Cumbres and Toltec Commission meeting 26-Aug-23

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 Videos & written reports of all commission meetings that exist can be found here: Index of videos/reports
My thanks goes out to Steve Forney for his help in recording these meetings. This allows for the production of the written reports as well as the video presentations.
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Video of this meeting can be seen at: YouTube video of this meeting

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 © 2023, Samuel B Seiber, all rights reserved.

Colorado Commissioners: Scott Gibbs, Mark Graybill
New Mexico Commissioners: Kim Smith-Casford, Billy Elbrock
President of the Cumbres & Toltec railroad: Scott Gibbs

Glossary (initialisms that may appear in this document):
ARPA: American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
BAR: Budget Adjustment Request
C&TS: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
C19: Covid-19 virus
CO: Colorado
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
NOI: Net Operating Income
NM: New Mexico
ROW: Right of Way
RPO: Railroad Post Office
RR: Railroad, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, unless mentioned otherwise
SHF: State Historic Fund (CO)
SLV: San Louis Valley, the area that contains Antonito
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,

Commissioner Gibbs notified the audience that Billy Elbrock was not able to attend the meeting.

1. Call meeting to order

2. Pledge of Allegiance

3. Approval of Agenda

Commissioner Smith-Casford requested that the agenda be modified. The amount in item 13c should read $380,000

4. Approval of the Minutes from the May 20, 2023 Regular commission meeting

5. Approval of the Minutes from the August 17, 2023 special meeting

6. President's Report-Scott Gibbs

Scott prepared a report, and read it to the meeting. This was his written report:

It has been an interesting quarter! With the New Mexico Governor’s requirement for the President/General Manager position to be separated from the Commissioners appointments, we initiated a search for my replacement immediately after the last Commission meeting. The position was advertised on LinkedIn, Indeed, Zip Recruiter and the Heritage Rail Alliance newsletter. We received 30 applicants for the General Manager position. A team of CTO managers reviewed all the applications, scored them against the Job Advertisement for required and desired skills. The team then interviewed 16 of the 30 applicants. The search team briefed the Commissioners during a special meeting held on August 17, 2023. The short list of applicants from this meeting will be interviewed over the next two weeks by the Commissioners in special meetings. If the hiring process progresses as expected this should be my last President’s report to the Commission.

The contract for the Lava water tank rehabilitation has been awarded. The work is expected to take about 6 weeks from delivery of the materials. The saw-mill in Taos is cuttng all the replacement wood. They should begin cuttng wood in another 10 days.

Extensive tie replacement has been happening between MP 302 and MP 303. Overall, 813 ties have been installed and 3,280 tons of ballast have been spread across the railroad. The track has been surfaced in several sections on the east side of the railroad and several points on the west side of Cumbres Pass. Additional surfacing work will take place on the west side of the pass this fall. Three slow orders that developed due to the hard winter on the west side of the pass were removed as the track was surfaced on the west side this year.

The installation of the new potable water treatment plant has been completed in Osier. Colorado has now removed the water notifications that have been in place since I arrived in June of 2021 have been removed. When Colorado recategorized the Osier spiring as ground water under the influence of surface water and we were required to upgrade the water treatment plant. The new water plant cost $79,027.

The Osier dining hall kitchen has been functional since June 10, 2023. We passed the Colorado State Health inspection, and the Conjeos County Fire inspection. All the kitchen equipment with the exception of the walk-in cooler has been replaced. The serving tables upstairs were also replaced. We added additional tables to fill the additional seating space on the lower floor as we opened up dining space. We recently ran a short two-week survey of our premium class customers and ask them about their lunch experience. The overall rating on a scale of 1 to 5 is 4.1. Many customers wanted more time to eat. The menu received many positive comments, especially from guests with food allergies or desiring a Vegan meal. All food is now cooked from scratch either in the Osier kitchen or What the Truck’s Santa Fe kitchen. A total of 17 employees of What the Truck support the Osier dining facility, working in Osier or Santa Fe.

Outlaw BBQ in Chama has chartered two trains for the fall color season. These trains will originate at their restaurant and return to the restaurant. These two trains will run on September 27 and October 4. Departure time is 3:00 pm. The restaurant will serve their guests dinner after the train trip. The railroad is helping to market these trains. We also have two photo charter trains on October 19 and 20 for Dak Dillion. These trains feature the 168 and the historic passenger consist and 463 with a freight consist.

We have requested proposals to remove the Cumbres Pavilion. The snow load on the structure last winter caused a catastrophic collapse of the building. None of the building structure is salvageable. It should be removed before snowfall.

The Finance department was elevated to report directly to the General Manager/ President on May 10 just prior to the last Commission meeting. Since that time, Alysia Martinez has hired additional financial staff and restructured the Department. She is establishing performance metrics for her department. The FY22-23 audit has been initiated with SJT Group LLC. The new budget structure that was approved at the last Commission meeting is being implemented with the assistance of Burt and Company CPA firm.

The Antonito shop has been busy with repairs on diesel 15 and 19. The 15 received a rebuilt traction motor, work on the cooling system, fuel injectors, addition of a battery to bring it back to a 72 volt system for starting and a full inspection. The locomotive can now be used outside of the yard limits. The 19 broke an axle while returning from flanging the line into Osier earlier this year. The axle failure was a classic fatigue failure of the axle. A spare traction motor, gearbox, and axle were installed while the locomotive was located in Sublette after the locomotive was retrieved from the failure site about two miles west.

The 484 and the 488 have been the go-to locomotives this season. Both are now close to their first 92 service day inspections and boiler washes.

The 463 suffered a slipped driver tire on the engineer’s side 3rd axle. The wheel set was removed. The wheel needed to be machined to clean up the tire seating surface. It was taken to Chama and the large wheel lathe was used to turn the wheel. It was taken back to Antonito where a shim was fitted between the tire and wheel when the tire was reinstalled. The locomotive is back in service. While in Antonito the engine received a 31-day inspection and boiler wash.

Work on the 487 is continuing. The hardware from the old tender cistern has been transferred to the new cistern. New white oak supports have been ordered to place between the tender frame and the cistern. The frame has been inspected and will receive a coat of paint before the new cistern is installed. Work on the firebox has been much more extensive than originally thought was required last year. The original scope was the installation of two new side sheets in the firebox. Afier a full inspection, the engine needed a lower section of the inner door sheet, lower side sheets, lower section of the rear flue sheet, a partial throat sheet, and a flush patch on the engineer’s side blow down valve in the outer sheet. All the new sheets have been fabricated, fitted, the welding is about 80% completed. Steven Butler and the Antonito shop also fabricated corners for the 480’s firebox repairs underway in Durango when the new corners were fabricated for 487. Once the firebox welding is completed, we will complete the oil conversion. The conversion will include a new petticoat pipe as well as the D&S style firepan and door air damper. All the materials to complete the oil conversion are on hand.

Work continues on the 489. The new fire pan has been installed replacing the one that failed at the end of last season. All the oil and atomizer piping has been refabricated to fit the new firepan. The burner has been installed and fire brick is now being put into place. This represents version 2.0 of the oil conversion on the 489. All the rod brasses have been completed. The trailing truck still needs some work on the fireman’s side thrust bearing before it is ready to reinstall under the locomotive.

The 168 and the 315 will be used on Friends of the C&TS charters on Monday the 28th and Tuesday the 29th. I would like to thank Steven Butler, Joslyn Comstock and Max Casias for their work on the 168 cylinder saddle. In January, I was not sure the failure of the saddle on both sides of the locomotive would not cause us to retire the locomotive again. I am convinced that the failure on the engineer’s side, and the patch the D&RGW made on the saddle contributed to the locomotive’s original retirement.

The 492 was moved off the isolated track north of the Chama shop. The tender has been moved to the track next to the ash pit. The locomotive is sittng north of the shop building. The external inspections have begun. The first set of parts of the rod order arrived this month. The remainder of the rods will arrive over the next year.

On June 3, 2023 we rolled out the new parlor car. Cate Kratville-Wrinn attended opening day. She unveiled the new car named the Jim Wrinn in honor of her late husband. The car’s first trip over the railroad was an eventful one with one of the trucks suffering 5 hot boxes on one axle. We changed the truck and have not had any further issues with the car. This car has been added to the fall consist on Fridays out of Antonito and Saturdays out of Chama. There are 6 Saturdays in September and October where the additional parlor car and an additional coach will require double headed trains out of Chama. There are still a few parlor car seats available on the new car.

The fiscal year 2023-24 State appropriations cycle has begun. The Commission requests two types of funds from each state. We request funding for Commission operations. These funds cover the property insurance costs to protect the capital assets of the two States and a small amount for financial staff, and state mandated audits. The other form of funding we request is a capital appropriation for track, locomotive and passenger car investments. We are in the three-year appropriation cycle for the Colorado funding for Commission and Capital. We have requested an additional $500,000 for wildland fire mitigation along the right of way. We are also submittng our requests to New Mexico. We will be asking for a small increase in Commission funding to help cover the rapidly increasing cost of property insurance.

We are seeing a very different trend in ticket bookings. There is a shift in the demographics riding the railroad with a younger group of guests booking this year. We are also seeing fewer bookings via phone and many more via internet sales. Prior to COVID about 40% of ticket sales were booked via the internet. Today we are seeing about 66% booked via the internet, most of these bookings on smart phones. There has also been a significant increase in walk-up sales the morning of departure. Overall bookings are 24,975 as of Wednesday the 23rd. Revenue from bookings is higher than any of the past 5 years.

Our target for retail sales in the two gift shops for this fiscal year is 5% of estimated ticket revenue. As of this meeting we are well over half-way to this goal. Many items have sold out and have been reordered for the fall color season. Kalee’s designs have had many very positive comments. The reaction of the parlor car passengers to the Holiday ornaments has been very positive. Then they discover this is the first year of a series many talk about returning next year.

End of prepared report

Commissioner Graybill mentioned that some trains have 2 parlor cars. So, not all parlor cars are at the end of the train. The additional parlor cars brings up capacity for that level of service. Commissioner Gibbs mentioned the fact that the Antonito shop did a great job finishing the new parlor car. This is the first car in the fleet with steel siding (sourced from the D&S). It should hold up well, and it really didn’t increase the weight of the car. Mr. Graybill mentioned how having all of the passenger cars repainted have made for a great looking train.

7. Superintendent's Report-Marvin Casias

The first part of the season was spent getting everything ready. As the season begins, equipment moves back and forth, and problems develop. The equipment is aging, and surprises happen. There were problems with journal brasses that were taken care of. The few engine problems have been corrected. The new big problem is lack of water at the spring boxes for the water tanks. Some water needs to be hauled into Sublette, as its spring is running low. The trains have been running pretty much on time. Locomotive 15 was brought to Antonito. Its traction motors have been replaced, as well as some electrical work. It has been returned to Chama, giving them a good switcher engine. Locomotive 19 suffered a broken axle last year while flanging snow. It was towed to Sublette, to be repaired there. It is back in service. His staff worked on the dinning hall at Osier. It is fully in service now. The customers are pleased the dinning hall is back. Fire patrol is doing an excellent job behind the trains. There has been some cross training in Antonito for the fire patrol. Should there be an immediate need for a patroller, one should be available. The patrol have been attentive to their equipment. They have been leaving the equipment ready for the next person.
Work on pay car F (historic consist) continues by Zell. Truss rods have been installed. Interior work on that car has been progressing. Zell has also been working on 487’s tender frame. This year, track crew has been helping Marvin. To return the favor, he plans on moving some ballast for the track crew.
Commissioner Graybill mentioned that repairing 19 out on the line was amazing. Most RR’s the size of the C&T would call in a contractor to the tune of $100,000 to $150,000. Marvin provided a quality team. The Antonito team moved to Sublette for the repair. The older team members mentored the younger (new) team members on how to perform the job, and what mistakes to not make. They repaired the locomotive in a week so it could return to Antonito. The team found fun in the job, which makes the work satisfying.
Marvin was asked by John Bush about the water situation at Sublette and Cumbres pass. He replied that both sites have low water flow this year. Lack of rainfall since the end of May seems to be to blame. John went further to thank Marvin for getting the two diesel locomotives going. He pointed out how moving locomotives in Chama requires a front end loader or another locomotive. John also pointed out the value in the cross training. Marvin pointed out how the employees would jump in to get the job done.

8. Financial Report-Alysia Martinez

Alysia focused her report on the June 30 FY end. Audit prep is in progress. The trial balance will be sent to the auditor by September 13. She is working on some PBC items (Provided By Client). They want to be sure the audit is submitted by November 1. Her staff started earlier this year to make that deadline. There will not be an audit this year for the ARPA funds received. The following is not yet audited, as the information is not yet complete. The HPA has a higher NOI than the prior year. Operational revenue has increased. The historic preservation fee is sitting in the HPA, an increase of the prior year. Total assets have increased over the prior year. Total liabilities have decreased from the prior year. Commission is overall good. CO & NM state support of the commission has been received. Those funds will not be included in the June FY, rather in August. Expenses were under budget for the FY for commission, there no need for budget adjustments. Commission expenses have decreased from prior year, now the work at Osier is complete. Capital has been busy, as Marvin pointed out. Billing will be submitted to CO. There is still an active search for an Accounts Payable person. This has delayed some work. CTO revenue has increased from the prior year. Payroll, operational and insurance expenses are up from last year. Additional insurance was needed. Extra support from CO was provided. CTO was under budget, and no adjustment was required. The new budget is being worked on. There is a new coding system in place. It is taking some time for the staff to adjust. Commissioner Graybill asked how much of increase there was in revenue from last year. The actual number was not available at the meeting, but it was mentioned that it was considerable. That additional revenue helps pay the increase in cost for insurance, payroll and utilities. Commissioner Gibbs mentioned that the base hourly wage is now $17.

9. Marketing Report-Abigail Martinez (Abi)

As mentioned in the prior commission meeting, marketing started a lot sooner this season. Digital marketing started a month earlier, in May, to promote the summer season. The fall season pretty much sells itself. Abi didn’t have all the numbers comparing last year’s effort with this year. Using last year June & July digital marketing 2,342 conversions (clicking on a link, and finally booking). This year, the number was 3,010. The RR is starting to advertise on the big tourism web sites (now they are coming back to life after C-19). People are going to, Albuquerque,, driving a lot of web site traffic. Albuquerque is the highest converting source, with a click thru rate of 4.4%. For this industry, the normal click thru rate is 0.01 to 0.03%. The Visit Albuquerque site has the interest of the RR for further marketing. On the social media/PR side, it has been suggested to showcase the work of the track crew. Abi rode a ballast dumping train and captured some video. She posted some of that on Facebook. It saw 18 million views, the best result of any video posted there by the RR. It proves the RR is well received by the public. It is important to show other parts of the RR beyond just running trains. Abi confirmed commissioner Gibbs point that a younger demographic is riding the train this year. Customer surveys this year are showing a younger ridership. The short Friday trips were very successful, many young kids. It is hoped the kids grow up, and bring their kids in the future. Entrance signs on both sides have been replaced, via ARPA funding. Additional directional signage is being developed. The RR has been a part of three local parades. One being Manassa pioneer days. The RR attended it for the first time ever. The Manassa parade drew quite a crowd, and they take their floats very seriously. The RR might have to enhance their showing for next year. The RR also participated in Chama days, as well as Little Beaver in Dulce, NM. The RR will be participating in the parade in Antonito Labor day weekend. This proves the RR wants to be good neighbors.
Commissioner Graybill mentioned he was pleased to see the widening demographic for the RR. It is great to see the families riding, as it creates a tradition. Abi mentioned that a project is in place to develop new marketing material which can be used for commercials, radio, print ads. These materials should be ready to roll out next season. Commissioner Smith-Casford mentioned that the younger demographic is also being seen in the gift shops. Items for younger people are selling better, books, stuffed animals. This is putting a younger face on the RR. Commissioner Gibbs mentioned that the RR is getting compliments on the food at Osier, which now offer vegan meals. Some riders have food allergies. One young rider has a tree nut allergy, and the parents were able to provide their child a full meal with the current menu. (Ed. The available food items are shown at the entrance to the dining hall at Osier. It contains details to assist people in their food selection). I mentioned that I rode twice last week. I noticed the docents on the train were pretty busy near the end of the trip going over the Junior Engineer booklets the kids get.

10. Local Affairs Report

Commissioner Smith-Casford wanted to thank the Chama valley art studio. They provided space to hold the CTO meeting 8/25. Other meeting places fell through at the last minute. She also thanked the Town of Antonito for making their town hall available for the public meeting 8/26. Rossi Durand of Antonito goes the extra mile. There were two restaurants that had to close last week due to C-19. Motels seem to be full and busy. No one is complaining, which is a good thing. The restaurants are back open (The Boxcar, and the Rio Chama expresso).

11. Capital Projects Report

Commissioner Gibbs presented capital projects. Much of this was presented in the Presidents report. The Lava water tank has been out of service for a long time. A contract has been let to return it to service. A tank car will be hauled out to fill it. The tank has a 12,000 gallon liner, two tank car loads. A water supply at Lava would be a big help. A charter with locomotive 168 will run 8/28 to Big Horn and back. It will need water at Big Horn and Lava. Having a tank that can fill a tender in 3 minutes will be a better experience than running a pump on the tank car for 10-15 minutes. 492 work is moving along. An external assessment of the boiler is being performed. The cab has been removed. Side and main rods are starting to show up. Two sets have been ordered, leaving a spare set. That spare will likely be used on 484 when it undergoes its 1472 inspection a few years from now. This will provide a used set of rods for the future. ARPA funds are expected to be used for the Chama round house. There is some roof work that needs to be done. Some engineering work needs to be done, so the repair can last for the next 50 years. Some NM capital money will be used for that assessment.

12. Friends of the C&TSRR Report-Tim Tenant

Six work sessions are complete. Box car, tank car work was performed. Work on the buildings at Sublette were performed. The CRF in Antonito is being extended. It is a great facility to work in. It is nice to work out of the elements, eg. wind. The car storage facility there is also a great help. While many members enjoy working in Chama, there is another group that love working in Antonito due to the CRF. There has been a bit of a shortage of volunteers, due to an aging demographic. There is a crew of friends to prepare for the two friends charters 8/28 & 8/29. There are 64 people booked each day. The moonlight & wine train ran on the 29th (July). The tire issues on the 463 was a headache, but the riders had a good time. The return time was about 1:30AM. The meal at Osier was good. Next year, that charter will occur 7/20, the 55th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moon landing. That will be marketing fodder. The Narrow Gauge Convention is coming up. The friends have a spot there. The friends will help market the RR. I will be there as well to do the same, with the Galloping Goose 5 folks. The fall board meeting comes up October 27. The banquet that follows will be at the Colorado Railroad Museum. The meetings will be at the Table Mountain Inn. Work continues on express bag car 163 in CS. Like the tourist sleeper project, this will go on for a few years. Tim wanted to followup on the Junior Engineer booklets the docents hand out to the kids. It has been going over very well. He has received comments from adults that they would enjoy an adult version. It is great for the kids, as it gives them something to do on the train. Commissioner Graybill pointed out how the booklets might help recruit more members to the friends. John Bush pointed out that a guest family at his bed and breakfast saw their kids completing their work in the booklets the next morning, so they could get their badge. The parents also asked about the adult version of the booklet. It is good to get a younger demographic interested in the RR. They are required to keep it going in the future.

13. New Business

13a. Approve/Disapprove The Capstone Group, LLC Client Agreement

Lobby work in CO.

13b. Approve/Disapprove resolution 2023-009: A Resolution to Amend the Commission Policies and Practices Manual Version 8.0

A change to the auditing contracting process. Moving from a 3 year window to a 6 year window.

13c. Approve/Disapprove resolution 2023-010: A Resolution to Approve the FY 25 New Mexico Appropriation Request for $380,000


14. Old Business, Public comments

Bob Rieb was the first commenter. His comments related to the CRF and how it affected the volunteers. His comments were pertaining to how the friends assemble their work sessions. Since the comments were a friends issue, and not directed to the commission nor the RR, I have not entered them here. The video will include the dialog for those that wish to hear it.
Bob Conroy was the second commenter. He said that the prior Bob pretty much addressed what was on his mind. Additionally, he pointed out how C-19 helped him with a work crew at Cumbres. While NM was shut down, CO was available. His crew could stay in Chama, then travel the 14 miles to Cumbres for work up there. Having available volunteers ready to work was a big help.

15. Executive Session**

16. Actions following Executive Session

No actions were taken.

17. Adjournment

Next Meeting date: November 11, 2023, 9AM in Chama, subject to change if required

** An Executive Session may be called at any time during the meeting, pursuant to Commission Policy and Practices Manual v7.0, adopted March 29, 2012, 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.