Durango Railfest 2008

One of the sure signs of summer coming to a close is Railfest in Durango on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge. Every year at the end of August, the DSNG puts together a special weekend full of events, largely targetted at rail enthusiasts.

Thursday, August 21 – RGS 5 to Tacoma

Probably my most anticipated trip this year was the Thursday run of RGS Goose 5 to Tacoma and Cascade Canyon. Nothing particularly to do with Goose 5 – I’ve ridden it many times before, including a couple times on the Cumbres & Toltec earlier this season and many times on the D&S – but included in the trip was a tour of Xcel Energy’s Tacoma Hydro plant. For those who don’t know, I’m fascinated with industrial history, with a particular penchant for old electrical generation and distribution. The Tacoma plant is one of two small hydro stations that Xcel operates in the San Juans, and most of the original equipment remains on the property, much of it still in use. The 1905 facility remains only accessible by railroad and then by a footbridge over the Animas River. The chance to tour this historic plant wasn’t something I could pass up, and I’ve posted a number of photos of the facility’s fascinating interior.

Friday, August 22 – Chasing D&RGW 315 Durango to Rockwood

This year’s special trains mostly focused around runs with recently-restored D&RGW 315. On Friday, I chased 315 between Durango and Rockwood as it made a trip to Cascade and back.

Saturday, August 23 – Riding 315 from Durango to Silverton

On Saturday, I rode behind 315 as it made a round-trip run from Durango to Silverton with a photographer’s mixed freight. Unfortunately, the photo special was a bit disappointing, with only two run-by locations largely due to the sheer amount of traffic on the line (not to mention a few people who seriously needed some photo line etiquette reminders), but I still managed a decent set of shots out of the experience.

Sunday, August 24 – Exploring East Mancos

Sunday offered a tour of the third remaining water tank on the RGS. Yes, there are three. In addition to the Rico and Trout Creek tanks, which are readily accessible from public roads, there’s a third at East Mancos. Few people have seen it, as the tank site lies deep in private property and away from any public road. The ranch that owns the tank is currently for sale (and for a cool $3.3 million, it could be yours), and thanks to the efforts of Rod Guggenheim and the realtor, Dave Coates, we were able to pay the site a visit. In addition to getting a bunch of photos of the tank, it also offered an opportunity to photograph the remains of one of the Rio Grande’s earliest cars – an 1880 Billmeyer & Small Mail/Baggage car purchased by the RGS in 1891 and turned into a section house in 1903. The car is mostly collapsed, but is still an incredible piece of history in the field. Hopefully you RGS fans out there will enjoy this rare look at a seldom-seen location. Thanks to Rod and Dave for putting up with all of us, and for arranging this tour.

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.

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