What is it about trains? I’m far from a railroad buff, but still, there’s something in the lonesome whistle of an old locomotive that speaks to me.
I was reminded of that again and again on my recent trip to Durango, Colorado. Among the activities I had planned was a daylong trip to Silverton on the historic Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Even before I got near the train depot in downtown Durango, though, there was no question that I was in a railroad town. The long whistle could be heard all over town, and the plumes of gray-and-white steam could be glimpsed over the tops of buildings and trees. It definitely served to build up anticipation for the actual train ride.
Of course, the train isn’t the only thing Durango has to offer. I also loved the historic downtown and the gorgeous Animas River Trail and Greenway. (See related blog).
But the train is the real star in this southwestern Colorado town. Nearly 200,000 passengers rode the train in 2017. And certainly, the three-and-a-half-hour ride to Silverton delivers on multiple levels. Among them: The non-stop views of the Animas River and surrounding San Juan Mountains.
The coal-fired train travels slowly as it climbs the steep terrain. Because I was interested in having as unobstructed a view as possible, I booked an open-air gondola. Although it did give me great views, it also was the coldest spot on the train. I bundled up, though, and didn’t mind much. (I WAS glad I opted to buy a cap at the gift store before I left in the morning).
And as the train progressed through ever-prettier scenery, I noticed that many of the passengers in the enclosed cars began gravitating to the open-air cars – the better to get great photos.
As we approached Silverton, the views kept evolving. First we passed by the Rockwood Depot, where a small cluster of houses could be seen. Then, we happened upon a group of backpackers gathered at the southern terminus of the 500-mile Colorado Trail. And always, the green-blue waters of the Animas River added vivid color to the scenery.
And then all of a sudden, Silverton! At an elevation of 9,318, the small mountain town enjoys cool air, and a relatively secluded atmosphere.
With several hours to explore before my return trip, I had plenty of time to get lunch, walk the streets of the historic mining town, take a short hike up a mountain road, and check out the town’s informative museum. All around, it was a delightful visit.
Tickets for the Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad are available online at: http://www.durangotrain.com/. Silverton can also be reached by car or bus along the Million Dollar Highway, Colorado Highway 550. While the route is beautiful, it is narrow and winding. And when I was there, it was plagued with road-construction delays. For convenience and views, I highly recommend the train.