Chama New Mexico: A Railroad Town Since 1880

Chama New Mexico: Train Station

The Chama New Mexico train station standing today replaced the original one built by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1881 which was destroyed by fire in 1899. The railroad came to the tiny village of Chama in late December, 1880 as the D & RG continued to build west toward Durango, Colorado. Headquartered in Denver, the railroad's goal was to reach Silverton from Durango in order to serve the rich silver mines there. Chama, at the western base of the 4% grade from Cumbres Pass, was an important division point on the railroad, where extra locomotives could be added for the steep climb east up the pass. Chama's roundhouse could service the locomotives with needed repairs. Chama served this role until the D & RG abandoned the line from Antonito-Chama-Durango in 1967. Then the states of Colorado and New Mexico worked together to save the line from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was  established by the states in 1970, and the first passenger train on the preserved narrow gauge line was on June 27, 1971. It still runs during summers today. For further information visit

Chama  New Mexico: The Foster Hotel

The original Foster Hotel constructed in 1881 on 4th Street and Terrace Ave., Chama's main street.

The sign on the Foster Hotel reflects Chama's railroad heritage.

The sign on the Foster Hotel reflects Chama's railroad heritage.

The Foster Hotel is virtually the only remaining 1881 structure in Chama that has not perished in a fire. It survived the 1899 fire which destroyed the original train station.  It survived the 1925 fire which destroyed the Chama Station Lodge across from it on 4th Street.  Originally built to house railroad workers and train passengers, owner Henry Foster was forced to expand his hotel when his competitor's hotel burned down in 1925. By 1927 he added the two-story adobe structure which fronts Terrace Avenue. 

This is the two-story adobe structure which was added to the Foster Hotel in 1927, fronting Terrace Avenue.

This is the two-story adobe structure which was added to the Foster Hotel in 1927, fronting Terrace Avenue.

Foster added another two-story frame addition to the hotel in 1932 approximately 25 feet north of the existing hotel, connecting the structures by a two-story passage. This added an additional nine guest rooms, two bathrooms, and four apartments. Today, the only rooms offered to guests are eight rooms in this addition. Henry Foster sold the hotel in 1947, and it has changed owners many times since. 

Chama New Mexico: On The Tracks Across Borders Scenic Byway

Track Across Borders Scenic Byway along US Highway 64 looking east toward Chama.

The unique Tracks Across Borders sign illustrates train tracks, highway, and footprints with the dotted line indicating the border between Colorado and New Mexico.  The two states cooperated in creating this scenic byway in 2015, just as they had earlier cooperated in purchasing and saving the narrow gauge railroad that would become the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The Byway stretches about 125 miles between Durango and Chama, and would take about 4 1/2 hours to drive due to a large portion of it being on dirt/gravel/four-wheel drive roads. Its main purpose is to promote tourism to the former Denver & Rio Grande Railroad towns of Durango and Chama. 

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