Durango to Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railway: Part 1

The line from Durango to Silverton, CO, has been in use since 1881, and there are apparently still enough Inner Children around the country clambering for a ride that we got the last two “Presidential class” seats available on the 9:45 departure.

In truth, your Inner Kiddo doesn’t really care which car you ride, although the older you get, the more attractive comfy seats and a once-in-a-lifetime view become.

We STRONGLY recommend procuring a Presidential class ticket.

First, you stand a chance of riding on the “Nomad,” the oldest private railroad coach still in service in the United States.

Originally named “The Fairplay,” the car has hosted Presidents William H Taft, Ulysses S Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and now, rickandkathy. (Somehow, we doubt this last important factoid will end up in the Wikipedia entry on the subject, but whatever….)

But even without the historical interest and beautifully appointed interior, it’s the last car on the train, which means the little open-air platform on the back affords access to jaw-dropping vistas not available to the other cars. This alone is worth the price of admission.

Plus, if you’re really lucky…

… you’ll land Ellie as your personal chaperon/tour guide/safety officer and bartender. Ellie is fabulous, and everything you’d want in an ex-Alaskan field geologist to be. This is important, because en route to Silverton, there are a LOT of rocks that need ‘splainin.

For our money, though, the history and geology took a definite back seat to the tear-inspiring beauty…

… and touristy moments we enjoyed.

We got to meet pleasant, interesting people* (hi Erica and John!)…

… while we took turns on the back platform, picking our jaws up off the brass railing.

Hangin’ on was roughly 50% of the fun…

… while listening to the water of the Animas River rush by, the clackity-clackity of the rails under your feet, and the foooph-foooph of the steam whistle already around the next bend made up the other half.

Our eyeballs got their own 100% all to themselves.

I’m embarrassed to mention I had brought along books and a deck of playing cards, in case we got bored. In fairness, a ten-hour day with seven of those on a train going 10-15 miles an hour seemed like it had the potential to get a bit long.

Yeah… right.

We were in Silverton before I was done jumping from one side of the train to the other, trying to decide which view at any given moment was the most beautiful. Good thing we had the 2.5 hour lay-over to eat lunch and calm down: the ride back was even more incredible.

And that’s why we’ll leave that for Part 2.

10 thoughts on “Durango to Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railway: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Cook’s Illustrated List of Best Kitchen Equipment: Teflon Pan and Non-Metal Spatula

  2. Pingback: Durango to Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railway: Part 2

  3. michele brown

    Jeff and I took the same train ride in Durango almost 3 years ago. We had a great time. Your pictures brought back alot of memories.

  4. Dad

    After seeing your great photos, the inner child in me is now clambering for a ride myself. Looking forward to Part 2.

  5. Zinc Putney

    Stunning….Colorado is beautiful. Great pics! Looking forward to hanging with you guys.

  6. Sandi Fentiman

    Beautiful shots you guys. That must feel a little weird having part of the train go around the corner/bend before you do. I know the feeling, having had that experience on an extended bus in Ottawa. And I was right at that part of the bus.

  7. Charlie

    Knew you would love it. Can’t wait to see the full album. Remind me to tell you about one of Dave’s and my trips over a bottle of wine – we were crazy kids.

  8. Debra

    WOW…beautiful, reminds me of the train we took up to the Grand Canyon… Cowboy bandits stopped our train and held it up…very cool! Lovely photos you took and what a wonderful experience! Thanks for sharing!

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