Monday, October 10, 2011

Durango & Silverton RR Museum in Durango, CO

It is a beautiful day to explore the Durango & Silverton Railroad in downtown Durango. Just as we finished breakfast, the 9:15am locomotive whistled and steamed through town up toward Silverton. What a great experience to hear and feel this powerful engine begin its charge up the mountain. As part of the depot and railyard is a great museum that we had to take a look at. 

In the front of the depot, and in several other locations around town, are beautiful sculptures focusing on the western heritage of the town. There is also a beautiful university in Durango (Fort Lewis College) which must be popular for all the students interested in skiing and trout fishing!

 The museum was free and featured many great exhibits focusing on the Durango area. We learned quickly that the great roadbed seen on the current railroad (see picture above) was definitely not the case in the "old" days as can be seen above.

 There were several classic locomotives on display which are in addition to the several steam engines used daily on the active trains. One common feature of all the Durango & Silverton locomotives are the small drivers or main wheels seen on Orinda's left. This is the "gear" ratio for a steam locomotive -- small drivers provide great torque, but like a car in low gear, they can only attain a rather low speed. That is just what these needed in the mountains.

 The museum also featured a fabulous model railroad layout of the Durango area. Indeed, this roundhouse, seen above, is a direct model of the roundhouse still in use here by the railroad.

There are also many other displays of items from the 1900 era in Durango. For example, this steam car dates from 1900 and was used in town. Capable of 25 mph, this steamer burned kerosene and must have been pretty spiffy transportation in it's day. 

 Not to be outdone, apparently, the Durango Fire Department was also well equipped with this 1916 fire engine. Beautifully restored, this truck is still equipped with its solid rubber "tires" that, while never going flat, provided a VERY rough ride.

 Here is the working roundhouse where the steam engines are serviced between runs. Look at the soot above the doors as well as the chimneys on the roof, both classic indications of a real, steam railroad.

 Not surprisingly, the railroad keeps as many spare parts for their old engines and cars as they can find. These car trucks are available for replacement when needed and are stored on rails ready to be wheeled to the car when needed.

Just a couple blocks away from the railroad is the famous Strater Hotel, that dates from 1887 when it was built to house business and mining men coming into the town. The hotel (and Durango in general) have very colorful histories covering the last era of the wild west. We had a great time in Durango and will certainly plan to return.