Our whole family was really looking forward to a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. When I mentioned to people we were headed to Durango, almost everyone asked if we were going to take the train. Some had already made the journey and said it was a fond memory. Loving trains as we do, this made us even more excited for our ride.
Rumors were that the train could sell out in summer months so I called the reservation line before we left. The helpful reservation agent mentioned that the Bus/Train option works well with kids. After hearing that the round-trip on the train totals 7 hours on-board AND 2.5 hours in Silverton, I took her advice and booked the Bus/Train option. My kids love trains but 7 hours? It seemed like a very long day not just for the kids, but for me too. She booked our reservation and when I asked what side we should choose, she said the left side is her first choice as the river flows more on that side. The last decision was class of service. Since the kids and I were eager to take pictures, I opted for the Open Air Gondola car. It has a roof but open sides. Could it rain? We brought rain jackets just in case!
We arrived at the train station first thing in the morning to start our adventure. We boarded a very nice motor coach with comfy seats, large windows and a pleasant driver. It was a 52-mile journey (1.5 hour) on the scenic San Juan Skyway. The driver shared local history and lore along the way and pointed out wildlife. Take note, this road has many curves – if you are prone to motion sickness, take something before you depart.
Arriving in Silverton is a step back in time. Only the main street (Greene) is paved while all the other streets are dirt. Silverton was established in 1800 and since they never had a fire, the original buildings are still there. It looks a bit like a western movie set with colorful store fronts and lots of weathered wood. The bus dropped us off on Blair Street, the notorious “other side of town.” Back in the day it was home to 40 saloons and brothels. We enjoyed walking around the remaining buildings (including a jail) and imagining how different life was back then.
We rounded the block to check out Greene Street. The first thing we noticed is the street is lined with off-road vehicles. This is a huge jumping off point for off-road adventures. There are plenty of options for off-road rentals and tours for those who are not up to navigating the back-roads. We have a 4×4 truck so we decided then and there we would stay an extra night in Durango just to come back to Silverton to enjoy some time off-road. (Note: our off-road adventures will be covered in Day 9). After perusing Greene Street’s lunch spots, we decided on Three Pitts Again BBQ. It touts itself as being on Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives, but not this location. My meal was OK but the Coleslaw tasted “off” and my hubby experienced some unpleasant effects after his meal.
With the generous time allotted in Silverton, we were able to visit most of the shops and eat lunch with time left over. As we headed toward the station, we heard the train horn. The kids were mesmerized as the train pulled right up the middle of the street. It truly is a sight to behold. This enormous locomotive coming towards us, bell ringing, steam blowing, and the chuffing sound only a steam train makes. It was the perfect opportunity to take some awesome photos of the train before we had to get on board.
We boarded to our assigned seats and soon were on our way. As we traveled away from Silverton, we were plunged into the San Juan wilderness, unaccessible by any road. Riding along the Animas River, we saw waterfalls, wildflowers, birds-of-prey, hunting shacks and spectacular mountain peaks. What an authentic experience! I found myself lulled by the gentle swaying of the cars and the continued chuffing as we rose and descended. The kids kept busy taking lots of pictures, as well as a trip to the snack car. I can say, after 3.5 hours on the train, you do feel you’ve had enough. We were happy to arrive back in Durango so we could go find dinner.
After a quick consult to TripAdvisor, we headed to Home Slice Pizza. The restaurant is in a garage-like building with big roll-up glass doors leading to an outdoor patio. Most interesting is the order window and kitchen. It is a food truck that has been built into the back of the building. The place was quite busy so we had plenty of time to review their plentiful options. With choices such as “Fa-Gouda-Boutit.”” Pork-U-Pine,” and “Grow a Pear”, it was a difficult choice.
We decided on “The Ultimate Behemoth,” a pie with Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, Black Olives, Mushrooms, Red Onions, and Bell Peppers as well as a Caesar Salad as we wanted something to snack on while we waited (delicious). Troy and I enjoyed some local beers from the bar as we patiently waited for our order. The pizza was beautiful with golden light crust and a generous amount of toppings. It was delicious! Definitely a stop we would make the next time we are in Durango.
We had quite a day! It was time to bunk down and get ready for our day of off-roading. We were lulled to sleep again by the pitter patter of rain. Got to love that!