within the hours of service laws. 315 is getting flue
sheet work done in Durango. The FRA hydro is planned for the Labor day weekend. (John asked if it would be ready for September or
October, but I couldn't hear an answer on my audio).
At this point in the meeting, prior commissioner Dan Love entered the room. Commissioner Graybill mentioned the 11 years of service Dan Love gave to the commission. The day prior to this meeting there was a special train (168 pulling the historic consist). Its passengers included a CO state senator, History Colorado persons, and the commissioners, as well as Dan Love. Dan mentioned that working with History Colorado can be a challenge. History Colorado is the major reason that funding comes from CO. Dan was pleased to be a part of this special train trip, and to help as he could on the trip. Commissioner Graybill mentioned that funding from CO has been difficult, especially due to the pandemic.
Commissioner Lock reported that Alysia had reported well on finances.
The annual wine train took place on July 9 this year. It has run the last 30 years. This year, that train was pulled by 463 (normally one of the K-36's). Work session E began July 18, F on the 25th. Attendance was down. Some due to the Chama water issue. Session D (June) was shutdown early due to the water issue. High gas prices were also blamed for the reduction in the attendance. Significant work was done on the drop bottom gondola, the idler flat car, cook car, 053, and the Lava pump house. Work was also done for the potty car used for the photo freights. Landscaping at both depots was also done. Baggage car 163 has been moved to Colorado Springs. Work will begin on it, and when finished, will join the historic fleet on the RR. A grant of about $25,000 has been received which will allow for the purchase of materials required for the work. Some work is required on the snow shed on Cumbres pass. The friends have arranged for a contractor to complete the needed repairs this year. The friends have a photo freight scheduled for September 24th. It is sold out at 50 people. The friends have a few meetings planned for the last week of October in Colorado Springs. The fall banquet will occur on the 28th, which is open to the public. John Bush asked about the car inspectors house. Ed replied that the interior has seen a lot of work. Nice work is being done on the wood work. Fireproof dry wall has been installed. Bead board work has been completed. The friends had planned on doing some ROW work, but that was not done as the RR was not operating. Work at Sublette had to be postponed as well, due to NF closure.
Capstone provides lobbying efforts. This regards the CO side. This isn't to exceed $24,000 plus expenses. Approved.
Adjacent to the rail yard, south of the Rio Chama Expresso. Approved.
This portion is a summary of the discussions. Complete details of the discussion can be seen and heard in the video recording.
This is not a transcript.
First up was Joe Kanocz. The chairman of the projects committee asked to use the internet in the depot. He was denied. Commissioner Gibbs replied that their cybersecurity people said they need to separate the business side from the friends side. To protect customer information, separation is required.
Joe had a second issue. He is representing several Chama businesses. He asked why the Chama depot has a Blue Bunny ice cream freezer, a product carried by Chama merchants for over 10 years. Kim Casford answered that she talked with the merchant that had a Blue Bunny freezer, and she had no problem with the RR having one.
Joe's third comment regarded Kim Casfords ownership of the Vista Del Rio Lodge. Could there be a conflict of interest. Kim replied that she owns the buildings and the land. She does not own the business. She has no input on its day to day operations.
Next up, Ken Throneberry. He explained his work on the fire patrol speeders. He couldn't get get help to perform work. He found a guy to work, but HR said no. Ken commented that this HR issue lead him to quit. In the past he did the maintenance of the speeders. Now none is being done. Fire patrol is afraid to use them. Commissioner Graybill replied that HR issues are not for a public meeting. Marvin said he looked over all of the motor cars. He had to straighten the wheels. The cars have been looked over. Marvin feels that they are safe. Marvin mentioned he won't put people on motor cars that are unsafe. Sometimes they might conk out on the line, but they are safe. Things are inspected on a daily basis. Commissioner Gibbs said that as part of the fire mitigation program, the motor cars are inspected every morning and evening. The inspection forms for the cars are patterned after the locomotive form 2's. These are kept in a log, as are the form 2's.
No executive session required for this meeting.
** An Executive Session may be called at any time during the meeting, pursuant to Commission Relolution 2021-001,
adopted November 13, 2021, to dicuss limited personnel matters, Attorney-client privlilege pertaining to
threatining or pending litigation in which the public is or may become a participant and dicussion of the
purchase, acquisition or disposal of real property or water rights by the Commission. The Commission may
revise the order of the agenda items considered at this Open Meeting.
Commission meetings are open to the public. If you are an individual with a disability who needs an auxiliary aid, service, or other accommodation to attend or participate in a hearing or meeting, please contact the Commission office at 575.219.3306 at least 3 days prior to the meeting so that accommodations can be made accordingly.