June 20, 2002

The initial response to the Another Century of Narrow Gauge Steam campaign, initiated in early May, has been tremendous. Based solely on the posting on this web site and the initial mailing to members and known supporters of the Friends, as of June 18, a total of 284 people have made contributions and pledges totaling $304,986. The campaign thus far has brought in cash of $141,926, of which $50,000 was distributed to RGRPC in April for railroad operations, at the donor’s specific request. A total of $91,926 in cash is currently invested in Friends’ accounts. The balance represents pledges over the next five years.

We are on track to raise the funds necessary to meet the goals we initially set for the campaign: to provide RGRPC with capital to retire debt, and the financial resources necessary assure the continuation of shop restoration and repair projects during the 2002-2003 off-season without the need for more borrowing.

However, as most of you know, a new, far worse crisis threatens the railroad. First, in May the Federal Railroad Administration delayed the railroad’s ability to offer full service by abruptly ordering repairs to two short sections of track. Then, when repair at one site had been approved and service from Antonito was about to resume, the U. S. Forest Service ordered the railroad to suspend operation. This decision was made because of the high concern about fire caused by unseasonably hot weather, continuing drought, and forest fires in Colorado and New Mexico.

The authority of the Forest Service to make this order is in question. The Attorneys General of both Colorado and New Mexico have expressed their opinions in letters to the Supervisors of Carson and Rio Grande National Forests that the Forest Service has exceeded its jurisdiction. These issues are likely headed for litigation.

The railroad will not run again until the fire danger is considered manageable and the closure order has been either rescinded or determined to be invalid.

The closure has caused serious economic damage to the railroad and the tourist-related businesses in the area. So far this season the C&TS has lost an estimated $800,000 in revenue. And the negative publicity from the forest fires and the closure of the railroad is likely to adversely affect patronage for the rest of the season.

As a result, it is clear that significant additional resources will be required to get the railroad through the operating season and beyond. In addition to this private fund raising effort, the Friends and the Commission are aggressively seeking additional government aid. A successful resolution will require the assistance and cooperation of the state and federal governments and a number of other outside parties.

With donations continuing to arrive we are accumulating significant resources. However, at this time we are choosing to retain all funds and assess the situation on a week-to-week basis to determine the best way to help the railroad financially.

So, the campaign continues with even more vigor! Our private fund raising becomes even more important because the dollars we raise show the government agencies both how important the railroad is, and also that the public money will be leveraged by our private funds. We have a long way to go and we need the support of every single member and supporter. If you have already contributed or pledged, thank you very much. It is not an overstatement to say that you are directly contributing to an ongoing effort to save the railroad. That was true six weeks ago when we started; it is even more true now.

The Friends’ members are dedicated and passionate about our mission to preserve and restore the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, and this initial response proves that dedication. The generosity and commitment shown by those who have contributed or pledged is very much appreciated. But, we’re not finished yet.

If you haven’t yet made a contribution or pledge, please do so this week; additional funds are needed. Thanks for your continuing support.

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