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.

What better destination than Durango, Southwest Colorado’s largest city, to experience Colorado train travel?

What better destination than Durango, Southwest Colorado’s largest city, to experience Colorado train travel? Photo Credit: Diana Rowe / Traveling Grandmom

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.

Colorado train travel includes a stop at the 1882 train depot of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

The train depot of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is an historic 1882 original. Photo credit: Diana Rowe / Traveling Grandmom

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!

Just sit back & enjoy the views! Colorado train travel on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Scenic Railroad.

Just sit back & enjoy the views! Colorado train travel on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Scenic Railroad. Photo Credit: Diana Rowe / Traveling Grandmom

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.

Choose to ride in full-enclosed coaches with windows or open gondola cars when boarding the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge train.

Choose to ride in full-enclosed coaches with windows or open gondola cars when boarding the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge train. Photo Credit: Diana Rowe / Traveling Grandmom

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.

Aboard the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad with amazing and scary Colorado train travel views!

Aboard the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad with amazing and scary views! Photo credit: Diana Rowe / Traveling Grandmom

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!

Read more about TMOM’s experiencing Train Travel:
Thomas the Tank at Colorado Railroad Museum
China by Train

Colorado train travel, riding the rails of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad