Cumbres and Toltec Commission meeting 17-Feb-24

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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 prior 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 November 11, 2023 Regular commission meeting

Item 12a below was moved here via motion to approve agenda

The summary of the audit may be viewed via YouTube. YouTube video of audit summary

5. General Manager's Report-Steven Butler

Steven provided me his report via e-mail. Below is that report. Items in italics are additional comments from his presentation in the meeting.

Fare harbor:
The switch over to Fare Harbor Reservation system has gone well (put into place the end of last year). Tickets have been on sale since the beginning of January. Everyone is still learning the new system and working with the reports that we need form it. We are seeing a savings with each transaction over what we were spending with DTS. Our fee with Fare Harbor is a little less than 1/3 of what we were paying to DTS. Sales are at almost 16% of our total from last year as of Tuesday. When I checked earlier this week, ticket sales are a little above 9% of our total capacity for this season.
ARPA funds:
We have spent almost a 1/3 of the funds on our projects and have another 1/6 of the money committed in PTO’s. We need to have all of the funds committed by December 31 of 2024 and spent by June 31, 2025.
Diesel locomotive 114: (he skipped mentioning in the meeting)
The barge company is planning on loading the Locomotive onto the barge in March to transport it down to Washington. We have secured a depressed center flatcar for rail shipment of the locomotive to Antonito. Still working with the railroads for finalizing the rail transportation. If everything goes according to plan, the 114 should be here by summer. Once the locomotive is on property, we will start getting it ready for service. No decision has been made as to what color it will be painted.
Steam Locomotives:
Annuals have been scheduled for next month. Progress is going good in both shops. In Antonito, the 487 is almost ready to be starting to put water in it for the hydro. 463 is getting a 5-year cap inspection. In Chama the 484 is getting a 5-year inspection, 488 is ready for its annual and the 489 is almost finished. DRHS will be doing the annual on the 315 this spring. The 168 will get annual done later this spring.
Almost all of the coaches have had their annual inspections completed. A couple of cars are getting their interiors replaced. The new coach frame that was stored in the Antonito yard is in the shop and the crew is actively working on it.
No track work is currently being done. Most of the track crew is working in the Antonito shop. They are working on Motor Cars, Coaches and Locomotives. The new ballast regulator arrived in January, it was rebuilt and cut down from a standard gauge unit. Our Tamper was sent out for rebuild by the same company that originally rebuilt it as well as did the new ballast regulator. They plan to ship the tamper back this spring. John is working on getting prices on materials and replacements for some culverts.
Charter trains:
We have several charters on the books for this season already. A few are photo charters. There is a growing number of ones that are evening dinner type of charters.
Rails & Ales
We are working with the San Luis Valley brewery in Alamosa to bring back Rails & Ales. This was a very popular event on the SLRG (San Louis and Rio Grande Railroad) and we are looking at doing ours in August to help increase ridership during one of our traditional slow times. It is scheduled for August 17
The Fireman and Engineer Experience:
I have changed the name of the Fireman & Engineer school to Fireman & Engineer experience. I am hoping to make it available during the 2025 season. Looking at starting off with one or 2 weeks and will build off of that in upcoming years. Applicants on the waiting list will have first opportunity to sign up for it.

Commissioner Graybill asked Steven about the Santa trains this year, how many passengers. Steven reported about 3,000 to 3,500 riders, confirmed by Abi. The commissioner felt that was successful. Steven said the Santa trains will occur this season, perhaps increasing the number of days it will run. The trains possibly might start running the first weekend after Thanksgiving, then the first full week of December. The commissioner thanked the RR for their effort. It brings in a new group of people to ride the trains.
Audience member John Bush asked about expected ridership for 2024 season. Steven reported that total seats available will be in the low 50,000 range. It is hoped to fill those seats. The low 50,000 range would be the capacity for the season.

6. Superintendent's Report-Marvin Casias

A decision was made at the end of last season, that being keeping the track crew employed in the engine house and more over the winter. This provided more help in working on the cars etc. over the winter. This provided more cross training when extra help somewhere is needed. This also sped up the annual inspections. The new coach frame is being worked on. The track crew has been assisting on engine rebuilding. Keeping people employed over the winter helps employee retention. The extra hands have kept the work effort moving well. The historic building is nearly done. Pay car F has been moved into the building, out of the weather. Work on that car continues. Zell has also been working on wood work needed for the locomotives. Having the track crew help with other projects gives the RR more backbone, something that has been short in prior years. The track crew will continue their work around the shops, until it is time to return to track work, around April 1. One guy will continue work on track equipment. Three motor cars are ready to go now. Two new motor cars will be in service this season. They will be backup for the fire season. This person is also able to operate the heavy equipment as needed. Snow removal will be coming up soon. The Osier building will also be prepared to return to service. Commissioner Graybill mentioned that is a great idea to hang on to the track crew over the off season to assist in the shops. The RR exists to preserve history, but it also exists to be an economic driver in the area. Keeping people employed year round is part of that goal. The people the commissioner observed seemed very happy at being able to work. Marvin mentioned that it is very hard to lay off people near Thanksgiving (going into Christmas). Their cross training into other skills is quite valuable. Marvin also mentioned that there are two females working in the shop. They are real go getters in their work.

7. Financial Report-Alysia Martinez

Alysia started off noting that the audit was done on time. It was a very good audit. Policies and procedures for the internal accounting is being updated. The prior policies and procedures date back to 2017. Those documents have been updated to reflect modern communication methods. Currently (as of January) the HPA doesn’t have much reflecting on the P&L, other than the historic preservation fee of about $257,000. That includes about $3,500 from the holiday trains. Commission includes the support from both states. Expenditures have increased from the prior FY, due to payroll, insurance and professional fees. Decreases are due to supplies and services, G&A and utilities. Net income has increased this FY. Capital is busy this time of year. Locomotives, cars and pay car F are part of the capital spending. Billing to the states for January is complete and will be sent the states. ARPA funds are being spent. There are about $900,000 in expenditures. CTO funds are not busy this time of year. There were the holiday trains reflected on the P&L at the end of January. That provides about $3,476,000 in revenue. Total income has decreased over the prior year. Expenses have increased, payroll insurance. The net income to CTO has decreased over the prior year. The reason to the decrease is due to the prior FY seeing the employee retention loan being forgiven (C19) and being applied to that FY balance. The commissioners congratulated Alysia on the state audit. Commissioner Gibbs pointed out how NM is “dinging” entities that don’t get their audit done on time. With the RR being done on time, the RR shouldn’t get “dinged” on future funding. A CO auditing firm will need to be retained for the next audit. It is normal to swap auditing firms every three years, between the two states.

8. Marketing Report-Abigail Martinez (Abi)

There will be two geology trains again this season. A 4th of July train. There will be special dinner trains, as well as the Rails and Ales train mentioned in the GM report. During the fall color season, there will be an extra departure out of Chama on weekends. One will depart at 9AM and the second at the normal 10AM. This is to be able to keep up with demand during the fall season. The extra seats will increase ridership. The 9AM train will have coach and parlor car service. This means Chama will have two waves at people spread over the hour difference. Coach ticket prices have dropped for the summer season. It is hoped that will help boost ridership. Abi mentioned her marketing plan for the 2024 season. Online spending over last year will increase 12%. This being an election year, TV spending will be impacted. New this year will be “CTV”, or Connected TV. This is advertising on streaming services, such as Amazon, Apple TV. The RR will be advertising there. This will help reach a younger demographic. Media spending will occur earlier. Fall season sells itself, so it is important to fill the summer seats. The Alamosa and Pagosa Springs markets will be sent a postcard. There are many new residents of those communities that may not even know about the RR. They will be provided with a locals discount. Brochure creation is almost done, and will be sent off for printing. The brochures are a little later this year, as there are new photographs for this year. There are new 2024 advertising spots being produced for (TV?) and radio this year. Keeping people interested in the RR over the off season has been a goal. That is being done via social media. Photos and videos are being provided. Video seems to be working better. The behind the scenes and track crew get good response. Commissioner Graybill mentioned that he has been in this business for a while. He told Abi she is doing a great job. In the recent past, the RR had outsourced the marketing effort. They did a great job. Doing it in house saves a great deal of money, and the RR is still getting a great product.
Audience member John Bush mentioned that he runs a B&B in Chama. His reservations are up significantly. A good sign of the marketing effort. Abi mentioned that ticket sales for this season started later than in prior seasons. That was due to the move to a new ticketing system. This year, compared to last year at this time, the RR is about 125 less seats sold. That is starting about two and a half months late. Things are looking good. Commissioner Graybill felt that having two trains out of Chama during the fall season is huge. The early summer trains don’t fill, but the fall trains sell very well. Audience member Bill Lock asked about the itinerary of the 9AM Chama train. Abi replied that it is a Chama-Osier-Chama train. This was done to prevent the dining hall from being so packed all at once. To spread out the crowd over time.

9. Local Affairs Report-Commissioner Kim Smith-Casford

Kim reported that there was a lot of positive feedback from the Christmas trains. Feedback from Santa Fe was positive, as a family from there had a great time. It is important to run the holiday trains for monetary reasons, as well as public relations. Kim understands that running those trains are a lot of work for the RR, but they are important for the communities.

10. Capital Projects Report-Commissioner Scott Gibbs

Scott was impressed with the amount of locomotive work getting done. The firebox work on 487 is almost complete. 158 rigid staybolts have been installed over the last few months. It will be almost 200 when done. A very extensive rebuild. Zell’s crew has been rebuilding 463’s cab. The same crew that redid 315’s cab. The Lava tank work moved along well over the fall. Shingles should be done early this season. It is hoped to have it in service this season. Good to see the recapitalization of the track equipment, the excavator, back hoe, tamper & the regulator. Scott then mentioned to Steven that he didn’t mention diesel engine 114. Steven explained; the engine has been paid for. The barge has been lined up for shipping from Skagway in March. It will arrive WA state for transfer to a depressed center flat car for shipment to Antonito. There was an issue with the Colorado Rio Grande and Pacific RR with their tunnel clearances (La Veta Pass). That RR runs from Walsenburg CO to Antonito. A depressed center flat car was required as a regular flat car would not provide for tunnel clearances. Steven is working with BNSF to have the flat car ordered. Scott thanked Steven for the great off season work, and keeping the track crew employed year round. Steven pointed out how those guys work for Marvin, not him.
John Bush asked if all four K-36’s will be available on opening day. Steven answered that three should be ready for opening day. 484 has a lot of running gear work to be done, it also has a 5 year cap inspection. It should be ready shortly after opening day.

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

Bill Lock presented the commissioners with a new book that documents the narrow gauge. (ed. I don’t have the details of the book. It didn’t look like a publication of the Friends). Tim mentioned the work session dates, so the RR knows when the volunteers will be around working. The Friends plan on running three special trains this season. There is a typical member train in June. July 20 will see the annual moon lite wine train. August 3 will be a mixed train photo charter out of Antonito. Possibly a Chili Line looking train using 463. The Friends have received the HPA check, $59,056. This really helps the Friends budget. A Friends member donated $10,000 to the RR to be used for locomotive maintenance. There is also an outstanding donation of $100,000 for the rebuild of locomotive 492 rebuild. The commission thanked the Friends for the donations. The $10,000 came from Ken Matsic (not sure of spelling), the GM during the year that Al Harper ran the RR. In a month the Friends have their spring meeting in Santa Fe. The commission was presented with photos of the work being done on the express bag car, being worked on in Colorado Springs. That work is done every other Saturday, weather permitting. The Friends will be at the Rocky Mountain train show in Denver, April 6 & 7. He checked with Abi that that brochures will be available to take to the show.
There remains a challenge to find volunteers. It is desired to attract some younger folks who might like to spend some vacation time working on the RR. This year, work session fees will not be charged. Lunches & insurance will be paid by the Friends. It is hoped that will bring in a few more to work.

12. New Business

12a. Presentation of the FY23 Audit: Josh Trujillo, SJT Group

This was performed near the beginning of the meeting.

12a. Motion to Accept FY 2023 Audit


12b. Approve/Disapprove sale of Matisa Mark 1 Tamper Camron to Colorado Railroad Museum for $15,000

Disapproved due to an error of the equipment description. Will be handled in a special meeting.

13. Old Business


14. Executive Session** Personnel Matters

Only matters on the agenda were discussed.

15. Actions following Executive Session

No actions performed.

16. Adjournment

Next regular meeting date: May 11, 2024, 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 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.

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