Jan and Fred's Newest Adventure...May 2009 travel blog

Riding the rails! The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been running continuously since it was completed in July of 1882 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad to serve the mining towns in the area. We rode from Durango to Silverton and back in the Alamosa parlor car, an 1880s rail car with its original brass rails and wood siding interior; it is a very well appointed car holding 24 passengers, with comfortable, moveable chairs and small tables for our complementary soft drinks, tea, coffee, etc. plus a full bar for those interested. Since they had microbrews, of course Fred was one of those people (this time his choice was from the Durango Brewery – but it looks like we will have to forego the 4th brewery this trip). Theresa, our excellent rail car hostess, is the longest current employee of the D&SNGRR. She told us she moved to Durango from New Orleans and never went back. She taught school in this area for 35 years, and worked on the railroad every summer. Now she still works two days a week and we were lucky to have her as our hostess, since she knew so many details about the towns, the railroad and its history, plus she told great stories too! The scenery throughout the trip was stunning and we took way too many gorgeous photos to post, but I will include a few. The weather was perfect for the train ride, blue skies and sunshine all the way, with beautiful views around every twist and turn on the 45 mile ride! We took turns standing out on the back of the rail car to take pictures and enjoy the views of the red rocks in the Animas Valley, followed by gorges, cliffs, waterfalls, bridges, old mining companies, and the Animas River, which we followed most of the way up to Silverton. The trip is 3.5 hours each way plus 2 hours to wander around Silverton, an interesting old silver and gold mining town in the San Juan Mountains. Although in 1883 the population was over 2,000 people (with 32 saloons, gambling halls, and bordellos on the notorious Blair Street!), it is now a small village with only one paved road; the entire town is only a few blocks wide and a few blocks long. There are a couple hundred permanent residents, but in the “season” many others come up to work. It reminded Fred and me a little of Skagway, Alaska in that way. We found out that this is the third town we’ve visited on our journeys over the years where Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson both lived (Dodge City, KS; Tombstone, AZ: and now Silverton) – those guys really moved around! During the winter months, the train only runs as far as Cascade Canyon; it only started running all the way to Silverton 4 days ago and the “season” really does not start until May 15, so some of the shops, restaurants, and the town’s museum were not open yet. However, there were enough places open that we thoroughly enjoyed our two hours there. The Brown Bear Restaurant served delicious homemade potato soup, and I loved the ½ pastrami and Swiss on rye that accompanied my soup, while Fred said his turkey and cheese croissant was super tasty too. The local pie store, highly recommended by Theresa was not yet open, so I saved some calories there! After our ride back down the mountain, we meandered around Durango, enjoying its 19th Victorian heritage and spirit of the Old West. I especially enjoyed walking in and out of several hotels built in the last two decades of the 1800s, and seeing their antique furniture and décor. We tried to go to the library to use the Internet and post my journals, but it was closed. Then we went to a McDonald’s that advertised wifi, but our laptop’s battery ran down so fast we were not able to post anything. At least I have journaled our trip on the laptop plus we’ve stored our photos, so maybe at the next stop I can finally begin to post…

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