September 2, 2013 – Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Ever since we began planning this reunion with our friends from our 2011 Alaska RV caravan, taking the trip on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been one of the most anticipated events.  We were not disappointed.

Our day’s adventure began at the Depot in Durango.

As all good railroads, our coal-fired, steam engine pulled out on-time.

Obviously, the environmentalists have given this railroad a “free pass” on emissions

 For the first half-hour of our 45.4 mile journey, we traveled through a valley

before beginning our nearly 3,000’ climb to Silverton,

passing a beautiful serene lake,

 

an occasional track-side pond,

and cutting through narrow cuts in the mountain sides,

while paralleling the Animas River, often far below, for most of the way.

At other times, the river flowed only a few feet below the level of the tracks

as we passed by old, abandoned freight cars

through glistening stands of aspens,

and the second oldest operating hydro-electric plant in the country.

traversed bridges trestles

bypassing others no longer in use,

past two waterfalls,

and finally capturing vistas of the 13,000’ and 14,000’ mountains which soared on all sides.

We had opted for an open-sided car (thankfully the weather was in our favor … not too cool and no rain) with a glass roof affording us exceptionally views and photographic opportunities to see the cliffs and mountains rising beside us.

As the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is pulled by a steam engine, it requires several stops along the way to replenish the water it requires to make steam.

At one such stop, the chipmunks appear in great numbers, clearly conditioned by the thousands of visitors who gleefully toss scraps of the railroad’s complementary “sticky buns” to them.

Approaching Silverton, we saw one of the old mines which were the lifeblood of the community on the past.

The orange “dot” in the upper right of the photo is the remains of a pick-up truck which failed to negotiate a curve in the road several hundred feet above the mine.

Finally Silverton comes into view.

Situated at an elevation of just shy of 9,300’ and with a year-round population of 560, Silverton is both a typical tourist town and utterly unique and charming.  With only one paved street

and four-way STOP signs at the intersection of two gravel roads where there is virtually no traffic,

except possibly an old stage coach.

The town’s commercial buildings provide a rainbow of color,

 

Beautiful flower baskets hang along the two main streets

and colorful cars are not uncommon.

Its sidewalk benches are crafted from snowboards and Harley-Davidson parts,

while two old hotels still service travelers, the most opulent being the Wyman Hotel

and at least three churches grace Silverton’s  side streets, including Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church

Our return trip was by bus taking a route which climbed to over 10,850’.  Unfortunately, I dozed off and missed the Pinkerton Mineral Spring Fountain.  However, thanks to Leslie Wilhelm, one of our good friends who had to leave our reunion in Durango, I am able to include this incredible natural wonder.

Tonight, we dined at

and where the signs on the walls were either “all Texas” themed

or just humorous!

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