As one of the United States’ most scenic historic railroads, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNG), with its jet-black steam-powered locomotives and 1880s-era coaches, travels along the same tracks that miners, frontiersmen, and cowboys journeyed nearly 140 years ago.
The Durango & Silverton stretch of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was completed in 1882. It was built to transport gold and silver ore from the more than 4,000 mining claims in and around Silverton, Colorado, to the smelters and mills in Durango, 45 miles to the south.
But in the 1910s, the Silverton mining boom began gradually subsiding. The D&SNG was then promoted as a scenic route for travelers and tourists. It remains as one of a very few surviving narrow-gauge steam railroads in the United States and is a favorite of railroad enthusiasts
As it leaves Durango, the train’s multiple-chime steam whistle can be heard reverberating throughout the town and along the Animas Valley. As it proceeds north, the train winds alongside the Animas River as it traverses the verdant green pastures of the Animas Valley and then crosses through the spectacular and breathtaking San Juan National Forest. The remote and treacherous route through the mountains includes a dramatic and stomach-churning stretch along the edge of a narrow shelf carved into the sheer granite cliffs 400 feet above the river.