We boarded an 1882 steam train at the depot in Durango and took it three and a half hours to Silverton, once a profitable silver mining town at 9,308 elevation. The train appeals to tourists and the mountain views are spectacular in places.
We paid extra to sit in the enclosed car that features a docent with historical narrative to share. Close to the engine, the cinders and ash were heavy if you opened a window. Hot with them closed.
The train makes several stops, this one to take on water…
…and make a routine inspection before moving on.
The train follows the riverbed for much of the way. Pristine, roiling waters and marshmallow clouds all day for us.
This is what the inside of the enclosed cars looks like. Three and one-half hours is tough for a two-year old. The scenery, though beautiful, gets repetitive for much of the way. It was a welcome and speedy trip for people in the 1800’s. If you go with children, one way is probably enough. You have a choice to train up, and bus back.
These new, young friends, passed some of the time playing scissors, paper and rock, which helped pass some of the time. The docent explained that we can expect to see deer, beaver, goats, sheep, bear and cougar among the larger animals. I saw two dahl sheep quite close to the road on the way up and one on the way down. You come upon them so unexpectedly, a picture was not possible.
The train stops at designated places for backpackers and hikers who get off or back on the train. They can be out for days, or just hours. They find room for them to ride in the gondola cars. Three older guys picked up on our way back were out for four days and hiked 40 miles. They reported being followed all the way up the mountain by wild goats that would walk right through their camp. He snarked, “And people hunt them? It’s like hunting a Buick in a parking lot.”
There are two walking bridges for hikers to cross the river that I saw. In many places fording is possible as well.
Other canyon adventures are riding a zip-line, kayaking, and river rafting. This tree is the bottom part of the zip-line apparatus.
Snow melt makes its way to the river and cascades beautifully for us down the rocks. in small and tall waterfalls.
Water tumbling over rocks is always a refreshing and beautiful scene.
As we rose in elevation, we passed through an aspen forest with some of the biggest aspen I’ve ever seen. Downed trees from beaver chews were visible on the side of the water, but no beaver dam in site.
We got off the train at Silverton and we were greeted by a young boy hawking “rocks for sale.”
People took this opportunity to have their picture taken with the train. I liked the train parked with the green path up the mountain behind it.
Silverton has one paved street, Main St. It was very class conscious in its day and the well-to-do lived on this side of town. People from the other side town were discouraged from mingling with the upper class.
The “low rent” district was more interesting.
And, of course, the jail was built on the “wrong” side of town where all the miners lived.
Besides unpaved streets, there is still boardwalks in some places.
Haven’t a clue? It was definitely closed. It is said that when mining went bust, the town was so broke they couldn’t prosper, so the town is much like it looked in the 1900’s.
And, if you’re short on money, and need a four-way stop sign, you can make do with one post, one hole, and less labor.
Blair Street was part of the notorious “other” side of town now marked for the benefit of tourists as is this phony but fun grave marker.
Lola Fent Kicked Up Her Heels, & Away She Went .
I spotted this delightful truck sitting in front of its own brewery. Had to try it. I ordered a porter, which was way overly carbonated, almost chemical tasting and way over priced. Everyone seemed to be eating good food, but, the beer was just drinkable. We ate at Romeros and got back on the train.
We asked to get off the history car for two reasons. First, we couldn’t hear well enough over the noise of the train. And, secondly, picture-taking was difficult through the small window openings. The conductor found us a seat and we had a much more enjoyable ride in the open gondola. You could see better and it was easier to take pictures. You still get puffs of ash, and grime, though. The kids get more diversion, though the five-year old above had a hard time concentrating and wanted to be done with the ride.
The Rio de Los Animus Por Dios river runs through this magnificent canyon. It means the river of lost souls. I expect there were numerous deaths for those early explorers trying to navigate the river and canyon. Even today, there have been lightening fires, mud and rock slides and periodic floods in low places and drownings.
The trip back seemed shorter. Everyone has there preference and I think if we were to do it again, we’d take the half trip. The Concession Car, by the way, has much in the way of snacks, water and refreshments. There are restrooms aboard the train, as in the 1800’s.
The kids love it when the engineer lets go with a blast of steam to lower pressure in the boiler when he needs to slow going down hill.
In some places, the train passes so close to the rocks and trees you can reach out and touch them. I chuckled when I saw a father warn the kids to keep their hands inside the rails, only to wait until they weren’t looking and he reached out and touched the rocks and grabbed a leaf. Busted!