Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR

Yesterday, I spent the morning and afternoon on a memorable and special trip made possible by the Special Events Coordinator and the Durango Photography Club [of which I am a member] to take the Native American Heritage train ride on the D&SNG.   The DPC was given 35 tickets free of charge to members, and I was lucky enough to get one of them.

For those who have never visited Durango, the train ride from Durango to Silverton is a huge draw and a big deal for tourists and locals.  The train is an old-fashioned coal-burning steam engine train, and speed is not its forte; it takes over 3 hrs. to get to Silverton from Durango (vs. about an 85 min. drive).

This trip, however, also included members of the Southern and Mountain Ute tribes performing blessing ceremonies and dances, both on the lawn of the train depot before departure and at the Cascade Creek destination (about 1/2 way along the route to Silverton).

Since we are going to be heading to Taos early tomorrow morning for a 3-day, 2-night camping trip, I'll save the photos I took of the Ute members for another post when I have more time:  it is worthy of a separate post.

In the meantime, here are some photos taken from the train trip itself.  In an atypical circumstance, we were delayed about 1 1/2 hrs. not far outside of town.  Apparently, the engine on the train that left before ours broke down, so they pulled the engine from ours and sent it up ahead.  We waited while another engine came up from the depot in Durango.  As one of the brakemen told us:  "These are antique trains and sometimes the equipment breaks and needs to be repaired."  Indeed.

I hope you enjoy these photos taken of the ride, and I'll batch out a couple of other posts if I have time to go up during my time away.

The Southern Ute tribal elder blessing the ride immediately before boarding.  You'll see more of this gentleman in a later post

A view of the Animas River in its wide, meandering slow oxbow section through the Animas River Valley.  The sky was incredibly hazy due to smoke from the huge fire in Alpine, AZ.

The train stopped for the engine exchange right in front of the glider airfield, and I managed to catch this one coming in for a landing from the train window

The train coming around the tracks next to the Animas river gorge.  We were seated in the gondola car, allowing for these "hang out the window and shoot" types of photos.  

For all my friends back east that are terrified of heights and exposure:  the train crossing the narrow bridge a couple hundred feet above the Animas river.  

Blowing off some steam at Tank Creek

Conductor of engine #478 taking a break at the Cascade Creek wye (rail junction) at our destination stop

Confluence of Cascade creek (l) and the Animas river from the footbridge about 1/4 of a mile from the train stop

A view looking down into the Animas River gorge on the way back.  The river is at peak flow now, and  rages through the narrow trough of the gorge.   A ponderosa pine casts a shadow on the distal cliff wall

Close to the rocks!

Another view down into the gorge

Back in the Animas Valley and looking north.  Some distal peaks of the Needles range still sport snow

One of the countless Animas river float trips with everyone waving to the train


  1. Great photos! I especially like the Ponderosa pine one. Enjoy your vacation!

    LeAnn aka pasqueflower

  2. Hi Sonya--Really enjoying these! I've been meaning to ask, what kind of camera are you using? Might have to get one, and have no idea where to start looking except to simply ask people who seem to take great shots. That "view looking down into the Animas River gorge on the way back" is particularly paint-worthy--what a great composition.

  3. Oh I've done this too!

    As one of your friends back east I must tell you though, the first thing I noticed is that they seem to have put a wooden support under that bridge. It used to be just RR ties you could see through (25years ago now - almost to the month!). Taking that 6-8" off for that support really made it feel like you were _ON_THE_BRINK_ there... :-{ (that's a puckered up I might be ill face emoticon). ;)

    But yes, appreciate that you took a pic straight down so I can scream like I would over the canyon shots dad used to show in his slide shows... this is every bit as AIIIGH! Paint it! Paint it!! ;)

  4. Wow, those photos are amazing. I love the one of the Animas river. Such great colors in the water. You have a terrific eye for composition. :)

  5. Thank you for stopping by, LeAnn, and I'm glad you enjoyed the photos!

    Bill: I have a Nikon D40 (now I think the D3000 or D5000), which is actually the entry level DSLR of the Nikon line. But, I love it, and you can see that it takes great photos. I used 2 lenses for these photos: my telephoto zoom (55-200mm Nikkor DX - low-budget glass, but takes great photos) and my nicer 18-70mm Nikkor DX wide-angle zoom.

  6. Morgen - I did this in '88 myself, and this is the first time since then I've taken the train. I didn't pay attention to the ride (or its harrowing features) back then, and on this trip, I only noticed because I know certain friends would freak out if they were on the train ;).

    And one of the brakemen said to us: "Don't worry - we haven't had a train fall into the gorge in at least a week." Yeah, baby!

    Hi Crystal - thank you so much for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. I will say that during our 2200 mile drive from CT to CO last summer, I got pretty good at composing and shooting photos from a moving vehicle! That helped a lot on this trip, along with the fact that the train is pretty slow.

  7. I've ridden on this! It's amazing!

  8. Hi Pam - I don't think you can visit Durango (and you said your son lives here) without taking the D&SNG at least once, right? This was only my second time on the train; the first was in '88.

  9. Not sure if you're teasing but I have no problem admitting that despite surviving it once, I'd still absolutely be feeling like a cat in a car on that train myself (!) new boards or no. ;) I probably even sit still and look calm.. but it's the paralysis of abject terror. When I visit (sure sure I make hollow promises here), there is no need to get me a ticket on this tourist stop. Been there done that, it's for someone else....lol! ;)


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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