Riding the Rails – The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Yesterday was day four of our road trip. It was a great day. It was also a long day. But most of all it was an incredibly fun day.  We rode the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway from Durango to Silverton. Had lunch and did some shopping in Silverton and then rode the train back to Durango. We boarded at 8:30 in the morning and didn't get back to Durango until almost 7 last night. The train runs 45 miles from Durango north to Silverton along the Animas River through wilderness that can only be accessed by train.


It was a wonderful day for a lot of reasons. During the winter the train just goes part way to Silverton and then turns around. Today was the first trip of the season for the train to go all the way to Silverton. There was a festive air. It was an extra long train so part of the time we had two steam locomotives pulling us. There were all sorts of people along the route  who were waving and taking pictures as the train went by.



The route follows the Animas River. It was full from snow run off and there were lots of waterfalls coming into the river. When we were at over 9000 feet there were still jagged snow covered peaks towering above the canyon.The most impressive part of the ride was the High Line. The train creeps along a narrow rock ledge 240 feet above the river.



And the history was fascinating. The Durango and Silverton railroad has been in continuous operation since 1882 when Durangoa and Silverton were booming mine towns.

But the best part of the whole experience was the people. There were four or five people in character who took turns coming into our car and  telling us about their lives on the frontier in the area.


The conductors and concessions people were friendly and clearly excited. They hung around and answered our questions and pointed out their favorite sites along the route. They even pointed out a moose that was swimming across the river to get away from the train.

We stopped several times to take on water. Another time we stopped so three hikers could get off the train to start their back packing trip.


One of the coolest things though was that the owner of the railroad was riding the train. He stopped in our car and talked with us. He told us he used to be a Florida real estate developer which allowed him to fulfill a dream and buy a railroad. He now owns a couple of other railroads and manges several others including the Tequila Train outside of Guadalajara, Mexico. He talked about how important he thinks it is to make history and our heritage alive and fun. His passion was contagious.

These trains are a for profit operation and you couldn't help but notice how it improved the experience.  The guidebook cost $20 but it is a 188 page well written book with lots of color pictures. It covers everything from the history, to what we saw along the route, to how to run a railroad. Everyone we ran into from the owner down to the girl selling guidebooks made us feeling like we were a part of something very special.

If you ever get the chance take a ride on the Durangoa and Silverton Narrow Gauge railway. Do it!






Author: marionvermazen

I am a traveler, hiker, avid reader, Sun alumnus, computer geek, Spanish and French language student, knitter and genealogist. I am retired after working for almost 30 years in the Computer Industry. I live in Reno, Nevada with my husband Duke.

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