The Denver and Rio Grande Railway founded Durango during 1880 and in August of the same year the railroad followed. The construction on a line to Silverton started in the fall of 1882 and the tracks were completed to Silverton by August of 1881. At this time freight and passengers began traveling by the train. While the train was designed primarily for the hauling of gold and silver away from the San Juan Mountains it was promoted as a scenic passenger route from the beginning.
Today the railroad provides daily service from May to October to Silverton and to the Cascade Canyon from November to the first part of May. It is suggested that those wishing to take the train to see the country side and enjoy a part of history make the reservation in advance. The Durango yard is where the museum is located.
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum was opened during 1998 as a tribute to the railroad in southwest Colorado and nationally. The museum is in half of the Durango roundhouse with the other half being used to hold steam engines. There is memorabilia from various historical railroads featured in the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum. The goal of the museum is to conserve as many of the original engines from the historical time as possible.
Artifacts from the areas of Silverton and Durango are also found in the museum as well as a train layout of a narrow gauge railroad like the D&RWG. The portion of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum that contains educational and informational films contains a movie coach utilized in the production of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
There is also a display of one of the original 6 Class 70 2-8-0 locomotives, Engine 42 which was built during 1887 by Baldwin for D&RG. The effort of the engine which weighs thirty-five tons is over 17,000 pounds. Originally engine number 420; during the end of 1916 Rio Grande Southern purchased it and continued to use it until it was dismantled during 1952 by RGS. In 1983 Engine 42 was purchased and taken to the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum in Durango, Colorado. The engine is not going to be returned to the original condition that it operated under.
The museum utilized what was once flat car 6630 and later baggage car 127 as a movie theater. During 1999 the Silverton Freight Yard Museum opened at the Silverton rail yard and depot. This museum displays outfit cars that may or may not have side dumped gondolas and kitchen facilities.
Additional information about the hours of operation for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum in Durango can be obtained by contacting the facilities directly. Reservations for the trains are recommended to ensure seating. Anyone with an interest in history or the railroad should make it a point to visit the museum if they are ever in the Durango, CO area.