Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

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Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.jpg
HeadquartersDurango, Colorado
LocaleLa Plata County, Colorado
San Juan County, Colorado
Dates of operation1881–present
Track gauge3 ft (914 mm)
Length45 miles (72 km)
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Highline above Animas Canyon
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is located in Colorado
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is located in the United States
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
LocationDurango, Colorado
Silverton, Colorado
Coordinates37°17′51″N 107°52′14″W / 37.29750°N 107.87056°W / 37.29750; -107.87056Coordinates: 37°17′51″N 107°52′14″W / 37.29750°N 107.87056°W / 37.29750; -107.87056
ArchitectGeneral William J. Palmer
NRHP reference No.66000247[1][2]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966
Designated NHLJuly 4, 1961

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, often abbreviated as the D&SNG, is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge heritage railroad that operates on 45.2 miles (72.7 km) of track between Durango and Silverton, in the U.S. state of Colorado. The railway is a federally designated National Historic Landmark and is also designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

The route was originally opened in 1882 by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) to transport silver and gold ore mined from the San Juan Mountains. The line was an extension of the D&RG 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge line from Antonito, Colorado to Durango. The last train to operate into Durango from the east was on December 6, 1968. The states of New Mexico and Colorado purchased 64 miles between Antonito and Chama, New Mexico in 1970 and operates today as the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Trackage between Chama and Durango was removed by 1971.

The line from Durango to Silverton has run continuously since 1881, although it is now a tourist and heritage line hauling passengers, and is one of the few places in the US which has seen continuous use of steam locomotives. In March 1981, the Denver & Rio Grande Western sold the line and the D&SNG was formed.[3]

Some rolling stock dates back to the 1880s. Trains operate from Durango to the Cascade Wye in the winter months and Durango–Silverton during the summer months. Durango depot was built in January 1882 and has been preserved in its original form.[3]


Train entering Silverton
Photo of the first trip of the "Painted Train".
The D&RG Silverton arrives pulling the glass-topped "Silver Vista" observation car in 1947.

William Jackson Palmer (1836–1908) was a former Union General (serving in the American Civil War) who came to Colorado after managing the construction of the Kansas Pacific Railroad into Denver in 1870. Prior to the war, he had risen within the ranks of the Pennsylvania Railroad serving as secretary to the president. After arriving in Denver, he formulated a plan to build a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge railroad southward from Denver to El Paso, Texas[4] (see Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad). In 1871, the Denver & Rio Grande Railway began to lay rails south from Denver. Palmer and his associates had agreed that the choice of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge would be well suited to the mountainous country, and relatively less expensive construction costs would enhance the viability of the new railroad. The original north–south plans of the D&RG eventually expanded to include extensions throughout the booming mining country of central and southwestern Colorado.

On August 5, 1881 the Denver & Rio Grande Railway arrived in Durango, Colorado. The new town was founded by the D&RG in 1880, chiefly through the talents and organization of General Palmer's business partner, Dr. William Bell. Construction to Silverton, Colorado began that fall. Only 11 months later, the D&RG reached Silverton on July 10, 1882. Trains hauling passengers and freight began immediately. The Denver & Rio Grande Railway soon re-emerged as the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (1886) and ultimately began operating as the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) on July 31, 1921 after re-organization of the Colorado lines and Rio Grande Western of Utah.[5] Eventually, the railroad became widely known as the "Rio Grande".

The Silverton branch, as it became known, struggled under D&RG ownership following the Panic of 1893 and the end of free coinage of silver. Typical of many portions of the surviving narrow-gauge branches into the middle of the twentieth century, the line faced sagging revenue due to ever-declining mining ventures, highway trucking competition, and insignificant passenger revenue. Annual snowslides and several major floods on the branch would only continue to challenge the railroad's ability to survive.

The Silverton[edit]

After World War II, domestic tourism began to grow across the country and the Silverton branch of the railroad would benefit. Bolstered by national exposure via Hollywood movies being filmed along the line in the late 1940s, the railroad created The Silverton, a summer-only train service on June 24, 1947.[6] A short time later, the railroad adorned a locomotive and four coaches with a colorful yellow paint scheme and launched modest public promotion. With this effort, "The Painted Train" officially started a new era of tourism that continues to this day. Freight traffic, however, continued to decline and during the 1950s, The Silverton operated as a mixed train.[7]

By the 1960s, a modernized D&RGW did not see the Silverton Branch as worthy to maintain and a petition was filed with governmental agencies to abandon the route. The Interstate Commerce Commission declined to grant the request due to the continued increase in tourist patronage. Following the ICC's ruling, the railroad reluctantly responded by investing in additional rolling stock, track maintenance, and improvements to the Durango depot. The railroad purchased some of the property around the depot, cleaned up the block extending north to Sixth Street, and facilitated the opening of gift shops and other tourist-friendly businesses. As ridership continued to grow, the D&RGW operated a second train to Silverton on certain days.[8]

The 1970s[edit]

Since 1971, the Silverton branch and nearby Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad were the only remnants of the Rio Grande's once extensive narrow-gauge system.[3] During the late 1970s, the D&RGW was actively trying to sell the Silverton branch, and in 1979, Charles Bradshaw, a Florida citrus grower, offered the railroad a legitimate opportunity to divest itself of the now isolated route. On October 5, 1980, The Silverton made its last run under D&RGW ownership and after operating a work train the following day, the railroad finally concluded its 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge train operations,[9] bringing to a close an era that began 110 years earlier with its narrow-gauge railroad from Denver to Colorado Springs.

Present day[edit]

In June 2018, the railroad shut down for several weeks due to a wildfire, named the "416 Fire",[10] which was fought by two air tankers, six helicopters and some 400 firefighters on the ground.[11] An estimated 54,129 acres (21,905 ha) of the San Juan National Forest were burned, with losses estimated at more than $31 million. Given the fire risk from coal cinder-sparked wildfires, the railroad's owner plans to invest several million dollars to replace coal-power with oil-power for their steam locomotives and acquire two new diesel powered locomotives.[12] The railroad was suspected of sparking the blaze[13] and some area businesses and residents filed a civil lawsuit against the railroad and its owner in mid-September 2018.[14] The railroad is currently aiming to have at least half of their operational steam locomotives converted to oil-power.

In March 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the country severely affected the US. For the safety and protection of guests and employees, D&SNG suspended operations until June 23, 2020.

New ownership[edit]

The D&SNG was founded by Charles Bradshaw Jr., of Florida, with the intent of purchasing the right-of-way and equipment while expanding the infrastructure and passenger revenue. His plans were fulfilled with the March 25, 1981, acquisition of the D&RGW's 45-mile (72 km) Silverton branch and all of its structures and rolling stock.[3]

The improvements to the railroad in the 1980s would prove to be the most dramatic growth on the Silverton Branch since the earlier part of the century. Bolstered by the assistance of former Rio Grande operating managers and a relatively sizeable staff of new employees, Bradshaw's plans were set in motion immediately. Included in the sale were former D&RGW locomotives and rolling stock that had not seen service in Durango for many years. "K-36" and "K-37" class locomotives were eventually restored to operating condition and these larger class of engines operated to Silverton for the first time ever following bridge and right-of-way improvements to the line. 1880s vintage coaches were exquisitely restored and new coaches were added to the roster of rolling stock. For the first time in many years, doubleheaded trains (trains with two locomotives) and additional scheduled trains were employed to handle the continually growing passenger trade. The Durango yard facilities also saw dramatic improvements. An extension was added to the old roundhouse, a new car shop was built on the site of the original "car barn", and the depot saw extensive repair and internal modifications. The workforce grew with the railroad, and Durango's tourist image expanded as new businesses and revamping of the old railroad town continued to take shape. The original 1881 Durango roundhouse was completely destroyed by fire in the winter of 1989. All six operable locomotives had been inside at the time and were damaged, but not beyond repair. All locomotives were eventually restored to operating condition. A new roundhouse was constructed on the same site, opening in early 1990, and its facade made use of bricks salvaged from the original building.[3]

In March 1997 Bradshaw sold the D&SNG to First American Railways, Inc., located in Hollywood, Florida. Then in July 1998 the railroad was sold again to American Heritage Railways. At the time, American Heritage Railways was headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida. Since then their headquarters have been moved to Durango, Colorado. The D&SNGRR has two museums, one each in Durango and Silverton.


  • Allen C. Harper — owner and CEO
  • Carol Harper — owner and president
  • Jeff Johnson — general manager
  • John Harper — senior vice president
  • Cathy Swartz — CFO

D&SNG engines[edit]

As of 2020, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad operates coal-fired and converted oil-fired steam engines and diesel engines.


Technical information[edit]

The steam-powered locomotives used today on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad were built during the 1920s. There are three classes, K-28, K-36 and K-37, which are all based on wheel arrangement and pulling power of the locomotive.

The K represents the nickname "Mikado" that describes a locomotive with two non-powered, pivoting wheels in front of eight driving wheels, which are connected to driving rods powered by the engine's pistons, and finally two non-powered trailer wheels located under the cab. The name comes from the fact that the first significant use of the type was a series built by Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Japanese Railways in 1887.

The numbers 28 and 36 designate the tractive effort (pulling force) of the locomotives in thousands of pounds. The tractive effort of K-28s is rated at 27,500 pounds-force (122.326 kN), and the tractive effort of a K-36 is a 36,200 pounds-force (161.026 kN). The weight of a K-28 with a full tender is 254,500 pounds (115,439 kg), and a K-36 weighs 286,600 pounds (130,000 kg) with a full tender.

470 series[edit]

D&S 2-8-2 K-28 steam locomotive #473 on arrival at Silverton with a train from Durango in June 1990.
K-28 steam locomotive #476 in operation, 1999.

The 470 series or 2-8-2 K-28 class locomotives were ten engines designed for freight service along the D&RG.[15] They were built by the Schenectady Locomotive Works[16] of the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in Schenectady, New York in 1923. The K-28s have 28,000 lbf (124.550 kN). of tractive effort, superheated, and the boilers are fed by two non-lifting injectors. Air brakes are 6-ET automatic and also feature a straight air secondary braking system for daily passenger trains. Due to their smaller size these engines are often used on the Durango & Silverton for shorter trains, usually the first or last on the schedule and often for helper service or sectioned trains. Despite being smaller than the K-36 class locomotives, older, and less powerful, the engine crews tend to favor a trip on these engines because the design ALCO used was superior in balance and servicing. Firing can be tricky when the engine is working hard, as the clam shell-style firedoors tend to pull into the backhead of the boiler due to the draft, and if any flues in the boiler are leaking, the loss of draft on the fire is much harder to work around than on the K-36 locomotives. Firing while the engine is working hard is done with a large "heel" pattern, generally with as little coal on the flue sheet as possible, and gradually sloping the fire bed towards the door sheet to the height or higher than the firedoors. This results in the draft being forced through the fire bed in the thinner areas towards the flue sheet, which usually is hindered by the lack of draft between the grates and the arch brick. New firemen sometimes have a hard time learning this, because the art of "reading" a fire takes time to learn, and the amount of time working on the K-28 class locomotives is far reduced compared to the railroads usual K-36 workhorses, which have a larger firebox and are more forgiving in technique.

K-28 steam locomotives #473 and #478 at Hermosa on a D&RGW excursion in 1963.

Out of the original ten only three 470s remain, and all are owned by the D&SNG. The other seven were requisitioned by the United States Army in 1942 to be used on the White Pass & Yukon Route in Alaska during World War II. They were later dismantled for scrap in 1946.

Locomotives 473, 476 and 478 operated on many parts of the D&RGW. Engine 473 served frequently on the Chili Line that operated between Antonito, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. 473 served on the Chili Line until it was abandoned in 1941. 476 and 478 saw an extensive service on the San Juan passenger train, which ran between Durango, Colorado and Alamosa, Colorado until 1951. 473, 476 and 478 operated on the Silverton Branch from the 1950s through 1980 and are still in service today.

In July 2015, the D&SNG and C&TS had announced that a trade that proposed that the 478 should go to Chama, New Mexico and in exchange the D&SNG would get K-36 class No. 483, which had not seen operation in several years. Since the swap failed to go through, the D&SNG announced in June 2016 that they were going to restore 476 to operating condition and place 478 in the museum.[citation needed]

  1. No. 473 is undergoing a firebox rebuild and conversion to oil as of February 2020. However, due to COVID-19, No. 473 is currently expected to return to service in 2021.
  2. No. 476 is operational.
  3. No. 478 is on display in the D&SNG Museum awaiting an overhaul in the distant future.[16]
    K-28 steam locomotive #473 awaits departure from Cascade Canyon in May 2016.

480 series[edit]

K-36 steam locomotives #482 and #480 in Silverton.
K-36 steam locomotive #481 getting ready for departure from Silverton.
K-36 steam locomotive #486 getting ready for departure from Silverton on October 25, 2012.

The 480 series or K-36 class locomotives were ten engines designed for the D&RGW. They were built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1925. The 480s were the last ten narrow-gauge locomotives constructed for the D&RGW. The 480s were used for freight-hauling throughout the D&RGW 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge network. The "36" stands for 36,200 lbf (161.026 kN). of tractive effort. These engines are outside frame Mikados, and all drive wheels have counterbalancing outside of the frame, resulting in the utilitarian look the engines are known for. The engines currently use 6-ET automatic air and the secondary straight air used on regular service equipment. The railroad runs 12-car passenger trains behind these engines; however more cars require the train to be doubleheaded. Despite popular belief that the railroad does not doublehead trains out of Durango because of smoke, the real reason is the weight restriction on the bridge at 15th Street, not allowing more than one K-36 at a time (K-28 class engines however are still doubleheaded from Durango). The engines were delivered with Master Mechanics design smokeboxes for draft, however at some point the D&RGW converted them to Andersson (cyclone) front ends. Water is fed to the boiler by two non-lifting injectors. The 40-square-foot (3.7 m2) grate surface in the firebox is among the largest built for a narrow-gauge locomotive, and is fed by hand firing. Firing is simpler on these engines compared to the K-28s, however the larger surface area requires more fuel. A typical trip uses around 3–5 short tons (2.68–4.46 long tons; 2.72–4.54 t) on the way up to Silverton, and another 1–2 short tons (0.89–1.79 long tons; 0.91–1.81 t) on the return to Durango. Ergonomically, the engines are less comfortable than the others as well, with the crew seats being further back from the backhead and the engineer having to lean forward constantly to adjust the throttle and use the sanders. The running gear on the locomotives also tend to wear out faster than the ALCO designed K-28s, and the resulting pounding rough ride can take a toll on the engine crew.

D&SNG owns four K-36s: Nos. 480, 481, 482 and 486, all of which are operational. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad owns engines 483, 484, 487, 488 and 489. Locomotive No. 485, unfortunately, fell into the turntable pit in Salida, Colorado in 1955. It was scrapped for parts thereafter, however, some accessories, running and valve gear was salvaged and used on other locomotives.

490 series[edit]

K-37 steam locomotive #493 in Silverton Yard.

The 490 series or K-37 class locomotives were part of a class of thirty standard gauge class 190 (later, class C-41) 2-8-0 engines built in 1902 for the D&RG by Baldwin Locomotive Works. In 1928 and 1930 ten of the C-41s were rebuilt at the Rio Grande's Burnham Shops in Denver into 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge 2-8-2s. The D&SNG operated only one K-37. #497 was rebuilt in 1984 and operated for seven years. At the time #497 operated on the D&SNG, it was the only K-37 to go to Silverton under its own power. It was later determined that the trailing truck was having trouble negotiating the curves in the Animas Canyon. For this reason, the D&SNG traded #497 to the C&TS for K-36 class #482. This trade was mutually beneficial for both railroads as it gave the C&TS a fully operational locomotive, giving in exchange a locomotive that had never run and likely would never operate under C&TS ownership. Numbers 493 and 498 are owned by the D&SNG, but as of 2020, #498 is not operational. On May 4, 2016, K-37 #493 was hauled to Durango from Silverton by K-36 #481 to be transported to the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado, on a 10-year lease, where they would restore it to operational condition and run it for those 10 years and then return it to the D&SNGRR. However, plans were cancelled and #493 sat outside the Durango roundhouse with an uncertain future for sometime, until 2018 when she was put in the roundhouse for restoration. It is estimated it could take up to two years to finish the restoration. #493 is being restored to use oil vs. coal. This will allow it to operate when the coal fired engines cannot, since oil fired engines do not emit cinders. #493 ran under its own power for the first time on January 24, 2020. K-37 #498 rests in the Durango yard near the turntable without a tender and with no plans to restore it, given its deteriorated condition. #499 was included in the 1981 purchase from the D&RGW as well, and was stored in Durango until 1999 when it was cosmetically restored and traded for K-36 class #486, which had been on display and out of operation at Royal Gorge since the early 1960s.

K-37 steam locomotive #493 in Durango after the May 4, 2016 move from Silverton to Durango.

Diesel engines[edit]

Diesels were first introduced to the Durango Yard in the 1960s with Diesel locomotive #50. Today, #50 is now at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado. The United States Transportation Corps. also had a six-axle narrow-gauge Diesel locomotive (#3000) for trial use in Durango in the 1950s which saw limited use.

Diesel engine #9 was first acquired in March 2006 and is a 92-ton center cab Diesel. #9 was later traded to the Georgetown Loop Railroad in March 2017 for Diesel engine #1203. It is currently in service on the GLRX.

The D&SNG currently operates four Diesel engines. Narrow-gauge Diesel engines are just as rare as any other narrow-gauge equipment. Some of the Diesel engines of the D&SNG are of the center cab style, where the cab straddles the center of the locomotive. Below are the Diesel engines currently used by the D&SNG:

  1. Diesel engine #1, nicknamed the "Hotshot", is a 50-ton center cab engine built in 1957, was acquired from Arkansas Limestone Railroad. During the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire, the D&SNG voluntarily shut down steam service. To help continue service, Hotshot pulled coaches out along the highline from Rockwood. Currently in service.
  2. Diesel engine #7, nicknamed the "Big Al", is an 87-ton center cab engine built in 1975 and was originally Algoma Steel #7, from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Big Al is named after the owner of the D&S, Allen C. Harper. Currently in service.
  3. Diesel engine #11 was built by U.S. Steel with General Electric parts. It was acquired in March 2006 and is a 98-ton center cab Diesel. Currently in service.
  4. Diesel engine #101 is one of four former White Pass & Yukon Route type DL-535E locomotives recently acquired in April 2020. It arrived at the D&SNG in late September 2020. It was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in May 1969. Currently set to enter service in 2021.
  5. Diesel engine #107 is one of four former White Pass & Yukon Route type DL-535E locomotives recently acquired in April 2020. It arrived at the D&SNG in late August 2020. It was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in May 1969. Currently set to enter service in 2021.
  6. Diesel engine #1203 was built by H.K. Porter in January 1946. It was acquired in March 2017 from the Georgetown Loop Railroad in trade for Diesel engine #9. Currently in service.
  • RB-1 (railbus) was built in the winter of 1987–1988. It was originally numbered 1001 and was named Tamarron. It could seat 32 people, had its own baggage compartment and restroom, and had a 300-horsepower (220 kW) six-cylinder Caterpillar Diesel engine. This unit was intended for use on the Animas River Railway, and when that operation was shut down, it was found being used as a switcher in the Durango yard. Years later, it was put into revenue service during the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire, but it is currently not being operated.
  • In April 2020, it was announced that four ALCO Diesels have been purchased from the White Pass & Yukon Route[17] in Skagway, Alaska. The first two Diesels (Nos. 101 and 107) were recently delivered between late August and September 2020 while the other two Diesels (numbers to be announced later) are currently expected to be delivered in 2021.

D&SNG rolling stock[edit]

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad currently operates over 50 pieces of rolling stock. Some of the cars are the oldest passenger cars in existence.[citation needed]

Concession cars[edit]

Concession car #126 in Silverton, October 2012

Like most of the coaches on the D&SNG, the concession cars are good examples of how coaches were renumbered and rebuilt several times by the D&RGW.

  • Concession car 64 was originally mail-baggage 64 built in 1889. In 1983 it was purchased from the Black Hills Central Railroad. 64 returned to service in 1984 as a concession car.
  • Concession car 126 was originally baggage car 27. It was renumbered 126 in 1886. It was converted to a coach-snack bar by the D&RGW in 1963 then reconverted in 1979 to a coach. It was reconverted to a full concession car by the D&SNG in 1982.
  • Concession car 212 was originally coach 20 built in 1879. In 1887 it was rebuilt into a combination coach-baggage car and numbered 215. In 1942, 215 had been sold to a Mexican railway. Then the D&RGW realized that it was larger than another combination car 212. The numbers of the car were switched and the smaller car was sent to Mexico. In 1964 converted to a coach-snack bar by the D&RGW, then to a 48-passenger coach in 1979. In 1982 it was converted to a snack bar car by the D&SNG. Then, in 1986, it was converted to a full concession car.
  • Concession car 566 was originally mail car 14 built in 1882. Around 1888 it was rebuilt into excursion car 566. In July 1904 it was renumbered 0566. Then it was switched to work service in 1914. It was rebuilt to its original appearance as a postal car by the D&SNG. It was then given its old excursion car number of 566 and is now used as a concession car.


Bitter Root Mine 213 in Silverton, October 2012

The D&SNG operates one combination car 213 named Bitter Root Mine, it was previously named Home Ranch and was built in 1983 by the D&SNG. It has a hydraulic lift for passengers in wheelchairs.

The D&SNG operates several other coaches:

  1. 257 Shenandoah, built in 1880
  2. 270 Pinkerton, built in 1880
  3. 291 King Mine, built in 1881
  4. 311 McPhee, built in 1881
  5. 319 Needleton, built in 1882
  6. 323 Animas City, built in 1887
  7. 327 Durango, built in 1887
  8. 330 Cascade, built in 1963
  9. 331 Trimble, built in 1963
  10. 332 La Plata, built in 1964
  11. 333 Tacoma, built in 1964
  12. 334 Hermosa, built in 1964
  13. 335 Elk Park, built in 1964
  14. 336 Rockwood, built in 1964
  15. 337 Fort Lewis, built in 1964
  16. 503 Crazy Woman Creek, acquired in 2019. 503 was originally a flat car built in the 1940s, then converted for use as a coach in 1982 by the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

Cinco Animas B-2[edit]

Cinco Animas B-2 in Silverton, October 2012

Built in 1883, the Cinco Animas was originally an immigrant sleeper. Immigrant sleepers had very few amenities and had little consideration for passenger comfort. The original Cinco Animas could seat up to thirty passengers. It was turned into a business car in 1913. In 1963 it was purchased by the Cinco Animas Corporation, where it received its present name. Then, in 1982, the Cinco Animas was sold to the D&S. It runs daily throughout the summer.

Nomad B-3[edit]

Built in 1878, the Nomad was originally named Fairplay. In 1886, it was rebuilt as Business Car N. It is reportedly the favorite car of D&RG president William Jackson Palmer. The Fairplay has hosted Presidents William H Taft, Ulysses S Grant and Theodore Roosevelt. While being owned by several parties between 1951 and 1982 the Fairplay was renamed the Nomad. It was acquired by the D&S in 1982. Today it is the oldest private railroad coach still in service in the United States. It runs daily throughout the summer.

General Palmer B-7[edit]

The General Palmer was built in 1880 as a business car for the D&RG. In later years it fell into disrepair. It was restored in 2001 at a cost of $250,000 by the D&S. Its modern amenities include internet service and a twenty-inch flat paneled television. The General Palmer is exclusively used by owner Allen Harper, his family and guests.

San Juan 312[edit]

Built by the D&RG in 1887, it had clerestory roof and bullnose ends. It was finished in ash and seated forty-six. It was rebuilt in 1937 at the Alamosa shops. Vestuable ends, train-line steam heat, electric lights, and deluxe Heywood-Wakefield reclining coach seats for 24 passenger were installed. The D&S named coach 312 the Silverton. In the winter of 2007–2008 it was rebuilt with overstuffed seating for in a wide three across arrangement and had its name changed to San Juan. It runs during the summer time.

Alamosa 350[edit]

Alamosa 350 in Silverton, October 2012

Built in 1880, it was originally named the Hildago as Horton chair car number 25. It was changed to car 403 in 1885. It was then rebuilt into an office living car for members of the Valuation Survey in 1919. Valuation Survey was inventorying the entire railroad property after it was returned to the D&RGW after World War 1. In 1924 it was converted into a parlor-smoker car. After a rebuild in 1937 it became a parlor-buffet car named Alamosa. The car had a closed vestibule, with steam heat, electric lights and seats for fourteen passengers. In 1957 it was converted for coach service. It was renumbered 350 in 1959. In 1981 it was purchased by the D&S and converted to a parlor car and seats twenty-five people. There was another car with the same name that was destroyed in a derailment on the Rio Grande Southern Railroad. It runs daily throughout the summer.

Prospector 630[edit]

Was built in 1984 as a coach and was named Hunt. In 2009 it became a family upscale coach. The Prospector features comfortable table and chair style seating. The ceiling of the Prospector features an enlarged route map, making it easy for passengers to follow the train's progress along the route.

Tall Timber Legend 631 & Tall Timber Legacy 632[edit]

631 was built in 1985 and named the North Star. 632 was built in 1986 and named Teft. Both cars were built as general passenger cars to help with the increase in passengers. In 2009 the cars were converted with overstuffed seats. They are used mainly to take passengers to Tall Timber to go zip lining.

Open observation gondolas[edit]

Open observation car #415 in Silverton, October 2012

Open observation gondolas 400–402 were built in 1963, equipped with passenger car trucks, steel roofs, tile floors and tramway seats. Gondolas 403–405 were built for the 1967 season on The Silverton. Between 1982 and 1985 the D&SNG built Open Observation cars 411 and 412. Open Observation cars 406–409 and 413–416 were built between 1982 and 1986

  • Cars 400–405 and 411–412 are former standard gauge boxcars, built in 1916
  • Cars 406–409 and 413–416 are former standard gauge stock cars, built in 1937

Silver Vista 313[edit]

The original Silver Vista was built in 1947 by the D&RGW. It was a popular glass-topped observation car and the only one of its kind. The original Silver Vista was destroyed by a fire in Alamosa in 1953. Because of its popularity, there has been speculation that the D&RGW destroyed it on purpose to drive revenue down so they could abandon the line from Silverton to Antonito. The recreation of the Silver Vista was built in 2006. It runs daily throughout the summer.[citation needed]

Rio Grande 410[edit]

Built in the winter of 1987–1988, the Rio Grande was originally railbus trailer 1002 and was painted red. It was used with the Animas Canyon Railway Diesel-powered rail-bus. It was stored from 1992 to 1997, until it was rebuilt as an open observation car 313. It was given number 313, because it resembled the Silver Vista. After the Silver Vista was built in 2006, it became open observation car 410. In the winter of 2006–2007 it was again rebuilt into an open air observation car with comfortable and large overstuffed seats for a more expansive view. It runs daily during the summer.


Caboose #0540 in Silverton Yard

Caboose #0505 was built in 1886 and is stocked with provisions to provide shelter and food.

Caboose #0540 was built in 1881 and is a mini-warehouse, carrying the most common tools and supplies. It is used by Maintenance of Way.

Caboose 0500[edit]

Is 17 feet (5.2 m) long, and was built in 1886. It was originally known as D&RG #1. In 1950 it was sold to Bob Richardson, then again in 1987 to a business in Cripple Creek. In 1993 it was acquired by the D&S and was restored to its original condition. It is available for charter and can hold up to eight people.

Rail camp car 3681[edit]

Rail camp car 3681 is an ex-D&RGW boxcar. It was rebuilt by the D&S in 1984 with a kitchen, a bathroom and beds. It is pulled to Cascade Canyon Wye for elegant camping. It can hold a group of up to eight people.

Coaches not in service[edit]

  • Mail baggage car 66 was built in 1887. For some years it was the base of operations for the Animas River Railway in Rockwood, Colorado. Car 66 served as the office, ticket window, and waiting room for the railway. It was then moved to Hermosa, Colorado as the maintenance of way office.
  • Mail baggage car 119 was built in 1882 and is currently not in service.
  • Coach #460 is the only 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge tourist sleeper remaining from a group built in 1886 for the D&RG. In the early 1900s it was assigned to work service and was used on a D&RGW wrecking train as late as 1957. Then it was sold to the Black Hills Central Railroad in South Dakota. Then in 1983 the D&SNG purchased coach 460. It has yet to be restored.


The D&SNG operates two museums, the D&SNG Museum[18] and the Silverton Freight Yard Museum. They both feature historic locomotives and railway equipment used on the D&RGW line.

D&SNG Museum[edit]

Opened in 1998, the D&SNG Museum is a tribute to railroading nationally and southwest Colorado. The museum is located in the Durango roundhouse. Half the roundhouse is used for the steam engines and the other half is for the museum. The museum features memorabilia from the D&RGW and other railroads. It also features many artifacts from the Durango and Silverton areas. There is an HO train layout in the museum. It depicts a narrow-gauge railroad similar to the D&RGW. There is also a movie coach that was used in the filming of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where the railroad's informational and educational films are featured.

Class 70 engine no. 42[edit]

On display in the Durango and Silverton RR Museum, engine 42 was one of 6 class-70 2-8-0 locomotives built by Baldwin in 1887 for the D&RG. The engine weighs 35 tons and pulls with 17,100 lbs of tractive effort. It was originally numbered 420. In November 1916 the engine was sold to the Rio Grande Southern and was used till the RGS was dismantled in 1952. Engine 42 and a caboose running from Grady, located east of Mancos, Colorado to Durango was the last train movement on the RGS. In 1953 the engine was sold to the Narrow Gauge Motel in Alamosa. In 1958 the 42 was sold to Magic Mountain Amusement Park in Golden, Colorado, where it was converted to burn fuel oil and operated for a short time. In 1969 it was put on display in Monument, Colorado in front of a bank. In 1971 engine 42 returned to Golden as a restaurant display at Heritage Square. Finally, in 1983 it was purchased and brought to Durango. It has never been restored to operating condition. It is on display in the museum.

Baggage car no. 127[edit]

Originally flat car 6630, it was rebuilt in 1968 as a baggage car for the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.[citation needed] No. 127 was the third concession car built by the D&SNG. It saw limited service and acted as a backup concession car. No. 127 is now used as a movie theater in the museum.

Museum exhibits[edit]

Silverton Freight Yard Museum[edit]

The Silverton Freight Yard Museum was opened in 1999 and is located at the Silverton depot and rail yard. On display are outfit cars, some equipped with kitchen facilities and side-dumped gondolas. In the Silverton depot are local artifacts.

Animas River Railway[edit]

Beginning May 7, 1988 a new Diesel-hydraulic motorcar and trailer railbus began making trips out of Rockwood, Colorado up the Animas canyon. The new company Animas River Railway was incorporated by the D&SNG, in order to preserve the integrity of its own claim of "100% coal-fired steam locomotives". The railbus hauled hikers and fishermen into the canyon from Rockwood. Operations for the Animas River Railway were run out of Rockwood. Former mail baggage car 66 was used as the ticket window, office and waiting room for the railway.

Built in 1987–88 winter, motorcar 1001 was named Tamarron. It could seat 32 people and had a 300-horsepower (220 kW) six-cylinder Caterpillar engine. It also had a baggage compartment and restroom. The trailer 1002 could seat 48 in longitudinal seats.

1988 schedule

The first railbus trip left at 7:30 a.m. on May 7 for Elk Park. There were 12:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. trips to Cascade Canyon. The season for the Animas River Railway was supposed to last from May 7 through October 30, but lasted until September 4 due to mechanical problems.

1989 schedule

The railbus was repaired and began operations on May 6, 1989. A 12:01 p.m. trip for Cascade Canyon ran until October 29. From May 27 through September 15 Elk Park trips ran at 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

1990 schedule

The schedule for the Animas River Railway remained the same. The last excursion of the Animas River Railway was on September 23 from Rockwood to Cascade. Patronage never met expectations and has not operated since.

2002 schedule

During the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire, the D&SNG voluntarily shut down steam service.[citation needed] To help continue service, motorcar 1001 now RB-1 and trailer 1002 now 313 took people out to Elk Park from Silverton.[citation needed]

Visiting equipment[edit]

Just as narrow-gauge equipment and parts are rare, narrow-gauge railroads are rare these days too. When narrow-gauge pieces of equipment come back to life there are very few places in the United States where they can run. Many of these pieces run during the railroad's annual Railfest held every August. Below are some pieces of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge equipment that visit the D&SNG railroad.

D&RGW No. 315[edit]

D&RGW No. 315 is a C-18 locomotive, built in 1895 by Baldwin Locomotive Works. It originally was owned by the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad as No. 3. It was then bought by D&RG and became No. 425 and after the railroad was reorganized into D&RGW in 1924 it became No. 315. Around 1941, 315 made its way to Durango and became a yard switcher. It worked around Durango until 1949. To save it from being scrapped, it was leased by the City of Durango as a display. When the D&RGW abandoned the line to Durango, 315 was donated to the Chamber of Commerce in 1968. In 1986 it was put on display at Santa Rita Park. Ownership of 315 was changed from the Chamber of Commerce to the City of Durango. It was restored to operating condition in 2007 by the Durango Railroad Historical Society, which operates the locomotive occasionally on both the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

E&P No. 4[edit]

Eureka and Palisade No. 4 is a Class 8/18 C 4-4-0 locomotive, built in 1875 by Baldwin Locomotive Works. It originally was owned by the Eureka and Palisade Railroad, and was later sold to the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company. In 1938, it was sold to Warner Bros. and was used in many films. Eventually, the engine went to the Old Vegas amusement park in Henderson, Nevada, where it became badly damaged by a fire. Finally, it was bought by Dan Markoff and restored to operating condition. Dan privately owns the engine, and on occasion brings it to various railroads to operate, including the D&SNG.

Casey Jones[edit]

The Casey Jones railbus was built in 1915 out of a Model T and is a predecessor of the Galloping Goose. It was originally designed to be an ambulance servicing the Sunnyside Mine in Eureka, Colorado. It was often used by mine officials to commute to Silverton. It has room for 11 passengers. The Casey Jones is owned by the San Juan Historical Society.[19] In the summer months it is on a siding near the Silverton Depot and in the winter it is on display at the D&SNG Museum in Durango.

Galloping Goose No. 5[edit]

Galloping Goose No. 5 went into service on June 8, 1933 and was built by the Rio Grande Southern railroad. It was built with a 1928 Pierce-Arrow limousine body and running gear. It was rebuilt in 1946/47, using a World War II surplus GMC gasoline truck engine and a Wayne Corporation school bus body. In 1950, the freight/mail compartment was converted to carry 20 additional passengers for sightseeing trips. After RGS was scrapped in 1953, Galloping Goose No. 5 came to rest in Dolores, Colorado. Galloping Goose No. 5 was completely restored to operating condition in 1998 by the Galloping Goose Historical Society[20] in Dolores, Colorado. It visits both the D&SNG and Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

Southern Pacific No. 18[edit]

SP No. 18 is a narrow-gauge 4-6-0 "Ten Wheeler" type locomotive built in 1911 by Baldwin Locomotive Works. It arrived to Durango on lease from the Eastern California Museum in November 2018 and it stayed until October 2019.[21] It was used for oil-fired testing in preparation for the D&SNG's conversion of some of their steam locomotives from coal to oil for fuel.

In popular media[edit]

The train is the subject of the song The Silverton, by C. W. McCall.[22]


The Sons of Katy Elder, 1965 starring John Wayne, Dean Martin.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Durango–Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2008-01-04. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
  3. ^ a b c d e Farewell, R.C. (March 1991). "Narrow Gauge in a 'Grande Tradition: Riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad". Pacific RailNews. Interurban Press: 36–41.
  4. ^ Athearn, Robert G. "Rebel of the Rockies" Yale University Press 1962 pp. 10,15.
  5. ^ Athearn, Robert G. "Rebel of the Rockies" Yale University Press 1962. pp. 241–243
  6. ^ "Passenger". 2015-04-17. Archived from the original on 2015-04-17. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  7. ^ "D&RGW System Passenger Timetable - 1-Jun-1952". www.drgw.net. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  8. ^ "Rio Grande Advertising". rgmhs.org. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  9. ^ "Audio Portrait – The last Train on the Silverton Branch". Trainorders.com Discussion. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  10. ^ "416 Fire Information - InciWeb the Incident Information System". inciweb.nwcg.gov. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  11. ^ "Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Closed Due To 416 Fire". 2018-06-05. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  12. ^ "Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad bolsters fleet for dry years". Durango Herald. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  13. ^ Garrison, Robert (2018-06-14). "Is the Durango & Silverton Railroad to blame for the massive 416 fire?". 7NEWS. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  14. ^ "Durango residents sue historic train company, accuse it of starting 416 wildfire". Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  15. ^ Official Roster No. 11 of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad System. Denver: The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad System. April 1, 1923.
  16. ^ a b Steamlocomotive.info: Schenectady Locomotive Works Engine List
  17. ^ April 13; 2020. "Durango & Silverton buys White Pass & Yukon diesels | Trains Magazine". TrainsMag.com. Retrieved 2020-04-14.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum Official site and Museums.
  19. ^ "San Juan Historical Society".
  20. ^ "Galloping Goose Historical Society".
  21. ^ "SP No. 18 arrives in Durango". Trains. November 5, 2018. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  22. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2VbX-DbLrY
  23. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043046/locations
  24. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044537/locations
  25. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047488/locations
  26. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048570/locations?ref_=tt_ql_dt_5
  27. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048960/locations?ref_=tt_ql_dt_5
  28. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050763/locations?ref_=tt_ql_dt_5
  29. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064115/locations?ref_=tt_ql_dt_5
  30. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067809/locations?ref_=tt_ql_dt_5
  31. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096295/locations
  32. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0482571/locations
  • Royem, Robert T. (2002). America's Railroad: The Official Guidebook of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Published by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, First Edition 2002.
  • Royem, Robert T. (2007). America's Railroad: The Official Guidebook of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Published by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Second Edition 2007.
  • Osterwald, Doris B. (2001). Cinders & Smoke: A mile by mile guide for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Denver, Colorado: Golden Bell Press, Eighth Edition, Thirty-fourth printing, Western Guideways, Ltd., 2001. ISBN 0-931788-80-3
  • Danneman, Herbert (2000). Colorado Rail Annual No. 24: A ticket to Ride the Narrow Gauge. Golden, Colorado: Published and distributed by the Colorado Railroad Museum. ISBN 0-918654-24-6
  • Brown, Michael (2011). The Silverton Branch of the D&RGW and The Mears Short Lines. Published and distributed by lulu press. First edition 2011.

External links[edit]