The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (Colorado, USA)


The D&SNG line was completed in 1882 and connected the gold and silver mines of the San Juan mountains near Silverton with Durango, a station of the Denver & Rio Grande Railway. The distance is about 62 km. The mines were closed around 1920, but the railroad survived. For many years Silverton had no other connection to the outside world. The railroad follows the Animas River, with its full name "Rio de los Animas perdidos" (River of the lost souls). The track leads through a wilderness area with a spectacular landscape. Therefore already in the 1960's more than 100,000 tourists per year came to do this ride. In 1981 it was sold by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad to a private company, which preserves the railroad for a lot of fans.

On our vacation in southwestern USA in 1988 we came to Durango. We knew that a ticket for the train should have been reserved one month in advance. Of course, we had no reservation, because we had no fixed time schedule. But we had the luck that the D&SNG opened a new service in this year, for which we could get a ticket. A railbus operated from Rockwood to Needleton in the morning, we could get out in Needleton and hike back to Cascade Canyon. In the early afternoon we could return with the railbus from Cascade Canyon to Rockwood. The hike itself was only 8 km, but we would need time for watching the train.


We had to get up early, the railbus would leave at 7:30 a.m. In the US, of course, it was no problem to find an open coffee shop before going to the station.

Immediately after leaving Rockwood, the train enters the most spectacular part of the Animas River valley. It was almost incredible how the bed for the tracks was built into the vertical walls
of rock. Now we could see why this line is so famous that it was included in the list of National Historic Landmarks of the United States.

After some really breathtaking views we were now down in the valley again and crossed the river on a bridge.

The ride took 70 min and then the train stopped at the Needleton footbridge. Not many day hikers like us left the train. Some people started for longer backpacking tours in the Needle mountains, and some probably only went fishing or train watching in the nearby. We crossed the footbridge. The trail on the other side was not marked, but we just had to follow the river and it was no problem. The distance was only 8 km and we had to be there at 2 p.m. So we would have a lot of time to watch the trains while hiking along the Animas River.

Surely this was an unforgettable adventure for a railfan. During the morning, we watched the four trains at different places of the trail, when they passed us at the opposite side of the river.

At summertime it can be rather hot in the valley and we cooled our feet in the river. We came to Cascade well in time. The crew of the train was sitting together for lunch.

At the next day we visited Silverton with our car. Coming down from the mountains we had a pretty view on the town area. We stayed at this place to take photos.

From our viewpoint we could now observe the trains coming out of the narrow valley of the Animas River.

The four trains are parked now in the center of Silverton before they return to Durango in the afternoon.

Of course, we would like to come back some day for a ride with him.