Riddin’ the rails in Durango
On a recent road trip to Durango, Colorado, my girlfriend and I took hopped aboard the Durango-Silverton train to Cascade Canyon. During the winter months, the train is not able to make the steep assent to Silverton, but does go about half way to Cascade Canyon, where passengers can disembark for about 45 minutes to enjoy the sights and have some lunch.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, but unfortunately it was so warm there was little snow on the ground. We were really looking forward to seeing the white stuff sprinkled along the canyon walls and brushed up against the banks of the river, but it was not to be. Regardless, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time and the views from our first class glass dome car where quite impressive. The highlight however was when we reached Cascade Canyon and were able to disembark…the banks of the river were frozen over and the white icy contrast against the bright blue skies made for some great pictures.
While stopped at Cascade Canyon, we attempted to get one of the picnic tables along the banks of the river, but they filled up quickly—so we found a couple of rocks in the warm sun to park our cabooses where we enjoyed a picnic lunch we had prepared. The sounds of the rapids were relaxing and mesmerizing…it was such a peaceful location. On the other sides of the train tracks was a large awning structure where crew had a fire going for those who wanted to warm up, while it wasn’t that cold out, it sure added to the ambiance.
The 45 minutes had gone by in a flash and we were soon trucking back toward Durango, this time we enjoyed the views from the opposite side. A track is laid near the stop that allows the train to back up, thus enabling it to easily turn back toward Durango. As we began to get close to town we noticed lots of folks waving at the train as we passed by. Many people “chase” the train and park their cars in strategic spots to get photos as the train passes by. Interestingly, we thought we noticed the same woman several times waving flags of sorts dressed in distinctive wear. We asked our train steward about this person and she had an interesting story for us. Apparently this woman, named Linda, is a Native American who woke up one morning with a vision that her quest in life was to greet people. In order to greet as many as possible, she thought chasing the train and waving to a captive audience would be the best way to greet as many people as possible. Regardless of her intentions, it made for an interesting story.
Tips when riding the Durango Train:
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before the train departure. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I guess I figured the time on the train itinerary had a cushion built in. We ended up just making the departure.
- Consider brining some eye protection if you plan on riding in an open air car. The train is a coal fired steam engine and the soot from the coal can get in your eyes if the wind blows in your direction.
- I would recommend riding in the first-class car…it’s much more comfortable than the bench seats in coach. Plus, the glass dome in first glass provides some great views without having to leave your seat.
- If you can, bring your own picnic, this will save time and you’ll probably have a better meal.
If you’ve ever ridden the Durango-Silverton train, please leave a comment below and share your experience, and/or any tips you might have.