Saturday, September 15, 2012


I love trains, especially since my family has a history (three generations) with trains.  Growing up around them, I even remember riding the train from Oklahoma City to Chicago, just to go shopping.  But I had never ridden the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, until now.
Phil was waiting along the tracks and got our picture.  From left to right: Marion, Caroline, Judy, Max, Arleen, Mark, Herb, Bob, BJ, and Tom.

Built in 1881, this steam powered railroad has operated continuously over the 45 miles between Durango and Silverton.  Originally built for freight and passengers, especially hauling freight and supplies up to the mines around Silverton and returning with silver and gold ore, the railroad declined following the fall of the silver standard in the mid 1890s.  The railroad continued, but struggled until after WWII, when domestic tourism became more and more popular.  After a number of movies made in the 1940s and 1950s, it became quite popular as a tourist train. 

This bicyclist was going faster than we were.  Although the top speed of the train is 20mph, we were just starting the climb out of Durango and wasn't going very fast.

Linda has welcomed travelers and tourists on the train for over 100 days straight.  She is not employed by the train, but does this because as she says, "It is her tradition".  She was in the station as we left, and was at roadside crossings at least 3 more times before he hit the mountains.

Before we reached the national forest, thousands of acres of forest and this lake, as well as two other lakes, are owned by an oil tycoon.  Although the lake is private, in the winter when it freezes over, he allows locals to come ice skate.

We have now started into the canyon, up to Silverton.  I have not zoomed in at all, so this shows just how far below is the river.

As you can see, we are traveling on a small ledge, blasted out of the mountain just for the train.  Some 400 feet below is the river.

Another view of the train along the ledge and the canyon.

The train has to stop twice to take on more water.  Before the stop it releases any excess steam.  It always does this as it goes over the bridge.

The Tacoma Powerhouse is still operating since it opened in 1906.  Originally built to provide power to the many mines in the area, it is located 20 miles north of Durango, along the Durango and Silverton RR lines, and is accessible only via the RR.  There are no roads to the plant.  It gets its water from 18 miles up the Cascade River, where it flows down a 4,400 ft wooden flume, one of only two still operating.  Electra Lake provides water storage for year round operation.  The plant produces 28,000 megawatts of electricity annually.

I think these wooden cars have seen better days.

There were several really right turns.

We stopped at one point and let off about 18 hikers.  In a few days to a week they will be back here waiting to catch the train back to Durango.

The Tall Timbers Resort, a remote, 5 star resort, has operated for over 30 years.  It now also operated Soaring Tree Top Adventures as well.  Accessible only via the train, you can ride up to Tall Timbers, disembark and spend the day zip lining, then return to Durango on the return train.  One of our group did just that and had the time of his life.

Jonathan is only 14, yet he has been working for the D&SNG as an ambassador for 2 years.  His knowledge of the history of both the train and the area was quite impressive.  We kept him busy with all our questions and he let us know in plenty of time when a photo op was coming up.

One of the original water towers.  

As we got close to Silverton, we started to see signs of the mining.  This was a gold mine which was in operation until I believe 1968.

And of course the scenery from the train was spectacular, especially as we came into Silverton.

I think the timing was just right as the Aspens had started to change colors.

We had 2 hours to look around Silverton, but we first headed to Grumpy's for lunch where we were entertained.

Grumpy's is the restaurant at the Grand Imperial Hotel. built in 1882.

We were walking down main street and found they have a Rum Distiller in Silverton.  Rum?  Although they still have their bar, and they did originate here in 2008, they moved the actual distilling operation to Crested Butte in 2011.

The Town Hall, built in 1906.  Although the population swells during the summer months, year round residents are few now that tourism and not mining is the primary business of the area.  Once the train leaves in the afternoon, most of the businesses close up.  

A real surry with the fringe on top.

This is Blair Street, famous for its numerous brothels and bars during the mining heyday.  Notice it isn't even paved.

Once a jail, it is now the local thrift store.

Once a brothel, it is now a restaurant.  Built in 1888, it was the last brothel to close down.  Madam Jew Fanny closed shop in 1947.

Another restaurant that was once a brothel.

I think the sign says it all.

We are heading back to Durango now, but I couldn't resist this shot.

And as we get back to Durango, well, there was Linda to welcome us back.


Barbara and Ron said...

It looks like you had a perfect day!

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