2006 marks the ninth annual Railfest celebration on the Durango &
Silverton. Started by the railroad in 1998, the event marks a yearly
celebration of narrow gauge railroading, drawing throngs of fans from
all corners of the globe who come to photograph and ride the visiting
equipment and special trains. This year, the event ran from August 23rd
through the 27th, which also coincided with the National Narrow Gauge
Convention in Durango. In addition, 2006 marked the 125th year of
continuous operation of the Silverton Branch.
For the event, the D&S returned former Rio Grande K-28 #473 to the eye-catching “Bumblebee” paint that it wore in the 1950s for Thursday’s mixed special and Saturday’s Presidental Special. It also marked the first Railfest for the D&S’s recreation of the famous “Silver Vista”, the Grande’s attempt at a glass roof narrow gauge open air car. The original burned in a car shop fire in 1953, but this year the D&S finished a faithful replica of the original which runs on the regular schedule trains. Railfest 2006 once again brought out Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose 5, a staple of Railfest since it was restored to service. The Goose made round-trip short turns out of both Durango and Silverton, as well as running through between the two points. Also included amongst the regular trains was a special barbeque train run on Friday for attendees of the narrow gauge convention. What follows is my photography of the special trains of Railfest 2006, starting with Thursday’s introduction of Bumblebee 473 on the photo mixed. Beyond that, you’ll see action from all up and down the line, including the regular scheduled trains, various RGS Goose 5 trips, and Saturday’s President’s Special.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
The first public sighting of this year’s special unit – K-28 473 in the “Bumblebee” paint scheme that it wore in the 1950s. Scheduled to pull Thursday’s mixed special, the crew brought it out to the front of the yard around 1345h.
A better view of the engineer’s side of the unit in the Durango yard
They’re not leaving just yet – they’re just pulling the assembled train over onto the track nearest the depot for boarding.
Having past the switch points, the brakeman signals the engine to back up, and the helps protect the shove back across the very busy College Drive crossing
All hooked up and ready to go… in the rain. In order, the train consists of 473, DSNG 3631W (boxcar), DSNG 3749 (boxcar), DSNG 6522 (steel flat), DSNG 3275W (boxcar), DSNG 6528 (steel flat), coach 323, concessions car 566, coach 311, open gon 408, and caboose 0500.
Just messing around with an artsy shot involving the blue flag and depth-of-field. Didn’t come off as well as I’d hoped, but I still like it.
One last thing before we’re ready to go – mount the white flags on 473 that denote this train as an extra
The special crosses the Animas River just north of downtown Durango. It’ll run up as far as Cascade, and then wye and return to Durango later that night.
Finally, just north of town, near the Home Ranch siding, we get a break in the clouds. There are literally fans everywhere – I’ve never seen so many following a train before, even on mainline excursions.
A better look at the other side of this beautiful steamer.
RGS Goose 5 was returning to Durango and ducked (no pun intended) in the Home Ranch siding to meet the special.
Just south of Hermosa, the light fades under cloud cover again
Passing the Hermosa tank and yard – no need to stop for water.
Curling around the sharp reverse curves that lead the DSNG beneath US Hwy 550
Up at the Shalona crossing, we catch the train one more time before it heads up into the inaccessible part of the line past Rockwood.
About 1948h, the train returns to Rockwood for the night photo shoot.
eally, this is the only shot I got out of the night shoot that I’m really happy with. The rest weren’t that great, but I suppose that’s the way night shoots go…
Friday, August 25, 2006
The first regular train of the morning on Friday, about to depart Durango behind K-36 #482.
Pulling into Hermosa in some surprisingly rare good light. For a state that’s usually clear and sunny in the fall, Railfest 2006 was surprisingly grey and rainy.
And of course, the famous shot with the Hermosa tanks, both the old wooden one and the working one beside it, built from an old tank car.
This is coach 335, “Elk Park”. What the crew doesn’t know (and neither did anyone else) is that there’s already trouble brewing below this car. It’s developing a hotbox – a failing axle bearing. They’ll discover the problem in plenty of time, and set the car out on the Cascade wye tail track for later repairs.
Up near the Shalona Lake crossing, we find 482 again. With the wet weather, everything’s green and blooming. It’s better than forest fires any day…
A wider view of the first scheduled train and 482 at Shalona
Second to the rear on the train is DSNG 313, their new replica of the Rio Grande’s famous Silver Vista. The car is new for this season, and is quite faithful to the original while taking into account modern safety and engineering concerns.
Of course the real reason I’m out is not the normal trains, but rather RGS Goose 5’s trip from Durango up to Silverton, leaving approximately 15 minutes after the second scheduled train. Here’s the first sighting, near Home Ranch siding again.
A bit further north, with the traffic speeding along smoothly on US 550 a notable contrast to the Goose’s slow ambling down the rails.
RGS 5 coming in the south end of Hermosa. You just have to love the fresh coat of paint the Goose received since June – it’s all shiny and looking sharp again.
Stopped below the Hermosa tanks for a little inspection and lubrication.
I can’t tell for sure, but that’s probably Jerry down there with the oil can, same as usual.
While road travel between Hermosa and Rockwood is fairly quick, rail travel is less so, taking nearly 30 minutes. As such, the second scheduled train is just on its way through Rockwood as I arrive.
Up at Rockwood, the Goose crew throws us photographers a cruveball – their DSNG pilot conductor throws the switch to send them into the Rockwood wye, while we’re all set up for them to go straight on down the main.
Turns out the Goose is thirsty, or at least will be later. They’ve got enough gas to make Silverton, but they’re not sure there’s enough to make it all the way back. There’s only one problem – nobody’s got a key for valve on the tank.
A call goes out over the radio for the nearest maintenance person to come unlock the tank. After about ten minutes, this fellow in the yellow hardhat arrives to unlock the valve.
After filling one side, they pass the fuel hose through the cab in order to fill the tank on the other side. Yes, that’s right, the Goose has two fuel tanks.
Tanks filled, the Goose is off again, headed on through Rockwood for the rest of its trip to Silverton. I’ll cross the distance in plenty of time – enough so, even, to catch the first scheduled train coming into town.
As I was winding down the grade towards Silverton, I noticed smoke in the valley below. So, I pulled over in one of the large gravel areas above the Animas River bridge, and managed to catch the first train crossing its normally green waters in a rare moment of sunlight.
Having heard the whole deal with the hotbox on car 335 and its setout via the scanner, I knew the first train was quite late and the second would only be a short time behind it. So, I headed out to the river bridge to catch 486 and the second regular train. As was typical for this trip, when the train showed up, the light went away and the rain started up.
A few minutes later, 486 and train are on the unloading track downtown, and most of the passengers have gotten off and headed for the shops and restaurants of downtown Silverton.
With the skies opening up for a downpour again, I headed off to eat. Sometime while I was away, Goose 5 slipped into town. Here it is with 482, pulling out of town with the first train after loading its passengers downtown.
Between rainstorms, 486 passes Goose 5 while backing its train from the wye down to the loading area.
And by the time the second train departs, it’s back to pouring rain again. On the other hand, it does clear out all those other, not-so-hard-core fans…
While up at Silverton, Chris Webster mentioned a BBQ special being run in the afternoon northwards from Durango to Cascade. My dumb self had only checked the Railfest schedule, which didn’t list it, but the Narrow Gauge Convention schedule did. So I headed back over the hill to catch Extra 480 at Hermosa.
Extra 480 West went in the hole at Pinkerton to await the arrival of 482 east and the first scheduled train. That gave me time to run up to the Shalona crossing and grab this horrible shot of the returning 482.
The next meet, between X480W and the second regular train, would happen at Rockwood. So, I moved up from the Shalona crossing to the Rockwood yard for the next shot. While there was sun, it wasn’t exactly in the helpful position I’d hoped for. Extra 480 West arrived at Rockwood first.
A few minutes later, 486 East emerged from the cut between Rockwood and the High Line.
Not the greatest shot, not the greatest light, and fans in every possible shot, but still, how many times have you seen two K-36 powered trains meet lately?
With the meet completed, 486 headed on for Durango and so did I. Despite the lack of sun, I set up for one more shot above the track near Hermosa.
With a lack of light and little else to do except hide out at the hotel, I decided to go see how D&RGW C-18 #315 was progressing. They’d wanted to have her back together and running for Railfest 2006, but didn’t quite get everything put back together in time. This is the temporary shelter over her in Santa Rita Park.
Compared with ten years ago, when I last stopped to see the engine, 315 looks absolutely fantastic. The Durango Railroad Historical Society has done an absolutely first-rate job on the restoration.
Another shot showing what a flash and a wide angle lens can do in the face of adversity (or at least obstructions everywhere).
Down the conductor/fireman’s side of 315
Just another view, showing part of the cab interior
Saturday, August 26, 2006
On Saturday, RGS Goose 5 would make three short runs from Silverton down to the Elk Park wye and back. I had a ticket for the first of the three, which left at 0815h. The drive over had everything from fog to rain to snow, but Silverton itself was clear and sunny.
After what had apparently been a downpour all night, everything was soaked. On the other hand, the freshly painted and wet Goose made for a great shot against the morning light further up the valley (looking towards Animas Forks)
Like I said, everything’s soaked. The air is almost saturated with humidity in addition to being freezing cold (around 40 degrees), and consequently the Goose’s carb is having trouble running without icing up. Wayne attends to the problem by jamming his pocket knife in as a spacer to speed up the idle.
So we sat around for some 20 minutes past our expected departure, waiting on a bus from Durango that wasn’t actually even coming. By that time, the weather had again changed, with fog and rain rolling up the Animas canyon behind us.
Almost the entire trip south was accompanied by the continuous pinging of heavy raindrops against the large tin roof. However, just as we arrived at Elk Park (about 6 miles south of Silverton), the clouds parted and the morning sun broke through.
Backing around the south leg of the wye…
The scenery provides some vivid color as the Goose traverses the north side of the wye.
After turning the Goose, we got a quick run-by with some of the Needle Mountains in the background. The peak is either 13074-ft. Mount Garfield, or one of the peaks around Animas Mountain, all of which are around 13700-ft.
The thing to remember is that the Goose is positively miniscule compared with the scenery around it.
Just a little different run-by shot of the Goose. Unfortunately, we were on the unlit side due to swampy ground and brush on the east side of the track. Still one of my favorite shots from the trip, through.
As you can see, the Animas is swollen with runoff water and orange sediment from the hard rains the night before.
The Goose backs up above the swollen river for another run-by, about halfway between Elk Park and Silverton on the way back
Definitely tough to muster enough light in these deep canyons this early in the morning, particularly with clouds moving in and out all the time.
We did one last run-by for the trip on the Animas bridge outside Silverton. Just as we were all off the Goose and set up, the sun broke through a hole in the clouds.
The light lasted just long enough for some great shots of the Goose over the muddy waters below.
Our primary operating crew for the day – Wayne Brown on the left is the motorman for the Goose, and Wayne Pratt is a conductor from the D&S and acting as our pilot today. Add to that the fact that the front of Goose 5 is a Wayne bus body, and you’ve got a whole lot of Waynes in one place.
And here we are back in Silverton, up at the end of the track. Oh yes, it’s of course raining again. With the next train still several hours away, I’ve got some time to kill.
I told you I had some time to kill between the Goose and the arrival of the first train. So, I headed up towards Gladstone and found this scene. Unfortunately, I try to keep my car off gravel, so I didn’t travel much further up the road.
Unlike Friday, when I’d waited until the thick of the passenger rush to eat, I decided to eat a bit early on Saturday. Consequently, I missed the first train coming in, and didn’t get it until it backed up towards the wye.
By the second scheduled train, I was ready. Silverton seems to always put a little extra into the day when the Presidental Special comes in. This year, it was a bunch of period “outlaws” and ladies firing some very noisy blanks riding alongside the incoming trains.
482 pulls on up to unload passengers, taking its place beside (and behind) Goose 5.
Despite being the star of Railfest 2006, I haven’t captured a whole lot of 473, so here’s another gratuitous shot near the Silverton depot
It took patience, but I finally got a shot of all three without a single person in the way.
I believe I speak for us all when I ask, “Please, no goosing the Goose with 473.” Either that or I could make some silly joke about needing RGS 5 as a helper unit…
Just a look at the two steamers, with the Goose mostly out of the picture.
With the photo op completed, 482 and the second train were pulled back to the wye to make room for the first train, which would need to load passengers shortly. In the meantime, that left the Presidents Special sitting unobstructed.
Soon, though, the first scheduled train backed in to start the boarding process
Then, as soon as the first regular train is gone, the second begins the long backing move from the wye up to the loading area.
Shortly before the departure of the second scheduled train, the Presidental Special and 473 headed down to the wye to turn around for the return trip.
Finally, around 15:30, the Presidential Special left Silverton for Durango, as seen here along the banks of the Animas just south of town.
And, of course, following right behind the special is the Goose, starting off its 15:45 run down to Elk Park and back.
The second scheduled train makes its way towards the Rockwood cut on Saturday afternoon, around 17:05.
Then, after nearly an hour of waiting and about twenty minutes after the sun was consumed by a bank of clouds, the Special appears at the same spot.
Another view of 473 and returning Special at Hermosa
With no hope of better light to the south, I give it one more try just south of the Home Ranch siding. After that, I call it not only a day, but also a trip. The only other remaining special train would be the Goose returning to Durango on Sunday, and I decide I’d rather head for home tonight instead of early in the morning.
About 1305h, the Presidental Special pulls into town and is greeted by the gun-toting welcoming committee again. The train is, from front to back, DSNG 473, DSNG 350 “Alamosa”, DSNG B-2 “Cinco Animas”, DSNG B-3 “Nomad”, and Mr. Al Harper’s private car DSNG B-7 “General Palmer”.
All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 20D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM or a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.3 IS/USM.
This work is copyright 2020 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.