It’s time once again for coverage of the Durango & Silverton’s
annual Railfest celebration. This year, the highlight of the show was
the unveiling of D&RGW 315, a C-18 class 2-8-0 painstakingly
restored by the
Durango Railroad Historical Society
over the past seven years. Finally, after some fifty-seven years of
sitting cold in a Durango park, 315 steamed back to life on Friday for
that night’s photo shoot. While it didn’t make any trips over the road,
and had to be quickly put away after only an hour or so due to a stuck
check valve, it was still more than worth the trip. A huge
congratulations to everyone who has been a part of this restoration.
Also, as in years past, the traditional RGS Goose 5 runs and Presidential Special rounded out the special operations for the weekend, though one thing notably missing was the traditional photo special on Friday. I’ve included coverage of Saturday’s Presidential Special, along with the regularly scheduled trains, from trackside. However, for the first time, I actually rode the Goose over the entire route on Sunday. The final two sections contain photos of the Goose run, along with a number of shots of the slide that shut down service to Silverton for a week back in late July. Enjoy!
Friday – Aug 24, 2007
Having flown into Colorado Springs the night before and stopped in Pagosa a little after midnight, I overslept on Friday morning and missed the morning departures from Durango. I caught up with one of the regular trains at the Shalona crossing, powered by K-36 480.
Trailing behind the second train was RGS Goose 5, making its Friday run up to Silverton.
A low-angle view of the Goose at the Shalona crossing. After you’ve shot somewhere a few dozen times, you’ve just got to try something new…
At Rockwood, RGS 5 pulled onto the wye to gas up for the trip ahead.
And since the gas tanks are on the wrong side for the filler, they string the hose through the cab.
Further up the wye are a number of speeders, waiting for the Goose to get out of the way so that they can continue towards Durango.
A better look at the speeders / pop cars
Fueled up and with everyone back on board, RGS 5 heads on through Rockwood towards Silverton
With the Goose out of the way and the track clear, the pop cars all emerged from the wye and prepared to head off down the hill.
Instead of heading to Silverton to shoot everything coming in, I decided to hang around Durango instead – didn’t want to take any chances of missing 315 moving around. Nothing much happened, so I went north to shoot the first returning scheduled train, led by 486.
And another look at 486, just short of Hermosa and blowing down the boiler.
I missed the second train through Rockwood, but found that D&S diesel 11 had come down out of the canyon at some point during the day and was now in the Rockwood siding. At that, I decided to go check into the hotel, find some food, and prepare for the night photo shoot with 315.
Friday Night Shoot with D&RGW 315 – Aug 24, 2007
Yes, it’s a horrible shot, but it’s the only salvagable one I got of DRGW 315 emerging from the roundhouse under her own power. I was behind too many people and wasn’t ready, so I just had to raise the camera and fire a few times. After all, how many times do you get to witness the rebirth of a steam engine after sitting cold for 57 years?
Just as the sun sets, 315 steps onto the turntable.
With 315 on the turntable, a number of the guys that made it happen – largely Durango Railroad Historical Society members – pose for pictures with the star of the night.
Out of the roundhouse and turned, 315 prepares to head up past the ash pit
D&RGW 315 on the turntable in twilight
Still riding around on the table…
This gentleman, Hank Phillips, was one of the last to fire 315 for the Rio Grande, back in 1950. He’s here as a guest of the DRHS to be one of the first to fire her again.
A full, broadside view of 315 under the full moon.
Sitting on the table under some powerful strobes, apparitions of maintenance crew move about the engine.
315 and 42, with her lights ablaze, sit under a nice full moon.
Due to problems with a stuck check valve, they needed to dump the fire on 315 and return her to the roundhouse for work. The photo shoot would continue, but with 478 as a model instead.
Meanwhile, 480 and 482 sit in the roundhouse just a stall over from 315
478, trotted out onto the table and ready to go.
Pay no attention to the strobe in the picture… It’s the only decent shot I got all night of just 42 alone.
Three different classes of units – K-28 478 on the table, RGS 42 (old D&RG Class 70 #420), and K-36 486 in the background.
478 under a full moon and nearly cloudless sky…
Saturday – Presidential Special to Silverton – Aug 25, 2007
480 and the second scheduled train for Saturday cross the Animas River in Durango.
About fifteen minutes after the second scheduled train, 478 and Railfest 2007’s Presidential Special head through downtown Durango, bound for Silverton.
And what would the Presidential Special be without DSNG B-7, “General Palmer”, on the rear? I’m not entirely sure, but that would appear to be Al Harper (the DSNG’s owner) on the left.
Along US 550 between Durango and Hermosa, there are only a handful of fans out chasing. Note the addition of Silver Vista (DSNG 313) this year, in addition to the usual four parlor cars. The crew said this was as close as the new Silver Vista had ever been to the power, so I’m guessing somebody had some serious window cleaning to do.
Starting up the real grade at Hermosa, just before the US 550 crossing.
Rounding the curve just before the branch crosses beneath US 550, about halfway between Hermosa and Rockwood.
And into Rockwood for a brief stop
Another gratutitous Rockwood shot, this one on the way out.
After driving over the mountains to Silverton, I found I’d even beaten the first train in, so I set up down by the Animas River bridge just south of town. Here’s 486 and the first schedule train.
Exactly forty five minutes later, 480 shows up with the second scheduled train for the day. It’s just further proof that most of the time, the D&S runs like a fine Swiss watch.
And finally, the Presidential Special crosses the Animas under some less-than-ideal light.
A few minutes later, the Presidential Special is stopped at the end of the line in Silverton.
New to the DSNG this year is the premium open-air “Rio Grande” class, aboard DSNG 410, appropriately named “Rio Grande”.
Here’s 478 again with the back end of the “Rio Grande”
One thing about it, the crew for the Presidential was very well dressed. When was the last time you saw a steam crew wearing white collared shirts and bowties? (How did you guys stay that white all the way up from Durango?)
A better look at the back of DSNG B-7, along with the drumhead.
I could tell you this is the presidental departing Silverton, but it’s not. It’s just going down to the wye in order to get out of the way for the second schedule train to pull back into town.
One of the first things I noticed upon arriving at Silverton was that some of the dilapidated rolling stock around the depot is finally getting some care. Not to be left out, 493 is also fenced off and getting paint.
One of the storage boxcars up on the south end of the depot, freshly repainted. Compare this with the next photo to see how far they’ve come. I understand this effort is being undertaken by a group of employees, volunteering their off hours to do the work. Thank you!
Taken in 2005, I’ve provided this shot for comparison and to show what bad shape the two boxcars were in. 3097, the one shown painted above, is closest to the depot.
Also recently repainted is work car DRGW 04417.
Gondola 1313 is also showing repairs and fresh paint (and so is the track… 🙂
A bit later, both regular trains and their K-36s are sitting downtown, waiting for departure time.
Unfortunately, even by the time the Presidential Special departs town, there’s no light in the valley. In fact, it’s raining very lightly. Not unusual for Silverton in the summer, just moderately irritating.
On Saturday, the Goose made three short trips from Silverton to Elk Park and return. The second of these was in the mid-afternoon (1545h), about half an hour after the Presidential Special had departed. Here it is crossing the Animas in bright sunlight.
Again, the second scheduled train at the Shalona crossing. It’s more of an artsy attempt with depth-of-field than a true railfan shot – like I said earlier, after five zillion shots from the same place, boredom drives you to do different (and sometimes weird) things.
There will be no messing around with the day’s main train, though. Here’s the Presidential Special, now quite a way behind the second scheduled due to stopping for a runby or two on the way back.
Through weeds and wildflowers, downgrade from the Shalona crossing in the warm evening light
478 and the special coming off the wooden truss bridge at Hermosa
And, of course, the famous evening bridge shot in Durango. This was about the only place left with light past Hermosa
Last light, about a mile from the depot.
Trailing along behind, the guys in motorcar 9000 stop to set the car off and put it away for the night. For those that don’t know, some of the speeders are stored in a fenced area just on the south end of the Durango Animas River bridge.
Sunday – Silverton to Durango via RGS 5 – Aug 26, 2007
RGS 5 is all ready to go in Silverton on Sunday morning.
Just another look at the Goose in Silverton.
Not exactly a runby, just an interesting item – the old abandoned bridge over the Animas near Elk Park. The branch was moved off this bridge back in 1964 due to weakened footings, but it continues to stand today.
A better look at the three wooden truss spans on the north end of the bridge.
Nothing like the view out the back of the Goose…
This is the big slide at MP 485.5 that caused the Durango & Silverton to suspend service to Silverton for a week in July.
And how do you deal with a big mess that’s gotta go? With a big excavator – a John Deere 160LC to be exact! Also note that the dammed Animas is at track level, meaning the next time it floods, water is likely coming through the railroad’s cut in the mudslide. I understand that solutions to this are currently being explored.
For a sense of perspective, here’s Goose 5 coming through the cut in the slide.
Another shot of Goose, slide, and Animas River.
A wider shot, showing just how much the slide constricted the river’s flow.
The Goose again, with the West Needle Mountains in the background.
Okay, load ’em up, gotta go! We needed to get to Needleton to allow the speeders to get by us, and then clear up for the two scheduled trains.
A quick static photoshoot of the Goose and the Needleton tank. Wish Wayne would have gotten her just a little closer – the Goose really isn’t that small!
Waiting for us in the hole at Needleton are the motor cars, preparing to go north. At least this one’s got the right road on it for the run.
Let the waiting begin! We’re stuck at Needleton until both scheduled trains have passed, and our D&S pilot just informed us that the second train was some 45 minutes late out of Durango. That means we’ll be here for, ummm… over two hours!
The Goose, sitting in the hole at Needleton.
After about 45 minutes, the first scheduled train shows up with 480 on the front.
The canyon’s still a little cold, but this guy’s come out to warm himself in a small patch of sunlight. I like snakes, except the kind with the rattling apparatus on the end.
Finally, train two – pulled by a K-28! It’s rare to see the K-28s out on the summer trains, as they’re not really powerful enough. Based on how loud it’s barking, 478 is clearly struggling with this one. The K-36s must have become unavailable, leading to the delay in the second train.
The weather really isn’t cooperating, but the crew obliges us with a run-by at the Tefft truss bridge.
And another at the High Bridge, just below Tacoma…
Couldn’t decide which High Bridge shot I liked, so I included both.
RGS 5 rounds the famous corner on the High Line
It might be raining, but those of us truly devoted (or insane) fans are out with our cameras
Stopping at Rockwood for a bathroom break and to oil up the Goose’s bearings. That’s Jerry with the oil can up front.
And true to Colorado, if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes or go ten miles. Here we are on a bright, warm, sunny day at Hermosa.
And finally, back into the Durango depot, completing the runs for Railfest 2007. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this look at this year’s installment of the D&S’s annual celebration of narrow gauge railroading.
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 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM.
This work is copyright 2021 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.