Monday I spent all day on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This train is very similar to the one I rode about a week and a half ago down in New Mexico. Many of these trains which run over high mountains are “narrow gauge,” meaning that the track rails are only 3 feet apart as opposed to conventional trains whose track rails are 4 feet 8 inches apart. This allows them to lay tracks on and navigate much tighter spaces.
I left home in plenty of time to get downtown and park a few blocks away from the station (for free, as opposed to paying $8 to park in their lot). Our train departed at 845am for the slightly more than 4-hour ride north to Silverton (which is featured in the next post). Durango is at about 6,500 feet elevation and Silverton is at about 9,300 feet so it was all uphill on the way north. The train stopped three times to take on water for the coal-fired steam engine.
Speaking of coal, I learned during the Yard tour on Friday that on an average round-trip each train (and they run several each day, depending on demand) goes through 4-6 tons of coal. TONS! And the car attendant today told us that some poor soul up in the engine throws a 20-pound shovelful of coal into the engine every 4 seconds! Yikes! And when the trains are in Durango overnight they put wood pellets in the engines to keep them warm for the next day.
We had a 90-minute layover in Silverton for lunch. The trip back to Durango went a little quicker (although the train averages less than 15 mph) as we only had to stop once for water and the engine didn’t have to work as hard going downhill. We got back to Durango a little past 630pm.
This is the car I rode in, which inside was almost identical to the one I rode in on the Chama train.
The couple I shared a table with, Harry and Beverly, were visiting from Oklahoma. They come to this area every year in their Jeep and like to travel on old mining roads and other off-road type places, mainly north of Silverton and Ouray, which is about 25 miles further north. Beverly is a veterinarian and owns her own practice. Her jacket had an emblem for an organization which is studying Golden Retrievers. It is following the lives of 3,000 dogs as research into why they develop certain diseases. Her daughter has a Golden and is participating in the study.
Ironically the couple sitting across the aisle from our table is in the process of moving to Durango from Durham!
He used to work at Fullsteam Brewery, an establishment which which I am somewhat familiar. They are staying at another Airbnb as they hunt for a place to live. Small world.
The scenery during the ride was a little different from what I saw on the Chama train. We were in the mountains for most of the trip and there were trees and rocks which made it hard to take pictures at times. There were some dramatic views as we paralleled the Animas River for most of the trip and there were great cliff views as we climbed and descended the mountain. The windows on this car opened up, not down and it was colder outside so I rarely had the window open. I stayed in my seat most of the time and just enjoyed the ride (and talked too much, I’m sure….). Despite my preparations I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I thought I would.