Durango, Colorado – June 2015 The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a big part of Durango. When the train goes by people step out of their homes, hotels, and businesses to waive. It creates quite a stir. And this happens up to 8 times a day as the trains depart and return from their trip up the mountain to Silverton.
The 45 miles of track from Durango to Silverton were laid in the 1880’s to carry silver and gold ore out of the San Juan Mountains. The train has operated as a tourist attraction for over 30 years now. Riding it is an all day affair. If you catch the 8 am train you will not get back until after 5 pm. You can take a bus one way which is faster. You can also arrange to ride the train in conjunction with another adventure like horseback riding or zip lining. You can even arrange to get off the train in the middle of nowhere, spend a day, or several, backpacking and camping, and then hail a train to catch a ride back to civilization.
Jim is quite the train enthusiast so a ride on the train was high on our list of things to do here. We wanted to ride it when we visited many years ago but the price was well out of our budget then. We felt it was worth the splurge this time. A standard ticket is almost a $100. You get your choice of riding in an enclosed coach or an open gondola. Since it was supposed to rain that afternoon we wisely chose the closed car.
There are premium ticket options like a car with a narrator and cars with more comfortable seats and larger windows. They also offer special wine trains, brew trains, and blues trains, among others, throughout the year. I would consider paying higher rates for one of those in the future but none were scheduled during our visit and I understand they sell out months in advance anyway.
The ride up was fun. The tracks follow the Animas River most of the way and it was raging from snowmelt and recent rains.
At times the river was right beside us. Water even covered the tracks in places. Other times we were high above it.
The scenery was gorgeous! There were lots of beautiful waterfalls.
You are allowed to get up and move around the train, even encouraged to visit the concession car. Most of the cars have a restroom or two. The trip is 3 ½ hours up, then you get 2 hours to explore Silverton before you start home.
Silverton was a pleasant surprise. It had a plenty of shops and restaurants. We enjoyed an awesome lunch at Handlebars Saloon then walked down a couple of residential streets. We liked the unique architecture of many homes, the cute little churches, and the impressive public buildings.
We enjoyed the ride immensely and it was generally quite comfortable. If you get motion sickness I would suggest you take some medication before you go. You do get jostled around a bit at times. I felt a little altitude sickness but it didn’t last. It’s quite a bit colder in Silverton so be sure and bring plenty of layers. The day got a little long by the end but we were lucky to find interesting people to talk to on the trip down which helped pass the time. If you are in Durango and aren’t inclined or able to take the train, do at least check out their free train museum. It was quite extensive and included a lot of historical items beyond their train collection.