Sunday, July 7, 2013

Durango-Silverton Railroad

Passengers first ascended by rail from Durango to Silverton in Colorado in 1882. Those people were, of course, secondary cargo. The railroad was built for the purpose of more easily transferring the ores of silver (duh), lead, gold, and copper from the mines around Silverton.

Much changed in the last one hundred and thirty years. The mines closed up. People went broke. The populous waned. Silverton burned down and was rebuilt. The railroad was bought and sold repeatedly. And, for a time, the Silverton Railroad even closed down.

The 1960s brought permanent and good changes to the narrow gauge line that snaked alongside the Animas River on a breathtaking journey between two old Colorado mining towns. First, the line became a National Historic Landmark. Then Hollywood, which had earlier included the railway in several movies including Around the World in 80 Days, returned to the forty five mile section of track for the filming of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Finally, the blossoming tourist industry fueled and financed the complete over hall of the line. Coal fired steam engines were repaired to near factory condition, remodeled coaches included restrooms and heat, gondolas were added for maximum viewing, and the track was replaced. Only the great mountains remained the same.

Today there are trains running back and forth along Colorado's last free flowing river (no damned dams!) throughout much of the year. (Click here for the schedule and fees) The ride up or down takes a little over three hours. That is three hours of prime landscape viewing in the photogenic San Juan Mountains. Tourists can choose to ride up to Silverton by train for a walking tour and then back to Durango by rail in one day. Or they might want to travel up by bus (65 min) in the morning and then return on the train in the afternoon. Six hours on a train is a long time unless you are a train buff who wants to spend all day on a train or a nature lover (like me!!) who wants to travel through the incredible Animas River Canyon two times. Either way, you will enjoy the ride!

If you have been there, done that, then reminisce. If you haven't been so lucky, then wet your appetite! Click the first of my photos and enjoy the slideshow.  ST

Silverton hot spots!

Great cafe/bakery/brewery!!!
Get to the train EARLY!!! When the whistle blows
it is leaving town. Trust me, I know!
A source of bad beer is no more.
A source of great rum has expanded!
 The train ride needs no descriptors.

The Durango Hostel is premium value!
Met these new cycling friends while camping along
the railroad line (behind them).

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