COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Locomotive #168 was a popular fixture at Antlers Park downtown from the end of the Great Depression until the steam engine was removed in the fall of 2015, but it returns to service this weekend after a four-year complete restoration.
The narrow gauge locomotive was repaired and will be operated by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, south of Alamosa.
"We spent around $500,000 in grants and donations to get the engine running again," said Stathi Pappas, chief mechanical officer for the railroad. "It'll pull several historic rail cars that have also been restored at a cost of $400,000 to $500,000. We really appreciate all of the rail enthusiasts who pitched in to help."
Starting Saturday, and continuing monthly, #168 will transport a maximum of 80 passengers on routes from Antonito to Big Horn and Osier -- towns along the Colorado/New Mexico line. The trips will cover a maximum of 74 miles and take 7.5 hours to complete, including lunch and a midday stopover.
The locomotive was built in 1883, commissioned by Colorado Springs' founder, General William Palmer, decommissioned in 1933 and given to the city in 1938.
"We inspected and evaluated it, and started renovations in June 2017, generated steam two years later and began moving on its own later that year," Pappas said. "It had been cosmetically restored and preserved in the early 1980s, so no additional deterioration took place. We had two or three people working 40 hours each."
Colorado Springs still owns the locomotive but is granting a 45-year lease to the railroad that expires in 2060.
"We can't bring it there on existing track but maybe we can find a way to do it later," Pappas said. "What makes it so unique is the authenticity of experience that it provides. You are riding everything as it would have been in about 1916. And that's something that's very different from a lot of other heritage railroads."
Cumbres & Toltec describes itself as the "longest, highest and most scenic" railroad in the country. The railroad was completed in 1880 and reaches an elevation of 10,015 feet.
For more information, including ticket discounts, visit: https://cumbrestoltec.com/.