ALAMOSA, Colo. (CBS4) — A rainstorm Wednesday swept debris from a charred hillside in Costilla County, interrupting the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad’s first trip over La Veta pass since a wildfire closed the area in late June.
According to a railroad spokesperson, the train encountered a washout over the tracks as it reached the fire-ravaged slopes during Wednesday’s trip.
A culvert became plugged with “burned logs and rubbish,” typical of the material loosened from mountainsides following wildfires that eradicate the above-ground vegetation and below-ground roots systems that hold it in place.
Wednesday’s excursion was the first since the company canceled its weekly ride June 28th. The video was found on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad’s Facebook page by Visit Alamosa Colorado.
The train eventually completed its journey across the pass after railroad crews cleared the tracks at the site of the washout. But passengers were taken off the train and bused back to Alamosa while crews worked.
Railroad spokesman Joseph Arellano said the company chose to prioritize passengers’ safety. Additional repairs were needed to the tracks and possibly the culvert; safe crossing was not guaranteed.
That repair work was being completed Thursday.
Freight service on the same route is expected to resume Friday.
The next Rio Grande excursion ride is scheduled, as normal, for next Wednesday.
“I know Durango is dealing with the same issues we’re dealing with here,” Arellano said.
Additional complications from wildfire debris are possible, Arellano noted, due to approaching rain-heavy weather systems that make up Colorado’s monsoon season.
The Spring Fire was sparked June 27. It grew quickly and destroyed 148 homes in the Forbes Park, Wagon Creek, and Sangre De Cristo Ranches neighborhoods.
It incinerated the Rio Grande’s boxcar-shaped Fir concert stage near the top of La Veta Pass.
To help replace it, a GoFundMe page was started. Insurance requires a $250,000 deductible to begin repairs.
The railroad is utilizing other venues to maintain its summer concert schedule.
As of Thursday, the Spring Fire measured 107,967 acres and was 83 percent contained.