Photo courtesy of Durango Area Tourism Office.
Tight curves—you bet!—steep grades, loose rocks and rough weather required 19th century engineers to come up with a flexible train track. The solution—a shorter width between the tracks called narrow gauge—was used for mountain mining and logging industries. Most of the gold and silver mines that used to freight on narrow-gauge trains like the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train have played out, but one thing remains: the scenery. The 45-mile route between Durango and Silverton, Colo., is spectacular, especially in the fall, when the aspen leaves turn yellow and it’s like riding through a gold rush beside rushing mountain streams. “Rush” might be the best word for the whole experience, as the train travels along deep gorges and high peaks between the well-preserved wild west towns of Silverton and Durango. Breakfast at the historic General Palmer hotel, ride the rails to Silverton, lunch at Grumpy’s and be back in time to shop the streets of Durango.
Chugging Through History
The railroad companies brought civilization to the West, or at least wherever in the West there was money to be made. In 1879, after the second Colorado gold rush, Denver & Rio Grande Railway founded Durango. Three years later, the first train arrived and construction was begun on the Silverton line. Amazingly, only nine months after construction began, the tracks to Silverton were completed and the train began hauling gold and silver ore. They say more than $300 million in precious metals have traveled along this route. In continuous operation for 129 years, the train—and the town—provide an authentic trip to the West the way it used to be.
The train leaves from the old depot in Durango—a very short walk from the historic Victorian General Palmer hotel. The trip from Durango to Silverton takes about three and a half hours. After a couple of hours exploring the old silver mining boom town of Silverton, round trip passengers return to Durango. You can expand your trip beyond the basic ride, Durango to Silverton and back, by adding a tour of an old silver mine, a raft trip, zip line, horse ride or even a cave adventure.
Go to durangotrain.com, or call 877-872-4607.