Saturday and Sunday, September 27-28, 2008, was the Durango &
Silverton’s annual Fall Photographers’ Special. After getting somewhat
of a raw deal on the Railfest 315 photo trip, Nathan Z. and I decided
we’d go give the FPS a shot.
Power this year was Alco K-28 #473, with the usual compliment of D&S passenger cars, Silver Vista, and caboose 0540. The weather wasn’t great – it was either raining or overcast for much of Saturday and Sunday, but we did get a few breaks of sun, particularly at the end of Saturday and beginning of Sunday. That’s just weather in the San Juans this time of year – unpredictable. Leaf color wasn’t really peaking until up between Elk Park and Silverton, but fortunately most of our sun was through that section, so it worked out. What follows are the results from the two days out on the line – enjoy!
Saturday, Sept 27, 2008 – Durango to Silverton
One of the regular morning trains leaves Durango behind K-36 #486.
Saturday morning rapidly devolved into clouds and drizzle, as evidenced by 486 between Home Ranch and Hermosa
The photo special train this year was led by K-27 #473, as seen in this typical out-the-window High Line view.
The first run-by was at the High Bridge. The light was bad and it was raining just a bit, but what are you going to do but stand there and take the picture?
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of light, so my shutter speed had to be lower than I would have liked, but the shot was still salvagable (as long as you’re not a pixel peeper and download the full-sized version).
Down at river level are these remains of a wooden truss bridge. I don’t know if this is part of the original high bridge, or if this is part of another bridge from upstream that was washed down in a previous flood.
North of Cascade Creek, we stopped for our next run-by
From there, it was up to Elk Park, as the crew needed to clear the main for the first returning train from Silverton.
And here it is – DSNG 486 and train 462 returning from Silverton at Elk Park
This helicopter had been following trains all day, but at Elk Park we got a good enough look to confirm that the photographer was indeed Sam Furukawa. Rumor has it he’s working on a book for the Durango & Silverton, much like the one he did for the C&TS.
Between the two southbound trains from Silverton, the crew took the special back to the Animas River bridge just south of Elk Park for a couple quick run-bys.
A side-on shot of the Animas bridge, showing both the new structure (put in service in 1964) and the older wooden and steel truss structure behind. The older bridge was replaced due to weakened piers. After this shot, it was back to Elk Park to meet the second southbound.
Train 464 comes through with K-36 #481 in the lead, giving us a nice blowdown. Wait, wasn’t there a sign on that pole?
At long last, sunlight breaks through the gloom, and with some of the best colors yet behind the engine. It’s still a bit early for peak color in the San Juans, but it keeps getting better as we approach Silverton.
Sure enough, there was a sign on the pole. Lest you ever doubt the force of a blowdown, just remember the poor Elk Park sign.
Back ‘er up for the run-by…
Another run-by above Elk Park. While the sun had come out while we were waiting at Elk Park, it’s too late in the year and we’re too deep in the upper Animas canyon to have it hit us now.
Like I said, too deep in the canyon for light. Without a graduated neutral density filter, there was just no way to make this shot really work. To even get this, I had to use a bit of digital trickery.
Looking at one of the peaks behind us through the Silver Vista’s etched door. Sorry, can’t take credit, it was a Nathan Z. idea first…
Crossing the Animas just below Silverton in the shadows of the canyon
A wider shot of the Animas crossing
A crew shot on the bridge – it’s definitely not your typical crew shot. I also just noticed the gold “D&SRR” on the smokestack (not present on the other K-28s, at least that I’ve noticed)
Another crew shot, this time with everybody in downtown Silverton. It’s the first really solid light we’ve seen all day.
Pushing back to where the train will overnight in front of the station
Sitting down by the station
Taking coal from the Silverton coaling tower (a John Deere frontloader just out of the frame)
Okay, so it’s not as rare as a K-28, but a restored 1959 Edsel Villager. There were only about 5,600 of the six passenger versions built.
Thanks to Darel Crawford, we had lighting to do a little night shooting down at the Silverton depot
A little different version – a long exposure night shot, painted with a bit of flash.
Sunday, Sept 28, 2008 – Silverton back to Durango
Steaming in the first morning light at Silverton, just before departure
One little problem – the generator on the concessions car wouldn’t start. Fortunately, after several failed attempts to restart it, somebody came up with the idea of cooking hot dogs on the caboose stove. Lunch is saved!
Crossing the Animas on the way out of Silverton, under beautifully clear skies
Traveling down the canyon towards Elk Park in the harsh morning light
While the rest of the photo line was up the track a bit, a few of us wandered down to this secret spot above Elk Park
I love this little lake, so you’re going to see a few more shots of it.
We actually did a set of run-bys here, with 473 clearing up for the first northbound in between. 481 lead the morning’s first train.
And the best part, on the run-by we got a blowdown over the lake’s surface.
473 coming through a bit of color between the lake and the Elk Park siding
Clearing up in the Elk Park siding for the second northbound
Wouldn’t you know, we lost the light at Elk Park just in time for the second northbound (an unusual doubleheader with 478 and 486)
Just a shot of the new Needleton tank, just in case you’ve never seen it.
473 posing under the restored wooden Needleton tank
While the water stop under the old tank was staged, the crew wandering around the engine lubricating the bearings was very real.
Passing over the Tefft bridge in rain
A different take on Tefft than you usually see
It’s not outstanding, but I finally got a “rainbow in the blowdown” shot on the High Line
Another slightly different look at the High Line
Back in Durango, we headed north to the Animas bridge to catch the first returning southbound.
And about 25 minutes later, 478 in Rio Grande paint returns to Durango light. Normally light helpers proceed the first returning train, but with us in the way, the dispatcher stuck him between the two regulars.
All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 40D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM, Sigma 18-50mm, or a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM.
This work is copyright 2022 by Nathan D. Holmes, but all text and images are licensed and reusable under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Basically you’re welcome to use any of this as long as it’s not for commercial purposes, you credit me as the source, and you share any derivative works under the same license. I’d encourage others to consider similar licenses for their works.