History of the Durango
& Silverton Railroad 1860 - Present
1860 - 1882
was founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in
1880. The railroad arrived in durango on August 5, 1881
and construction on the line to Silverton began in the
fall of the same year. By July of 1882, (only 11 months
after construction began), the tracks to Silverton were
completed and the train began hauling both passengers
and freight. From the very beginning, the railroad was
promoted as a scenic route for passenger service although
the line was constructed primarily to haul mine ores,
both gold and silver, from the San Juan Mountains. It
is estimated over $300 million in precious metals has been transported over this route.
1882 - 1911
1885 the population of Silverton had grown to 1100 and
Otto Mear's completed the toll road to Ouray and additional
narrow gauge track out of Silverton was laid down in
1887. In 1893, 10 large mines in the Silverton district
were forced to close when silver prices dropped from
$1.05/oz to $.63/oz. Just three years later the Yankee
Girl and Guston Mines played out. In Durango, the fire
of 1889 virtually destroyed downtown and the first automobile
arrived by train in 1902. By 1906 Mesa Verde was designated
a National Park increasing the potential for tourism promotions.
1911 - 1938
the next twenty years the railroad faced many challenges;
slides, floods, snow, war and financial stability. When
the US Government entered WW I it assumed operation
of the railroad. Shortly after resuming control of railroad
operations the D&RGW reorganized due to financial
difficulties. Silverton suffered devastating effects
from the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 - 10 percent of
the population died in just six weeks! In addition,
the Gold King Mine closed, the Sunnyside Mine temporarily
ceased operations for almost ten years and the Silverton Railroad closed.
1940 - 1962
the advent of WW II, the US Government requisitioned
narrow gauge equipment to use in Alaska and the smelter
in Durango reopened to process uranium for use in the
war. The smelter continued to process uranium instead
of silver into the late 1940's due to the Cold War.
By 1947 the Silverton branch was in danger of being
abandoned. A determined staff stepped in and helped
to promote tourism keeping the line alive. Then Hollywood
discovered Durango and the railroad. Over the next ten
years several movies were filmed in the area showcasing
the train: Ticket to Tomahawk, Across the Wide Missouri,
Denver & Rio Grande, Viva Zapata and Around the World in 80 Days.
1964 - 1981
the latter part of the 1960's the Durango-Silverton
was registered as a National Historic Landmark and was
awarded as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
In 1969 the D&RGW abandoned the tracks south of
Durango isolating the line and leaving the future of
the line in question. Hollywood continued its fascination
with the area and the railroad with the filming of Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As the railroad prepared
to celebrate its 100th birthday, Charles E. Bradshaw,
Jr. purchased the Silverton branch and with the restoration
process complete, engine #481 returned to service after
20 years in retirement.
1981 - 1988
the 1980's, the D&SNGRR continued to build on the
scenic tourist railroad industry. Engines and coaches
began to be weatherized for winter use; a third train
to Silverton was added to the schedule along with an
alternative fourth train to Cascade Canyon Wye; major
track reconstruction occurred as nearly ten thousand
ties were replaced. Locomotives #497 and #480 were restored
and returned to service, the #497 being the only K-37
to run on the line and the innovative RailCamp was built
for use in the summer. In 1985 the D&SNGRR purchased
the Silverton Depot, returning it to service. By 1986
there were four trains running to Silverton with a fifth
running to Cascade Canyon Wye!
1988 - Present
118 years later, the Durango & Silverton Narrow
Gauge Railroad continues to provide year round train
service operating a historical train with rolling stock
indigenous to the line. The locomotives used to pull
todays train remain 100% coal-fired, steam-operated.
The locomotives are 1923-25 vintage and are maintained
in original condition. The coaches each feature bathroom
facilities and are heated during the winter months for
passenger comfort. Open gondola cars provide a panoramic
view of the mountains. Concessions, snacks and beverages
are available on every train.
Rail & Tour Information
Train Tariff & Schedules
Durango and Silverton Railroad
Durango and Silverton Railroad
Schedule, Fares &
There is no better way to experience the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad than by booking an affordable travel package, which includes rail fare, lodging and possibly a meal or two. Tours can be customized to include additional nights in Durango and/or Silverton.
Travel a century-old rail line from Durango Colorado to the historic gold mining town of Silverton over the most scenic narrow gauge railroad in North America. Daily departures from May through October. Reservations are REQUIRED!