The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Steam Train
A ride on a magical steam tourist train. A ride on a steam train, through amazing mountain landscapes, has even more magic. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge train is one of the relics of the United States railroad, a train that runs about 45.2 miles precisely between Duranto and Silverton, in the state of Colorado. The entire route, and even the trains themselves, have been declared a Historic Monument of Civil Engineering in the United States.
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, often abbreviated as the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, often abbreviated as the D&SNG, is a 3 ft narrow-gauge heritage railroad that operates on 45.2 mi of track between Durango and Silverton is a 3 ft narrow-gauge heritage railroad that operates on 45.2 mi of track between Durango and Silverton, in the U.S. state of Colorado. The railway is a federally-designated National Historic Landmark and was also designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1968.
When was the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge train built?
The railway was built between 1881 and 1882 to communicate and transport personnel and extractions from the mining activity in the region. Currently the entire original route does not work, but it is a good memory of other times, although as a tourist walk.
The line has been operating continuously since 1882 with the curious fact that it is the only train that has operated continuously with steam locomotives since then. Even part of the rolling stock has been in operation since 1880.
The route was originally opened in 1882 by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) to transport silver and gold ore mined from the San Juan Mountains. The line was an extension of the D&RG 3 ft narrow-gauge line from Antonito, Colorado to Durango. The last train to operate into Durango from the east was on December 6, 1968. The states of New Mexico and Colorado purchased 64 miles of track between Antonito and Chama, New Mexico in 1970, which is operated today as the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TSRR). Trackage between Chama and Durango was removed by 1971.
A bit History
The line from Durango to Silverton has run continuously since 1881, although it is now a tourist and heritage line hauling passengers, and is one of the few places in the U.S. which has seen continuous use of steam locomotives. In March 1981, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) sold the line and the D&SNG was formed Today, the D&SNG, along with the C&TSRR, are the only two remaining parts of the former D&RGW narrow-gauge network. The railroad has a total of nine narrow-gauge steam locomotives (eight of which are operational) and soon-to-be eleven narrow-gauge diesel locomotives, six of which were acquired within the last three years, on its current roster.
Some rolling-stock dates back to the 1880s. Trains operate from Durango to the Cascade Wye in the winter months and Durango–Silverton during the summer months. Durango depot was built in January, 1882 and has been preserved in its original form.
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad
After arriving in Denver, William Jackson Palmer (1836–1908). formulated a plan to build a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge railroad southward from Denver to El Paso, Texas (see Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad). In 1871, the Denver & Rio Grande Railway began to lay rails south from Denver. Palmer and his associates had agreed that the choice of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge would be well suited to the mountainous country, and relatively less expensive construction costs would enhance the viability of the new railroad. The original north–south plans of the D&RG eventually expanded to include extensions throughout the booming mining country of central and southwestern Colorado.
In July 1881, the Denver & Rio Grande reached Durango and started building the final 45-mile stretch up the Animas River to Silverton. The first 18 miles to Rockwood were completed by late November. The remainder of the route entered the narrow Animas Canyon, which has steep granite walls. The labor crew, made up of mostly Chinese and Irish immigrants, blasted the canyon cliffs off and left a narrow, level shelf to lay the tracks on. Grading was completed by late spring 1882.
The D&RG reached Silverton on July 10, 1882. Trains hauling passengers and freight began immediately. The D&RG soon re-emerged as the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (1886) and ultimately began operating as the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) on July 31, 1921, after re-organization of the Colorado lines and Rio Grande Western of Utah. Eventually, the railroad became widely known as the “Rio Grande”.
The Silverton branch, as it became known, struggled under D&RG ownership following the Panic of 1893 and the end of free coinage of silver. Typical of many portions of the surviving narrow-gauge branches into the middle of the twentieth century, the line faced sagging revenue due to ever-declining mining ventures, highway trucking competition and insignificant passenger revenue. Annual snowslides and several major floods on the branch would only continue to challenge the railroad’s ability to survive.
How to make the trip on the Durango Train?
To make the walk you have to go to the city of Durango. In winter, the journey is shorter and reaches the Wye Cascade, which makes sense considering that most of it is covered in snow. In summer, the route is complete from Durango to Silverton. Also, within the line operation complex, there are two museums that exhibit historical rolling stock and equipment.
Technical information of locomotives
The steam-powered locomotives used today on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad were built during the 1920s. There are three classes, K-28, K-36 and K-37, which are all based on wheel arrangement and pulling power of the locomotive. Of the nine steam locomotives currently owned by the D&SNG, Nos. 473, 476, 478, 480, 481, 482, 486 and 493 are all operational. However, locomotive No. 478 is currently sitting on display in the D&SNG Museum awaiting a future overhaul.
The K represents the nickname “Mikado” that describes a locomotive with two non-powered, pivoting wheels in front of eight driving wheels, which are connected to driving rods powered by the engine’s pistons and finally two non-powered trailer wheels located under the cab. The name comes from the fact that the first significant use of the type was a series built by Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Japanese Railways in 1887.
The numbers 28 and 36 designate the tractive effort (pulling force) of the locomotives in thousands of pounds. The tractive effort of K-28s is rated at 27,500 pounds-force (122.326 kN) and the tractive effort of a K-36 is a 36,200 pounds-force (161.026 kN). The weight of a K-28 with a full tender is 254,500 pounds (115,439 kg) and a K-36 weighs 286,600 pounds (130,000 kg) with a full tender.
Scenic Round Trip Silverton Train
Durango Depot (479 Main Avenue)..
More About This Excursion
Departing from the Durango Depot, this unforgettable trip takes you up into the Rocky Mountains with views of the San Juan National Forest as you travel alongside the beautiful Animas River on your way to the historic mining town of Silverton. There will be two daily train excursions to Silverton. Steam Excursions run 5/7/22-10/29/22 daily. Diesel Excursions run 5/21/22-10/15/22. The Silverton Diesel Train departs at 8:15AM daily and is the only train excursion offering wilderness access for backpackers. The Silverton Steam Train departs at 9:00AM daily. On both of these train excursions, you will experience the iconic Horseshoe Curve, High Bridge and all of the Animas River Gorge including all of the spectacular views from the High Line. These trains include a concession car with a variety of snacks and drinks available for purchase.
Skyway Tour (bus/train or train/bus) service options are available for the 2022 Silverton summer season excursions. There are two departures available daily. The first deluxe motor coach departs Durango at 9:30am and arrives at Silverton at 11:00am. It then departs from Silverton at 2:00pm and arrives in Durango at 3:30pm. The second deluxe motor coach departs from Durango at 10:15am and arrives in Silverton at 11:45am. It departs from Silverton at 3:00pm and arrives in Durango at 4:30pm. The bus/train service costs $25 (plus 8% historic preservation fee) per person and is added to the roundtrip or one-way train price. There is no additional cost for Cinco passengers who choose the Skyway Tour. The bus service is available 7 days a week May 21st through October 15th.
With one way ticket purchase, the passenger is responsible for transportation and is not included with one way fare.
2022 Booking Information
Schedule and Departure/Arrival Times
The Silverton Steam Train
Available May 7-October 29th, 2022
Cascade Canyon Express
Durango Depot at 479 Main Avenue
Cascade Canyon Winter Train
Durango & Silverton Special Events & Excursions
- Oregon Scenic Railroad
- Jacobite Train
- Amazing Tourist Trains
- Virginia & Truckee Railroad
- Wilmington Western Railroad
- Georgetown Loop Railroad