Friday, August 15, 2008

Durango to Silverton Railroad

The train stops in several scenic spots so you can photograph the train itself.

It is August 16th and the high today is only 50 degrees so I can’t help but think of Fall and my trip to Ouray two Septembers ago. I flew my parents out and my mother and I rode the Durango and Silverton Railroad one way to Silverton. This is another one of those quintessential Colorado experiences. Fall is a great time to ride the train because there are spots of showy aspens all along the route. Dress warmly though if you go this time of year. While the coaches are enclosed, the gondolas are open air and at times I was wearing three layers, gloves, and a warm hat. A thermos of hot chocolate will make the trip even better. Seats are assigned so you have to choose your car before hand.

Rocks along the Animas

The D&SNGRR, which stands for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, was completed in 1882 and was initially used to haul silver and gold out of the mountains. Narrow gauge rails, which are three feet apart, are easier to lay around tight mountain curves. You will see on the route that there are some tight curves indeed! Interestingly, standard rail gauge is 56.5 inches, which was the width of Roman chariots. Now that is a standard worth keeping. And I thought the English foot (12 inches) was a bad measurement!

We stayed in Durango the night before our trip and it poured like it is today, which is probably why I am reminiscing. Since the train departs at 8:15 AM, this was not a bad choice. We were fortunate to have my father pick us up in Silverton because at 18 mph, the train trip takes 3.5 hours. Going back would have been too tedious for me. There is a motor coach option at certain times of the year, however, and I would recommend that for the variety if nothing else.

It is hard to identify milestones along the route but you can google the animas river since it tracks this pretty well. At times the train is right along side the river bed and at other times it is high above with the Animas rushing through a sculpted gorge below.

My favorite photo from the trip. You can sense the change in the seasons between the snow, color, and low hanging clouds.

The D&SNGRR is a history lesson, a kitschy tourist trap, and a wonderful way to see some stunning Colorado scenery all rolled into one. For train buffs this is an absolute must. Everyone else should do it too. Just get your tickets well in advance. Prime time fills up quickly.

1 comment:

Lindy MacDuff said...

Beautiful captures! I found your blog while visiting another's, then noticed the title of this particular entry. My husband and I spent our honeymoon (in August 1980) in Colorado and rode the Durango to Silverton NGRR, as well as the Pike's Peak Cog Railway. You are very correct about wearing layers of clothing, and this was particularly true with the Cog Railway ride. We were prepared, fortunately, as the day we ascended it was 72 degrees upon boarding and 32 degrees and snowing with a blustery wind at the top of Pike's Peak.