Cumbres and Toltec Commission meeting 11-Nov-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
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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.

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Colorado Commissioners: Scott Gibbs-Vice Chair, Mark Graybill-Treasurer
New Mexico Commissioners: Kim Smith-Casford-Secretary, Billy Elbrock-Chairman
General Manager of the Cumbres & Toltec railroad: Steven Butler

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,

1. Call meeting to order

2. Pledge of Allegiance

3. Approval of Agenda

4. Approval of the Minutes from the August 26, 2023 Regular commission meeting

5. Approval of the Minutes from the October 3, 2023 Special meeting

6. General Manager's Report-Steven Butler

The end of October saw a visit from the NM governor and her family. They rode from Chama to Osier. This is the first time a sitting governor has ridden the train (corrected later in this report, item 12). Also hosted on that train was the new editor from Trains Magazine. He was preparing some ideas for new articles. The annual audit was completed and submitted on time this year. The commission received general fund support from both states. Liability insurance was aligned with the other insurances. Capital billing is up to date. ARPA funds are being spent on various projects. CTO revenue was $3,589,000 as of October 31. Insurance and payroll were up over 2022. Ridership demographics fall in the 65-74 age range, at 40%. 55-64 is the next highest at 27%. 75-84 is 14%, the other brackets are in single digits. 22% of riders are from NM, 18% from CO, 17% from TX, all other states are single digits. There has been an increase in media placements in 2023 over 2024 (maybe really 2022). The Christmas trains have been loaded into the reservation system for sale. Ridership for 2023 was 13% higher than 2022. The tent building in Antonito has been taken down, and saved for reuse. Osier has been winterized and its generators returned to Antonito for servicing. Inspections on the passenger cars have begun. 5 are ready to move to Chama for the Christmas trains. Two new coach frames were built in Farmington and are ready to move to Antonito for buildout. Windows are being priced out for those cars. The historic shop main building is up. Insulation and electricity are to be installed soon. There were two fires in October. One at MP 326.5, the other at 306.8. The fire at 326.5 was put out by the RR fire patrol, train crews and some volunteer fire fires that were on the train. The other fire was put out by the Antonito track crew, Antonito shop, as well as the Antonito & Romeo fire departments. A Boise hot shot crew and Tres Piedras forest service crew assisted. Both fires were under a quarter acre.

NK water house now has cameras installed on it. Water engineering for the Chama river water supply to the water tank is being worked on. Ballast trains out of Chama are dumping rock, soon to start out of Sublette. Chama Christmas trains will be running the first weekend of December. The next weekend sees Christmas trains out of Antonito. There is a request to CO for $500,000 for wildfire mitigation. It has already been included in the first part of the governors budget. The fund requests for CO are on a three year basis. Next year, the fund request to CO will be adjusted to help cover insurance. The NM capital request has been submitted. Three projects were mentioned, an adjustment for inflation, another for the Chama roundhouse as well as replace the pavilion at Cumbres. An acceptable ARPA funds project list has been approved. Those funds are now being spent. All of those funds need to be allocated by 2024, and must be fully spent by June 2025. Retail sales were at $290,000, $40,000 above projections. That comes to about $9.50 spent by each passenger in the gift shop. Chama sales were up 10.45%, Antonito up 11.55%. On board sales were $146,000, up 7% over last year.

In Anonito, 463 is stored, ready for ballast and Christmas trains. 168 is winterized, 487 is seeing boiler work along with its conversion to oil. It should be complete for the 2024 season. In Chama, 484 has been winterized, its tender tank removed. 488 is in service for ballast and Christmas Trains. 489 is getting firepan work. 315 is winterized and stored in the roundhouse. 492 has seen its work started. Its super heaters have been removed so as to get cost estimates for new ones. 2,037 new ties have been installed. 4,272 tons of ballast have been installed. The annual bridge inspection is complete. There was a Lidar (Light detection and ranging) survey done of the Cascade trestle. Ballast will be dumped as weather permits.

Group sales were up 15% over last season. Tuesday is the most popular day for groups to ride, followed by Wednesday. 42 groups are pending for the 2024 season.
Steven reports that he has been in his role for about 5 and a half weeks. So far, so good.

7. Superintendent's Report-Marvin Casias

Winter projects are about to begin. The tent building has been taken down. Work to expand that building should begin soon. The expansion is hoped to be complete by January. The existing building is kind of cluttered. The expansion will help for other winter projects. Osier has been boarded up for the winter, its water system drained. The generators have been sent out for servicing for next season. Antonito shops worked with the bridge inspection team. They built a frame for their Lidar cameras. It was a tricky project, but was completed. Testing went well. Trains are drained for the winter. The cars for the Chama Christmas train will head over Tuesday. The cars then get decorated for their Chama trips. Ballast will be dumped as long as the weather allows. The ballast cars will be moved to Sublette on Wednesday. The Diesel will be used to dump ballast near Sublette. Marvin went to Scagway AK to look over diesel engine 114. He hopes to get that locomotive (See item 13b below). It will be very useful. He wants to get the two new passenger coaches built over the winter. He would like to put the track crew to work doing the coach buildout. This will provide year round employment for those employees, with hopes that will stay with the RR. Work on pay car F has slowed as the expansion of the car work building is in progress. Zell needs power in the new segment to continue with pay car F. Marvin recognized the works by all of his department employees. They really gave it their all over the summer. Those employees bounced between departments to keep the operation running smoothly. A big thanks to those folks. People bouncing between departments are a cause of problems. There were no serious injuries this year. It helps everyone grow together. Commissioner Graybill pointed out how people volunteer to help others in different departments to get the job done.

8. Financial Report-Alysia Martinez

The annual audit was submitted on time this year. The FY year end is smack in the middle of the end of the season. Josh, the RR’s auditor is expected to present the results of the audit during next February’s meeting. The state auditor is going over the audit. It takes at least two months. Accounts Payable is trying to get into a nice flow of things. Capital billing is up to date with both states. Another reimbursement is being worked on for both states. General funds from both states has been received. Some of that money has been used to cover insurance costs, a purpose of general fund support. ARPA spending is going on now. As mentioned by Steven, those funds must be spent by June 2025. CTO revenue was based on the RR’s FY. So for the first two months of this FY, it is in a higher position than last FY. Payroll expenses have increased. Right now, there is little activity in HPA. Operating income is arriving into the HPA. Spending from the HPA is going to the historic car work building, to cover additional labor costs to move things to the new building (from the tent into the building). Alysia was thanked highly for getting the audit in on time by the commissioners.

9. Marketing Report-Abigail Martinez (Abi)

Steven already mentioned demographic information. Overall impressions in certain areas were down just a bit. The click thru was a lot higher. One of the highest click thru web sites was the NM tourism web site (Visit Albuquerque). It was over 3%, very good for the industry, which is 0.3% normally. CO also saw over industry averages, about 1%. Digital marketing remains the priority. This season, the advertising push started earlier, April. The advance booking numbers were pacing well with the pre C19 numbers. July and August kind of flat lined. Reasons are guessed to be due to gas prices, school schedules running later. Marketing will be adjusted over the winter for the 2024 effort. Media placements and mentions for the RR was 552 placements, last year was 213. Abi mentioned she was contacted often by the media to answer questions, or arrange an interview. Scott Gibbs was surprised how often he was wanted for interviews. Steven is just getting to know the same thing. The value of the media exposure is valued at $5.5 million in online and print news, $66,200 in television. The RR will be doing photography of the RR over the off season to keep the fans of the RR up to date in what is happening. The Christmas trains will be a big hit with that audience. The communities are excited about the Christmas trains running this year. It has been three seasons they have not run.
Commissioner Graybill pointed out how the age demographics are self reported. It may skew the actual figures a bit. Abi pointed out how at the end of the season, the RR does a Troy Research survey. The demographics are derived from that survey. It is up to the respondent to be honest about their age. Right now, this is the only source of age demographics. As time moves on, that question will not be on surveys (a privacy issue). Advertising on social media is no longer age driven. This will present a challenge for future marketing. It will take employees observing the riders of the train to learn general demographics of the riders. The short Friday trips brought in young kids, which is great to see.

10. Local Affairs Report-Commissioner Smith-Casford

Kim pointed out that the NM governor rode the train this year. Kim and Commissioner Elbrock rode with her. The governor’s trip was a birthday gift to her five year old grandson. The commissioners had four hours with her family on the ride. The political talk was kept to a minimum. Kim saw that the governor was impressed with the operation, and even more so with the hospitality. The staff and crew did a great job on this last minute trip. Hosting the governor is a big deal, with her security detail and all. The family rode in a second parlor car, at the end of the train. At the water stop at Cumbres, she talked to people wanting to meet her. Same at Osier. Her grandson had a blast. Kim wanted to reiterate that the commission is are very focused on the economic impact the RR has on the communities. Like the communities, everyone is just climbing out of C19, short staffing, inflation, supply chain issues. The big decisions always involve how it will affect the communities. The communities may not always agree with the decisions. The first priority is to the financial well being of the RR. The second being historic preservation. Finally, how they can help the communities economically. With ridership up, financial position up, sales up, things look to be on the right track. The health of the RR will be shared with the communities. As the communities prosper, it assists the RR to do as well. Commissioner Gibbs pointed out how the riders on the train sang happy birthday to the 5 year old grandson. He received a birthday cake from Victoria. He and his sister got a cab tour. The governor sent a nice handwritten thank you to the RR for the “big birthday”. Commissioner Elbrock mentioned that the governor tried to recruit Alysia and Abi.

11. Capital Projects Report-Commissioner Gibbs

Scott mentioned that Steven covered much of this topic in his report. It is nice to see the ARPA work on the Lava water tank. It is hoped that work will be complete next year. That will help with the water situations seen recently. It is nice to have locomotive 492 moved to its new position to begin its rebuild. The cab is off of it now. Super heaters removed. Its appliances being removed. Inspections beginning. It is hoped to having it going in a few years for addition to the fleet. Commissioner Graybill mentioned in the prior day CTO meeting, Marvin mentioned that it took 29 trips to haul water in (Sublette?). An additional tank will be helpful. It was a dry summer into fall this year. The recent drought conditions are large on the mind of the commission. Scott thanked Steven for the update of 487 & 489. The oil burners may play significant role in the future. There was a coal shortage this season. Having locomotives that can use another fuel will be important. It is preferred to use coal burning locomotives as it is such a part of the historic fabric of the RR. One day this season, the RR was down to a partial tender of coal left on site. A dire situation. Fortunately, the coal supply arrived that afternoon. Close! The coal shortage is an industry wide problem.

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

Tim started off reminding the commission that in 2011 NM governor Martinez rode. In 2012, CO governor Hickenlooper and his son rode. The Fall board meeting was completed in Golden CO. A new director, Steve Jourgenson from Dallas. January 1, the friends dues go up from $35 to $40. This is just the second dues increase in the 19 years that Tim has been with the friends. This is being done to try to spur more work session attendees. Work session fees will be reduced. Attendance has been going down for various reasons. Reducing the fees may help. A stipend for gas for those traveling a long distance may also help. There are plenty of projects to keep people busy. Work session dates were provided to the commissioners in their packet. It is desired to have the member meeting in Chama, to include a train ride to Cumbres. The friends like to do train shows as much as possible. They were at the Narrow Gauge convention in Denver this year. They also attended two recent shows. The friends plan to buy 2024 brochures. They use them at the shows, as well as mailings to the membership. Membership is at about 2,200. A fairly static number. Some new members are being reached via Classic Trains Magazine. Rich Muth’s docent team provided 33 docents for 285 rides this season. The tourist sleeper has its lights installed. It is now 100% complete. Two UTLX tank cars done. the concession/toilet car received LED lights. Various other cars received work. Tim pointed out photos of work progress (in the packet the commissioners receive). Express bag car 163 is being worked on in CS. That will be a multi year project. Commissioner Graybill thanked Tim and the Friends for the thousands of hours put into the work they do. Also recognized are the docent hours put in. There were 121 train days. It was pointed out that the old policy was to have two docents on trains that were double headed. This year, multiple docents were provided per train if possible. The riders come from a long way. Make sure they get the best trip. Also, there are now three female docents. Commissioner Gibbs mentioned that there were many comments received regarding the junior engineer program. This was a great addition for the younger riders. It was very well received. Tim pointed out how many adults would like to see a senior engineer program. This program reaches out to the demographic so desired. Commissioner Smith-Casford mentioned the comments by two friends members during the last regular meeting. (The dialog is best viewed in the video of the meeting posted by me. Link at the beginning of this report). Tim replied that the two members were informed of the proper venue to address these issues in the future. The issue has been discussed with those members. It should now be resolved. Commissioner Smith-Casford mentioned that the friends are brought up at the legislatures. They are impressed with the hours provided by the friends. The friends work is noticed at all levels.

13. New Business

13a. Approve/Disapprove Resolution 2023-011: A Resolution to Adopt an Open Meeting Policy

Details of this resolution are on the commission web site. (Ed. To see the details, go to the commission web site, link at the top of this document. Click on Minutes. Then, click on the Minutes link for the 11/11/23 meeting. It is at about page 19.).

13b. Approve/Disapprove Resolution 2023-012: A Rsolution to Approve Purchase of Diesel Locomotive 114 from the White Pass & Yukon Railway for $120,000

Various persons mentioned the purpose of this resolution. A team of people from the RR (Scott, Marvin, Steven) as well as American Heritage Railroad (D&S) went to Skagway AK to inspect the locomotive. This locomotive is very similar to four locomotives on the D&S. It would be a good addition to the RR. People may be concerned that the RR will be moving to a diesel operation. That is not at all what the commission wants to do. This diesel will assist in the RR remaining a steam operation. Currently, days of operation are used for a steam locomotive that sits ready in the yard for a possible rescue on the Chama side. This diesel could perform that rescue, saving a hot day on a steam locomotive that is not used. Using this diesel for MOW duty reduces days of service on a steam locomotive. Neither of the diesels currently on the RR are road locomotives. They are much smaller, and fairly old (1943ish). Locomotive 114 is a road locomotive. A switching locomotive is not desired for mainline use. 114 should save the RR long term by reducing maintenance on the steam fleet. Locomotive 114 was measured to ensure it will fit on the C&andTs, handle its curves. It costs about $1000-$1200 per day to keep a steam locomotive hot for rescue. This does not include crew, fuel, etc. This is just the 1472 amortized costs. Having a locomotive that can be just started and stopped is something the RR doesn’t have today. The existing diesel fleet could rescue a train on the Antonito side, hauling it down hill. Ballast trains on the Chama side require a steamer for the 4 car ballast trains running this fall. An expensive way to move rock. The locomotive would move by barge out of AK to WA, to be put on a standard gauge flat car, to travel to Antonito. It is hoped it would arrive late spring, maybe early summer. When 114 arrives, with the assistance of outside help, work will begin on the engine. It has been out service since 2019. It was started up, and it moved by itself in the yard. The motor has low hours. The running gear is in good condition. Spare parts for it are being worked out. The electrical issues are known, and have been determined to be easy to address. A major reason why it was decided to move forward with the purchase. In working with the D&S, they could assist in servicing this locomotive, as the ones they have are so much like this one. There are a lot of common parts. MOW work done with the K-36’s could be done with 114. The price is very good. There are not a lot of options out there to obtain a narrow gauge locomotive, especially with its tractive effort, and will fit on the C&Ts. The internet has plenty of gossip that the dynamic brakes on 114 have had problems since manufacture. That will be looked at when it is on the C&Ts. Any of that type of issue looks like it can be remedied. Money has been allocated to be sure it is right when it goes out the door. Commissioner Graybill mentioned how much money is saved by not having a steam engine hot. It enhances the customer experience when a spare can be ready to go on short notice. The RR will remain a steam experience for the riders. Using the diesel for more mundane work (MOW, rescue) will really assist in the RR becoming self sustaining (a goal of the RR).

13c. Approve/Disapprove Request for use of real property

Elena, owner of the Rio Chama Espresso coffee shop would like to lease a small piece of RR property adjacent to her business. The RR would like to help her, to be a good neighbor. This lease is not for income to the commission. There is a 30 foot piece of RR property that fouls access to her business. Commissioner Smith-Casford suggested that an easement would better suit her needs. This would give both parties a little better protection. Kim suggests turning down this rquest, but rather offer her a no cost easement. Elena mentioned she needs the property for her customer parking. There will be some legal work required to create the easement. A special meeting will be required to approve the easement. Kim felt that the easement will best suit Elena’s needs.
Lease disapproved. Easement work will begin. Land surveys are nearly done.

13d. Approve/Disapprove Potential Conflict of Interest Statement regarding housing for Steven Butler

Steven Butler wishes to rent a home in Chama, owned by Scott Gibbs. Finding housing in Chama is difficult. This is temporary, until Steven can find something else.
Approved. Scott Gibbs withheld his vote.

13e. Approve/Disapprove 2024 Assignment of Officers

All commissioners remain in the positions as shown at the top of this report.

13f. Approve/Disapprove 2024 Regular Meeting Dates

2024 regular commission meeting dates are:
02/17 Antonito
05/11 Chama
08/10 Antonito
11/02 Chama
As always, those dates and locations are subject to change.

14. Old Business

15. Executive Session**

16. Actions following Executive Session

17. Adjournment

Next Meeting date: February 17, 2024, 9AM in Antonito, subject to change if required

** An Executive Session may be called at any time during the meeting, pursuant to Commission Policy and Practices Manual v8.0, adopted May 20,2023 regarding limited personnel matters; strategy preliminary to attorney-client privilege pertaining to threatening or pending litigation in which the public is or may become a prticipant, discussion of the purchase, acquisition or disposal of real property or water rights by the public body. The Governing Body 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.