All aboard for 1880’s! Steam trains are like time machines. Sit back and enjoy the historic ride and scenery of Colorado train travel, as quintessential Old West as cowboys — and steeped in history. What better destination than Durango, Southwest Colorado’s largest city, to experience train travel? Get ready to fall in love with this family-friendly, all ages Colorado train travel experience on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Durango and Colorado Train Travel
I’ve ridden the rails of the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR) several times, and it never gets boring. Combine the Colorado train travel experience with the Old West railroad town of Durango, and your family is going to love riding this steam train.
Part of America’s rich Western heritage, Colorado train travel dates back to the early mining days when the iconic blue-suited conductor first stood on his platform, a gold pocket watch in his hands, shouting, “All aboard!”
And there’s STILL something about the chug-chug of the locomotive rolling across the tracks, while the smoke fills the sky that makes train travel so exciting and experiential. Maybe that’s why I’ve become such a train fan, and you will too.
Durango Train and Depot
Located conveniently in the heart of Durango (one of my favorite southwest Colorado towns), the train depot of the D&SNGR is another throwback in time. This is the original 1882 depot and includes their train museum, worth browsing while you wait for the train to depart.
The railroad first arrived in Durango in August of 1881, with lines constructed to Silverton in the fall of that year, completed in July of 1882. Both passengers and freight were hauled at its completion.
As the town name of Silverton might suggest, the line was constructed to haul silver and gold ore from the San Juan Mountains. But all that glitters is not gold. Once feasting their eyes on the stunning mountain scenery, passengers realized how truly priceless the view from the train was too.
This historic train has now operated continuously between Durango and Silverton since 1882, carrying passengers behind vintage steam locomotives. The train hosts families of all ages, from all over the world.
Each time I’ve ridden the D&SNGRR I’ve met honeymooning couples, retired folks exploring the world, locals and international travelers, kids of all ages from newborn to teens, and families traveling with grandparents. Colorado train travel truly is a multigenerational family travel experience.
All Aboard! Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Check into the historic train depot, retrieve your tickets, and then wander around the train “yard.” Be sure to stop in at the museum for an interesting insight into the history of trains.
From Durango to Silverton during summer season (May-October), the D&SNGRR chugs along 45.4 miles each way, edging the waters of the mighty Animas River. During your summer Silverton round trip, kids are always excited to learn that the 100% coal-fired, steam-operated locomotives use six tons of coal per day and ten thousand gallons of water. The conductors — and all the employees on the train — take the time to chat with kids and answer their questions while passing by.
And yes, the train whistle does blow and the conductor does say “all aboard” when it’s time to leave!
Nothing Says Colorado Like the views from the Train!
Ride in full-enclosed coaches with windows or open gondola cars. Learn the history of the region while mountain vistas and river canyons open up in front of you. The views are amazing and scary — canyon scenery, waterfalls, majestic peaks, wildlife – and much of what you see are only accessible by train or foot.
At one point, this Colorado train chugs along the rails on a rock ledge some 240 feet above the Animas River. This ledge was created by extensive black powder blasting. Between the Rockwood and High Bridge, the tracks drop about 400 feet in elevation, the only downgrade on the entire line from Durango to Silverton. That’s only a sampling of the dramatic and breathtaking scenery that you will witness.
Colorado Train Travel: Special Events Aboard the D&SNGRR
Special events on the D&SNGRR include the Cascade Winter Train, Durango Christmas Train, Polar Express, Romance on the Rails, Wine Train, Dinosaur Train, Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express, and Thomas the Train.
Ready to get in the mood for a Colorado train travel adventure? Preview your rail experience by renting a movie! Hollywood featured the D&SNGRR in several movies from 1949-2000, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!