of the Durango & Silverton

The Durango & Silverton is, by heritage, essentially a time capsule of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (the narrow gauge portions) between 1925 and 1969.  Of course, the freight component has essentially vanished, but nearly all of the other equipment would have been operated during that period.  Some is much older, actually-- most of the rolling stock, dates from the 19th century.  However, all of the steam locomotive classes were built or adapted during the 1920's.

There are a few exceptions, most notably the narrow-gauge diesel locomotives that began showing up on the property in 2002.

Steam Locomotives

Stars of the show on the D&S are unquestionably its stable of vintage coal-burning steam locomotives.  The railroad currently owns ten engines, of four different classes.  Only two classes of locomotive are active at present.  (For a more thorough discussion of steam locomotive classes and nomenclature on the Rio Grande, see chapter 4 of my book.)

The smallest is C-16 No. 42 [RGS], currently stored in the shop.

Next up in size is C-18 No. 315, shown here, on static display at Gateway Park.  Technically this locomotive doesn't belong to the D&S but to the City of Durango.  Since this photo her restoration has been completed, and the locomotive has been active on excursions.  Here she's seen under her protective awning at the park prior to activation. 


The K-28 class from Alco was built in 1923, and were ultimately numbered 470 through 479.  Three are on the D&S.  The most obvious spotting feature, besides the number, is the oval door on the right side of the firebox face, and the pump assembly on the left.

No. 473

More shots of her dressed up for the tourists here.


  1984   2006

No. 476

Currently inactive, awaiting repairs.


In the early days, the D&SNGRR yard wasn't restricted, and I have a few shots like this, taken wandering around the yard.  This photo from 1982 (either May or July, not sure which) shows a rare sight these days-- No. 476 under steam.

No. 478


Peeking out of the roundhouse, August 22, 2003.  Here she sports a large snowplow.

Painted in historically -accurate Rio Grande lettering for a special charter, here she crosses the old US550 near Shalona lake on 2/11/2007.


The K-36 class was built in 1925 by Baldwin, and are numbered 480 through 489.  The D&S has four of them.  Nos. 480 and 481 seem to be utilized more than any other locomotives on the D&S, from personal observation, especially in winter operations.

No. 480

2004, Rockwood

Both photos, 1998 in Durango

No. 481

December 1984, Cascade


May 1982, with plow
No. 482

Received in trade for No.  497 in 1991 from the Cumbres & Toltec.

(September 2005, approaching Durango) (August 2004, north edge of Durango)
No. 486 (August 2001 in Durango yard) (Deember 2007, on the High Line)


The K-37 class locos were converted from standard-gauge Baldwin C-41 locomotives between 1928 and 1930, and are numbered 490 through 499.  The D&S has two of them on static display, and operated another one for about a decade before it was determined that it was too large for the Silverton line.

No. 497

Traded to the Cumbres & Toltec in 1991 for K-36 No. 482.

(September 1985 in Silverton)


Diesel Locomotives

The D&S owns four center-cab diesel locomotives, acquired around 2002.  (None, it must be pointed out, ever saw service on the historical Rio Grande system.)  One of these was made operational just in time for the Missionary Ridge fire, and was christened Hot Shot 1 in honor of the firefighters who battled the blaze.  It was pressed into service to operate the stub train when all coal-fired operations were suspended.  In seasons of high fire danger, Hot Shot is often stationed at Hermosa or Rockwood with the fire train.  The second operational diesel, Big Al (No. 7), was working at switching chores by 2003.  The third (No. 11) left the shop and entered service around the end of 2006.  One more is awaiting repairs.

Additionally, the D&S owns a railbus (RB1), sometimes known as a doodlebug.  This unit was intended for local and express service, but after that idea didn't pan out, it is usually idle.  Fitted with a coupler, it occasionally is used as a yard switcher.

Hot Shot 1, a 50-ton center-cab diesel.  These units have a flamboyant paint scheme.   Hot Shot is the smallest of the diesels on the property.
 Big Al 7, an 87-ton center-cab diesel.  In this August 2003 shot he's taking the repainted No. 473 from the paint shop to the turntable lead.  It is no longer on the property (as of 2009).
No. 9, a 90-ton center-cab diesel, awaiting eventual repairs to get it into service.  Parked near the paint shop on 7/31/2006.  Sold 2009.
No. 11, another 90-ton centercab, on 1/07/2007.  She's freshly refurbished and painted, newly into service.  Note the stylish nose striping.  (Also note the lettering indicating she's designated "PB11").
The Rail Bus (RB1), seen switching the yard at left in July 2004, and idle at right in August 2003.


Passenger Equipment

The Durango & Silverton operates something over 40 passenger cars of various types.  About half are enclosed coaches, with another 17 open gondolas, four private first-class cars, four concession cars, and a just-built glass-topped open observation car (a revival of the 1950's era car SILVER VISTA).  More details can be found at the D&S Website roster page.

Here is a representative sampling of the various car types.

Concession Cars

There are four of these.  Only 212 and 126 are mates, although inside they are all laid out about the same.

Concession Car 212 is a converted coach.  These usually run dead-center in the train. Concession Car 64 is a converted combine.
Concession Car 566, converted from Mail Car No. 14, seen in Silverton on 8/10/2007. Concession car 126, built in 1883 as baggage car 27.


Combine 213  is an ADA-accessible coach, equipped with a wheelchair lift.

Top: Lettered "HOME RANCH", in 2006.

Bottom: It was relettered "BITTER ROOT MINE" in mid-2008, evidently when being repainted.

Coach 270, "PINKERTON
Coach 291, "KING MINE" Coach 319, "NEEDLETON", is a standard coach.
Coach 327, "DURANGO" Coach 330, "CASCADE"
Coach 331, "TRIMBLE" Coach 332, "LA PLATA"
Coach 334, "HERMOSA" Coach 336, "ROCKWOOD"
Coach 337, "SAN JUAN", is a steel-sided coach, though overlaid by wood.    

Open Gondola Cars

Gondola No. 400, the lowest numbered such.  These cars were all converted from standard-gauge boxcars or stock cars, except for No. 410. Gondola No. 404, speeding past with riders delirious to be nearly home.
Gondola No. 406, as seen on March 13, 2010.    
Gondola No. 413, crossing highway 550. Gondola No. 414, leaving Rockwood.
Gondola of unknown number, thanks to the strategically-placed foliage, passing under highway 550. Gondola 416, in Durango.  Shown as the consist is being turned for the following day's run.

Premium Gondolas

Glass-top observation SILVER VISTA (No. 313).  This car was built in 2006, but the design is based on the original car of the same name that ran during the late 1940s into 1953, when it was tragically lost in a roundhouse fire in Alamosa.   Note the flying lettering.  Fares are First Class. Gondola No. 410, aka RIO GRANDE.  This car was built in 1987, originally numbered 1002.  It was painted like the rest of the gondola fleet;  for a while it carried the name SILVER VISTA, until the current version was built.  The 410 is configured as a luxury observation car, with better seating and now painted Tuscan to match the other first-class cars.  Fares are Deluxe class.

Private Cars

First-class Parlor car ALAMOSA (No. 350), as seen in 2004. First-class Parlor car ALAMOSA (No. 350), as seen in 2000.  Prior to being repainted Tuscan.  Fares are Parlor class.
Coach 630, possibly in TALL TIMBER service, though that needs confirmation. Lettered "PROSPECTOR" (3/13/2010). A TALL TIMBER coach (No. 632), seen on the High Line on 8/22/2009.
Business car  CINCO ANIMAS (No. B-2) in August 2001.  Fares are Presidential Class. CINCO ANIMAS (No. B-2), July 31, 2006.
Business Car GENERAL PALMER (No. B-7), in Durango on August 26, 2007. Business Car NOMAD (No. B-3) in Silverton on August 10, 2007.  Fares are Presidential class.

Freight and Miscellaneous Equipment

The Durango & Silverton is not a freight railroad, although they have made a couple of attempts to include freight in the mix.  The predecessor railroad, the Rio Grande, was much more freight-oriented, at least until 1969 when the line east of Durango was torn out.  As a result, there are quite a few vintage freight cars kicking around the line, as well as three cabooses.  Some freight cars are essentially abandoned and rotting, such as the string parked near Tacoma.  For years there was a number of stock cars parked off the main in central Durango, but these (and the track they were on) have been removed in recent years.  Quite a few boxcars are around the Durango yard, some used as view breaks and some as head-end cars on the passenger trains.

Any railroad also requires a certain amount of maintenance-of-way equipment and other special gear, the D&S being no exception to this rule.  There are four hopper cars used for  ballast service, a tank car used for fire suppression, various kinds of hi-railer equipment for track maintenance, and several track speeders ("putt-putts") that are used for inspections and fire-spotting.


In the early 1980's, these cars were painted yellow to match the passenger fleet (as seen here).  Later they were redone in basic Mineral Red or brown.

Boxcars 3275 and 3749, on No. 473's drawbar (7/31/06). Boxcar 3681, being switched in Durango in July 2004.
Boxcars 3631 and 3134, repainted in two different authentic Rio Grande schemes for use on special historical re-enactment charters.  

Maintenance-of-Way cars

Ballast hopper No. 9325.  There are a total of four, numbered 9325-9328.  See something wrong with the reporting marks?  (7/31/06) Tank car No. W 0473.  This car is used as a rail-borne fire truck.  Note the pump on the left, and the piping and hoses.
Flatcar 6531.  Note the ramp built into the left end-- this car is used for transporting wheeled or tracked MOW vehicles to jobsites.  
Caboose No. 0500.  It's usually used as an excursion car rather than as a traditional conductor's office.  It's the smallest of the three. Caboose No. 0505, painted in Rio Grande lettering for the RMRR Club excursion on 2/11/2007.  Seen waiting at Rockwood.
Caboose No. 0540, viewed in the yard on 2/11/2007.  

There are at least two models of these on the line, though I only have distant views of the larger versions-- see here for some examples. 

Speeder No. 334, following a train along the High Line on 7/31/06.  These two-seat vehicles are much smaller than their standard-gauge counterparts. Another speeder, seen in 1998 (angle doesn't reveal its number).
Larger speeder, pulling two flat equipment carts.  On the high line, as you can see.  Number unknown. Public Service Company (now Xcel Energy) keeps one at Rockwood to access their hydro plant at Tacoma.  Here it's seen at Tacoma.
Hi-Rail Equipment
Ballast spreader, parked at Rockwood on 7/31/2006.    

There will be more images on this page, as I can get to them.  Stay tuned for updates and additions!

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(c) James R. Griffin.  All rights reserved.