Herb Ringer’s American West: Riding the Lost Train Route from Chama to Durango, Colorado in 1948

HERB RINGER and his parents, Sadie and Joseph, traveled across the American West and into the Canadian Rockies on numerous trips, from the 40s through the 70s.

Herb was devoted to rail history, and was particularly fond of the historic railroads of Colorado. He traveled the historic lines connecting the various mining towns before they were put out of service or converted for tourist use.

The San Juan Extension Line once ran between Antonito, Colorado and Durango, dipping south into New Mexico. The line experienced its last good years in the 1950s, moving pipes and supplies to Farmington for its oil and gas boom. But then its fortunes waned. Traffic on the line dwindled. In 1967, the Denver & Rio Grande railroad filed abandonment papers. And, while the line running between Chama and Antonito was preserved and converted into the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Route, all the line west of Chama was disassembled in the 1970s. Now it’s difficult to imagine how the trip must have felt for Herb when he first visited, in 1948…

Map of the Denver & Rio Grande Lines in 1930. c/o Wikimedia Commons
Map of the Denver & Rio Grande Lines in 1930. c/o Wikimedia Commons
The train waits at Chama, New Mexico. 1948. Photo by Herb Ringer
The train waits at Chama, New Mexico. 1948
Lumberton, New Mexico. 1948. Photo by Herb Ringer
Lumberton, New Mexico. 1948
The Station at Gato/Pagosa Junction, Colorado. 1948. Photo by Herb Ringer
The Station at Gato/Pagosa Junction, Colorado. 1948
Roses along the Water Tower and Section House at Gato. 1948. Photo by Herb Ringer
Roses along the Water Tower and Section House at Gato. 1948.
In the Dining Compartment. The conductor picked roses at Gato and put them in a vase for the passengers. 1948. Photo by Herb Ringer
In the Dining Compartment. The conductor picked roses at Gato and put them in a vase for the passengers to enjoy. 1948.
Ignacio, Colorado. 1948. Photo by Herb Ringer
Ignacio, Colorado. 1948
The Durango Railroad Depot. 1948. Photo by Herb Ringer
The Durango Railroad Depot. 1948
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HERB RINGER came West from his home in New Jersey in 1939. Camera in hand,
Herb captured the American West, from the Canadian Border to the Rio Grande and
from the Big Sur coast to the High Plains.
We believe Herb’s collection of Life in the West is one of the finest. His work has been
published in The Zephyr for 20 years. I am pleased finally, to offer Herb’s photographs
in color. We are also building a new ‘album’ of his work, elsewhere on this site.
My dear friend died on December 11, 1998…JS

For the Most Comprehensive Collection of Herb Ringer Photographs Online, Click Here to see the Herb Ringer Issue of the Zephyr.

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2 comments for “Herb Ringer’s American West: Riding the Lost Train Route from Chama to Durango, Colorado in 1948

  1. Jane Pennell
    June 11, 2021 at 9:23 am

    Wow, what a great story and pictures in color! I drove that area a number of years ago. Need to do it again and stop to absorb the history of the place.

  2. Daniel Quiat
    June 11, 2021 at 3:59 pm

    Great story and photos!!! Thank you for sharing it.

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