Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 5, 2013

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:53 pm

The sights, sounds, and smells of an old steam train take us back to a kinder and gentler era, helping us briefly forget recent news of chemical weapons, gang-rapes, and nuclear pollution. Who doesn’t love the harmonious whistle, blown in coded combinations of long and short? The clickety-clack of wheel on track, the swaying cars, the passing scenery?

Passengers milled happily about the Durango, Colorado, railroad station, awaiting the boarding call. At the ticket booth for the narrow-gauge railway trip up into the San Juan mountains, I learned that the only car available was the first-class Silver Vista. I don’t remember ever buying first-class anything in my life, but this was a glass-roofed open-air car, built from blueprints of the original destroyed in a suspicious fire sixty years ago. It was, we would later discover, the favorite car of all the railroad workers. I got two tickets.

Forty-five miles and three-and-a-half glorious hours later, Chris and I stepped off onto the packed dirt roads of the well-worn 19th-century mining town of Silverton, population 500-ish. It’s endearingly ragged, quintessentially western; I suspect the only thing keeping it alive in the 21st century is the narrow-gauge railroad and the 175,000 riders who drop in each year.

What’s a little soot on your face, in exchange for a ride up 3,000 feet and back a century or so?

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