The Water Tank at Chama, New Mexico is unique because it has two spouts. One
spout is on the east ready track that leads directly to the ash pit and the roundhouse.
The west spout is on the track that leads to the front of the Coal Tipple & Sand
House. Double spouts allowed service to more engines during the busy freight hauling days
of the railroad.
This all-timber tank was built to standard gauge specifications so it is larger than
most narrow gauge tanks. When first constructed the tank held approximately 50,000 gallons
of water. Full of water the tank weighs as much as two K-36 locomotives.
The original tank built in 1881 no longer exists. The existing structure was apparently
built in 1897 and survived the fire of 1899 that destroyed most of the structures in the
yard. In the winter of 1994 this tank was disassembled and the barrel, columns, some
bracing and parts of the floor beams were replaced. The roof was removed with a crane and
replaced after the barrel was reconstructed. During reconstruction two water railroad cars
from the rotary snow plow train served as a temporary water tank system. This 1994
restoration project is one of many undertaken on the property using the Secretary of
Interiors Guidelines for Historical Preservation.
Originally the entire Chama tank was painted a reddish-brown color. Later in its
D&RGW lifetime it was repainted with reddish-brown bottom timber framing and a buff
barrel. It has been lettered with the Flying Rio Grande logo, the D&RG Herald
and currently sports the flying Cumbres & Toltec logo.
A spring northwest of the yard originally supplied water to the tank in Chama. A survey
from 1926 shows a dedicated pipe line from the spring. Today the water tank is filled by
pumping water out of the Chama river west of the yard to a cistern northeast of the new
enginehouse. A pump located in the old enginehouse draws from the cistern and sends water
to the water tank. The pump in the enginehouse was steam powered in the early 1900's but
was later converted to electricity.