Tour of Colorado, Day 4: Returning to normal in Durango

Posted by David Lassen
on Friday, October 05, 2018

Going for the money shot in Animas Canyon.
You want fall colors?
We'll show you fall colors. (All photos by David Lassen)
DURANGO, Colo. — There’s no bad time to visit the Durango & Silverton, but this was a particularly good time for three reasons:

— The railroad is finally running its full route on its regular schedule, after a summer disrupted by fire and mudslides.

— The fall colors are spectacular.

— The area can use the support.

The last point may be the most important. As we noted on Trains News Wire in late August, Durango & Silverton ridership was down 27 percent, with about 54,000 cancellations resulting from June’s fire that shut the railroad down for six weeks and July’s mudslides that caused another shutdown and led to abbreviated service for an extended period.  Regular operations resumed just two weeks ago, although trips have been lengthened by extensive slow orders through the slide area.

That’s 54,000 fewer people pumping money into the economies of Durango and (especially) Silverton, as well as 54,000 fewer paying fares for the railroad. During the June shutdown, some Silverton businesses said their income was down by 90 percent. Before we took our trip today, I suggested that if the members of our Trains Tour of Colorado could spend a little extra during our layover in Silverton, the merchants and restaurants would likely be highly appreciative. I was gratified to see more than a few plastic bags of merchandise accompanying us back to Durango.

As for the trip itself, there’s little I can say that hasn’t already been said about an operation that usually carries close to 200,000 passengers a year, and does so on merit, based on both the quality of the scenery and the professionalism of the operation. Scheduling a trip in hopes of experiencing fall colors is always a roll of the dice, but we definitely had good fortune on that score, as a couple of these pictures show (though they don’t quite do the colors full justice).

Tomorrow is essentially an off day for our tour. There’s an optional trip to Mesa Verde National Park; after 10 days on the road (five on the tour, five beforehand) I’m going to pass and recharge. So tomorrow will probably be an off day for the blog, as well.

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