Southwest Day 17: Tourist train from Durango

September 9, 2021.

Today I rode the Durango Silverton tourist train. In my normal life it would have required getting up at what I usually consider an uncivilized hour, but this trip has turned me into a morning person. Something about camping causing me to go to bed when it gets dark at 8pm. Anyway, it was easy enough to wake up to walk the 1.5 miles downtown for an 8am departure.

I booked a seat in one of the open gondola cars. It was chilly enough in the morning to really appreciate the hot chai I bought from the station.

My seat was on the side of the train that got the better views on the way up to Silverton. The thing I hadn’t thought about was that this also meant I was on the side that got sun on both trips. In the morning this was nice, but on the way back I was wishing I had chosen differently.

Anyway, the morning trip to Silverton was lots of fun. The first few miles were just the scenery around Durango, but we soon started climbing into the mountains.

My train was the one that stops to drop off backpackers at a couple of trailheads along the way. There were probably a dozen people at least setting off on hikes, some with fairly serious mountain climbing gear.

Trains don’t get guard rails, which makes sense, but also makes the bridges and ledges that this route traverses seem pretty precarious. We didn’t fall off, but the train also went pretty slowly through some sections.

All in all, it was pretty enjoyable to spend the morning looking at rocks and trees and water in various combinations.

We got to Silverton just before noon, and I did a loop around town to check it out. I didn’t do any tourist shopping, but I found a place that sold me a sandwich, and a different place that sold me ice cream (and avoided the options with “Due to government handouts nobody wants to work…” signs in the windows).

The ride back to Durango was, as mentioned, unpleasantly sunny. But I did get a nice view of all the rocks in the upper part of the river stained by spill from a mine accident a few years ago. Lovely!

By the time we got back to Durango I was ready to get out of the sun. As I was leaving the tran depot I spotted the other touring couple I met back in Ridgway. They were also leaving the train depot, but had their bikes with them. I’m not sure whether they were on my train or if they just stopped by to watch the train come in. Given that they are headed to New Mexico and I’m picking up a car to head to Utah tomorrow, I imagine I won’t see them again.

Bronwyn Woods