On the Road with Sue: Durango Silverton Railroad

The small town of Durango, located in the southwestern corner of Colorado, has much to offer RVers, outdoor adventurists, and tourists in general. Surrounded by the breathtaking San Juan Mountains, it’s easily accessible on good roads from the southwest, coming through the Four Corners area, from the south via Farmington, New Mexico, from areas of western Colorado, or from the north, crossing over Wolf Creek pass.

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The area offers river rafting, hiking, lots of cute shops, great skiing, and other winter sports, all in a gorgeous setting. But the number one attraction is the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, consisting of a three foot wide track running 45 miles between Durango and Silverton. The railway is a federally designated National Historic Landmark, and also cited by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Throughout the year, these Durango-Silverton steam trains carry thousands of tourists over the mountain passes between Durango and Silverton, a quaint ghost town with a rich history.

The route was originally opened in 1882 to transport the silver and gold ore mined from the San Juan Mountains. At that time, Silverton was totally isolated during the winter months, and the train was able to also bring much needed supplies to the miners living in that area. But as mining ventures declined and highways were built, (not to mention winter snow slides), the railroad ran into tough times. After World War II, as tourism began to grow across the country and several movies were filed along the line, passenger traffic began to increase. But with very little freight and not many passengers, in the 1960s the railroad actually filed a petition with the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the route. Fortunately for us, this request was denied, and the railroad began investing in additional rolling stock, track maintenance, and improvements to the depot in downtown Durango, cleaning it up and encouraging new shops, restaurants, and other businesses to open. Today, the trains and the depot dominate the downtown area.

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Summer train rides offer round trips from Durango to Silverton and back, which will take most of the day. Deciding we didn’t need to see the same route twice, we opted to ride the train from Durango to Silverton, and to take a motor coach back. We had lunch in Silverton, with plenty of time to wander. There are several classes and prices for the trip, and guests can choose to ride in either closed cars or open air gondolas. Our particular car had docents in costume aboard, reliving some great and informative stories from mining days in the west. In winter, the train still operates, but it runs an abbreviated route through Cascade Canyon, allowing passengers to experience the Colorado winter wonderland up close.

There are a number of great RV parks in Durango, but like the train, they can often be booked solid during summer months. We really appreciated our particular park, as staff were available to check on our dog while we were gone that day. It was reassuring to know that he’d be taken out for a walk and run in the dog park while we were gone.

You really can’t spend any time in Durango without hearing the toot toot of the steam train as it rumbles through town. The tracks run by neighborhoods, where residents come out to wave as you go by. It’s a charming and relaxing way to see some incredible Colorado scenery.

Until next time…

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12 Responses to “On the Road with Sue: Durango Silverton Railroad”

  1. Jay

    Love your articles each one is a class,enjoy trip idea’s love the knowledge you provide!

  2. lynn

    Concerns about the quality of the tires it came with. Looking for the right satellite dish/receiver and other maintenance tips .

    • Customer Service

      Hi, Lynn. We would be happy to assist you; we just need some more information. What is the make/year/model of your RV?

    • Customer Service

      Hi Lynn. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your questions. To provide more specific information on the tire issue, we need to know the make, model, and year of your RV as well as the tire size/model that is currently on the rig as they may be an aftermarket tire rather than original equipment? As for the best satellite provider, it’s typically personal preference as to the channel selections and budget. Both Dish Network and DirectTV offer a variety of packages as well as different antenna options such as portable and permanent mount.

      If you check out the video section you will find over 100 videos on maintenance, troubleshooting, and upgrading tips.

  3. Bill

    I am trying to locate an electrical access compartment door for an AWARD 723 trailer (1994).
    that I am restoring.
    The outside, frame, dimension is 9.25 in./23.5 cm square, the door itself is 8.38 in/21.2 cm.
    It could be new or used & it could be just an intact door.

    • Customer Service

      Hi Bill. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to provide assistance with your compartment door issue. It’s anyone’s guess who actually made that compartment door for your Award in 1994 as most RV companies bought almost everything from suppliers and assembled the parts. I would recommend getting the dimensions you need and contacting RV Parts Nation (www.rvpartsnation.com) and getting a customized door.

  4. Jody

    What campground in Durango checked in on your dog while you road the railroad? I’d like to stay there. Jody

  5. Michael

    I know how to run my hydronic heater while parked and plugged into power my question is how do you run it while on the road for heat and hot water? I have a hurricane hot water system while plugged in I flipped the switch a green light comes on and I hear the burner kick in and the water heats up and I can set my thermostat and hot air comes out. While on the road what do I need to do to have this same operation happen? Thank you

    • Customer Service

      Hi Michael. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your Hurricane Hydronic Heater System. From what I can tell in several operation manuals, the system runs on 12-V DC power and does not need 115v like the recycling models so it should operate the same on the road? They have a great website with all the manuals and support. Find your model number and check out the page here: http://itrheat.com/products/hurricane-heating-systems/support/manuals/