The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - Durango, CO - a historic railroad still in operation



The D&SNG or Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango, Colorado is a thirty-six inch, forty-five mile railroad track that runs between Silverton and Durango. It is a National Historic Landmark in addition to being a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Denver and Rio Grande Railroad built the tracks between the years of 1881 and 1882.

The original purpose of the railroad was to carry the gold and silver mined out of the San Juan Mountains. It was used to extend the D&RG line that ran to Durango from Antonito. Since 1881 the trains going to Silverton from Durango have ran consistently while the other lines were shut down one by one. The line is now a tourist attraction that carries passengers instead of mined minerals. It is one of the few railroad lines in the U.S. to be used for steam locomotives continually.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was formed when the line was sold by Denver & Rio Grande Western during the first part of 1981. Some of the operating trains go all the way back to the 1880's. The route for the trains during the summer is from Durango to Silverton and to Cascade Wye from Durango during the winter months.

Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was built by William Jackson Palmer a former employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Palmer believed the Colorado Mountains required narrow gauge rails to allow the trains to maneuver. Durango, Colorado which was founding during 1880 by D&RG got the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad on the 5th of August during 1881. During 1882 Silverton got the railroad. The trains began running immediately.

There were additional narrow gauge tracks leading out of Silverton during 1887. There ten mine closings during 1893 due to a drop in the price of silver. The town of Durango was nearly destroyed in a fire during 1889 and by 1902 a train brought the first automobile to the town. A National Park was made out of Mesa Verde during 1906 which increased the area's tourist appeal. The next two decades were a difficult time for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad due to floods, war, and other troubles.

Operational control for the railroad was assumed by the United States Government when it entered into World War I and the railroad was reorganized a short while later because of money problems. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad increased the tourist appeal through the 1980's. The trains were weatherized to make them more comfortable in the winter and there was a third train added to the route to Silverton in addition to a fourth train that acted as an alternate to Cascade Canyon Wye. Approximately ten thousand ties were replaced in the track during a major reconstruction.

Four trains traveled the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to Silverton an a fifth was added to Cascade Canyon Wye by the late 1980's. First American Railways purchased the D&SNG from Charles Bradshaw Jr. during 1997. A year later American Heritage Railways purchased it.

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