Abstract Musings

Documenting the random thoughts of a cluttered mind

Day 5 — Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, May 2005

In May 2005, Rachelle and I took a vacation to Colorado. After visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and driving the Million Dollar Highway over the San Juan Mountains, we spent the night in Durango. And the next morning, bright and early, we boarded the train on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Animas River
The first part of the ride is pretty uneventful–just leaving Durango. But once we were in the mountains, I left my seat in a covered car to brave the cold air of an uncovered car to take some photos of the beautiful scenery.

The path of the train follows the Animas River from Durango to Silverton. Over about 45 miles of track the train climbs almost 3000 feet in elevation. The original purpose of the train was to haul silver and gold out of the mountains back to the smelter in Durango. The track was laid in an astonishing eleven months and was operational immediately.

Animas River

Animas River Scenery

More Animas River Scenery

Keep Your Head, Hands and Feet Inside the Car at all Times
Here’s a photo of the train engine as we rounded a bend in the track.

That Was Close!
Here’s another one. The rock wall was close to the side of the train.

Around Another Bend
All of the locomotives used by the D&SNGRR are coal-fired and steam-operated. And yes, the cinders do get on you in the open cars, but the scenery is worth it.

Far Below
The Animas River is still below us.

Down in the Gorge
It was really tricky to take photos on the train. The car swayed side-to-side, and the forward motion of the train didn’t give me much time to compose my shot: I had to point, click and hope for the best.

Blowing Steam
The engine blows out steam as it crosses the bridge. This bridge was featured in a couple of movies. It is the highest crossing of the tracks over the river at 70 feet, as I recall.

Alongside the Animas River
The river’s elevation matched that of the tracks.

Animas River

Train and the River

Even with the River

Getting Cold
Eventually, the train came to a stop to take on water. Since I didn’t think it would be so cold outside in the uncovered car, I had left just wearing just my sweatshirt. Big mistake! I was a bit cold, to say the least, by this time; so I went in to the comfort of the enclosed coach car to warm up.

Pit Stop
Here’s the scenery from our pit stop.

Pit Stop Scenery
The mountains towered above us during our brief stop.


After a three-and-a-half hour ride, we rode into Silverton. Rachelle and I decided to grab lunch and then explore the town. While we were eating, it began to snow lightly. Afterwards, we came back to the train and took some photos of it.

All Aboard
Rachelle posed in front of a covered coach car just like the one in which we rode.

Engine No. 482
The engine of our train.

Front of the Locomotive
The front of our locomotive.

Our time was up in Silverton, so we got back on board and settled down for the return trip to Durango. It continued to snow lightly on us almost the entire trip back.

Leaving Silverton
The view from the train as we left Silverton.

Leaving Silverton
Another view of the stormy sky and the mountain scenery as we left Silverton.

Leaving Silverton
The clouds shrouded the mountaintops on our return trip.

It's Not Springtime Yet
We passed lots of leafless aspens on our trip.

Mountain Scenery
One last view of the mountains.

By the time we got back to Durango, it was late in the afternoon. With dusk approaching and the inclement weather in the mountains, we abandoned our original plan of driving back over the mountains and heading north. Instead, we decided to drive west first and then head north. In 2001, we had visited Arches National Park and throughly enjoyed the park and its unusual scenery. This diversion gave us an excellent excuse to re-visit Arches National Park, and see parts of the park we had left undiscovered on our previous visit. *[D&SNGRR]: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad