Durango Silverton Railroad - best train trip ever

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
Mesa Verde RV Resort Mancos
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did

Flag of United States  , Colorado
Thursday, July 21, 2011

Had to get up very early since we had an 8:30 trail to catch in Durango which was over 30 miles away. I wanted to get there early since this was my first time ever to Durango and I had no idea where to park or how far we would have to walk. We left the RV around 7:15. The 30 mile drive to Durango was one of the nicest roads of the trip through forested peaks – no desert around here. This drive just looked like the Colorado you always hear about – all mountains and valleys.

The train parking was easy to find as it was in the middle of downtown. However, it did feel like a big city as they charged you $7 to park. I should have done some more research on the parking aspect as I could of parked a few blocks away for free. Yeah, $7 is not that much money but if you save a little hear and a little there it does add up. We had to walk a few blocks to the train station and right by a McDonalds – what a great place to put one. We got there right as the 8:00 train pulled out, so it was neat to hear the train whistle and the old steam engine pull out of town. I am a sucker for trains – wish we had more of them in the US – the passenger kind that is.

By the time we got to the station – the original one built over 100 years ago – we had 20 min. so spare, so we walked around the place and went into the shop. Surprisingly, the shop prices were not too bad. But we decided to see how prices were in Silverton – where the train goes – before getting anything.

Knowing that the summer season would be busy, I had made reservations several months back. The price is pretty high when you first see it – it ranges from $83 to $179 a person. Being that this was a day trip in the US, we did not need the luxury train, so the $83 tickets it was. I also found a 20% off on-line coupon so that saved a little money. I think I got one of the best seats on the train – an open air coach with seats facing out, in the corner of the coach. That way if we stood up – which we did for much of the ride, we could stand in the corner and have a great view.

The trip to Silverton was 3.5 hours over some of the best landscape I have ever seen. Typical Colorado Rockies – forested high mountains and a rushing river right beside you. Ultimate feast for the eyes. The river we went beside for most of the trip was the Animas – a short glacial fed river with tons of rapids. Now I really want to spend some time here and take a whitewater trip. But that will have to wait until next time. On the train we actually bought a souvenir cup where you could get free refills – this is a big deal because we are usually too cheap to get drinks. But it did seem like a good deal – for $8 you get this coffee type cup (this is already cheaper than most of these cups), and you get free refills on the entire trip of cokes, coffee, tea, and what I got the most of, hot cider. We got so many drinks that each drink only cost around 75 cents, plus a cool cup.

Since we went back and forth to the concession coach, we made good friends with the girls behind the counter. Both went to the local college here – Ft. Lewis College. One studied drama, while the other was in photo journalism – she also went to India last year for study and plans to do Peace Corps. Now that I think about it, I wish I could have done college in Colorado – so many things to do around here from biking to hiking and most of the young people here are down to earth.

In the middle of the journey, the train stayed high on a bluff, 1,000 feet above the rushing Animas River below. The tracks were right at the edge of the cliff so when you hung over, it was 1,000 feet down to the bottom. And the tracks zigzagged the entire time so you had different views with every foot you went.

Silverton just emerged in this small valley after twisting and turning in the mountains next to the Animas River for hours. It was a true typical western mining town with block streets and no building over 2 stories. Some of the sidewalks were wood planked and only one street was paved. Since we were the second train this small town was already crowded with people.

We walked quickly to the restaurant I had chosen, but it too was already crowded. Since we are only two, I thought it would be easy to find a seat, but no, we had to sit at the bar. The place was called Handlebars, as in the mustache. So there were pictures of guys with handlebar mustaches all over the place, besides the other tons of things on the wall with a bar or hunting theme. We had some of the best onion rings ever, while Pooh had fried chicken (surprise) and I had a buffalo burger. Both were very good. Luckily, while we were in the restaurant, there was a major shower going on which muddied the dirt streets.

After lunch we just had an hour to walk around the town. Most of the places were on the paved road with shops and restaurants located in historical buildings in all different shapes and colors. I ended up not getting anything – as I already have a ton of shirts from this trip – while Pooh got a few things as the prices were good here. In a short amount of time it was back on the train for the trip back. There is no real station in Silverton – the train just goes right to the middle of town and lets everyone off and on.

Going back you got to see the landscape from the opposite side which was great. There was more river frontage for us so again, we did not sit much. I did take too many videos and pictures of the place but I could not help it. The train made it back to Durango just before 6:00. Now Durango seems like a great town, but we had to get back to take care of Quique. Driving back the 45 min. to our RV we decided we would stay an extra night here and hang out in Durango tomorrow.

Yes, the train trip is costly, but I think it is worth it. This was one of the highlights of the entire trip and the best train trip ever.

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