I like trains. It’s not that I’m obsessed with them, mind you — I’m not a railfan like my nephew Noah — but I’ve always been fascinated by their sheer size and power, not to mention the engineering genius required to run the railways. I like train movies, train videogames, and even the trains themselves.
My nephew Noah hanging out at the railyard
For the most part, I keep my boyish enthusiasm in check. You see, riding the rails is relatively expensive in the twenty-first century. It’s no longer a cost-effective form of transportation — at least not in the United States. But when I get a chance, I like to take train trips when I travel. I’ve ridden trains in Norway, France, England, Italy, Switzerland, and Peru (twice!). I rode a train in Alaska. I rode with Chris Guillebeau all the way from Chicago to Oregon.
The train from Cusco to Puno, Peru
Kim and Benny Lewis bonding on the train to Oslo, Norway
No surprise then that Kim and I recently rode the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in southwestern Colorado. While pulling into the fantastic Mesa Verde RV Resort in Mancos (seriously, this is the best RV park we’ve been to so far), the owner asked us what we had planned (besides visiting the national park). “You should go into Durango and ride the train,” he told us. He’d just done so a few days before, and he loved it.
Since I’d already foregone several other train trips in the past couple of months (I look for them whenever Kim and I reach a new town), I decided to spring for this six-hour ride. (It wasn’t cheap!)
I tried to book us for a Saturday morning ride, but there was a conflict. You see, there’s a race every year between bicyclists and the train. We happened to be in town for this year’s edition!
They’ve been running the Iron Horse Classic for 44 years!
No matter. I bought tickets for Sunday instead.
A ticket to ride…
To save time, we rode the bus to Silverton on Sunday morning. We spent some time walking around the town, looking at shops. Silverton is an old mining town tucked in the middle of the Rockies. It’s remote. It seems to survive on tourist trade nowadays.
We ate lunch at Thee Pitts Again, a barbecue joint that has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. We don’t go out of our way to eat at places featured on this show, but we’ve visited several by chance. Our favorite? Chino Bandido in Phoenix, where you’re served a mash-up of Chinese and Mexican. Yum!
After lunch, we boarded the train. For the next three-and-a-half hours, I was like a kid in a candy store…
This is the first-class Prospector car we rode in
The train sticks close to the banks of the Animas River…
…but it also passes within inches of sheer rock faces
One of the many sidings along the way
Passing through the highline portion of the route…
I’m just like a little kid when I get to ride the train…
When we reached Durango, the fun wasn’t over. We got to watch the engine be “put to bed” for the evening. Then we toured the fantastic (and free) railroad museum, which offers more than just exhibits on trains.
At the end of the day, we watched the engines on the roundabout…
The rail museum features all sorts of neat exhibits
At the end of the day, I went home happy. Kim had fun too. “That was better than I thought it would be,” she said. The beauty of the scenery, the fun of the train itself, and the interesting museum all contributed to an enjoyable day off from trip — and gave us a sense of Colorado history.