In 1882, the Durango-Silverton line was opened between the two cities, so that the gold and silver flowing from the mines could be taken down the mountain before being transferred to other trains for transportation around the country. Because of the terrain, special, narrow-gauge train rails and cars had to be used. This line has been in continuous use since 1882, though now it is used to carry passengers up and down the mountain for some spectacular views. Because snow is a consideration in this area, the train only travels all the way to Silverton from early May until late October.
We opted for the Skyway Tour, which is the train one way and motorcoach the other. Our option had us going up on the motorcoach, climbing up the San Juan Skyway to Silverton. It was a beautiful day and the ride went smoothly. We strolled around Silverton and did a bit of shopping. The city is only a few square blocks, so you could get from the train depot to anywhere in town in a matter of minutes of walking. The elevation, 9,318 feet above sea level, gave me a slight bit of trouble, but not enough to ruin my trip. Just meant we took more sitting breaks to enjoy the view.
Then it was time to board our train to head back down the mountain.
The current locomotives were built between 1923 and 1925. They have been fully restored, along with the train cars that are pulled. There are several different classes to chose from, but they all are wonderful and there are bathroom facilities on the trains.
These trains go through some very narrow passages through some very spectacular scenery.
You can see how close together the rails are, which is why it is called narrow gauge.
The water flows down from the mountains from snow melt, creating the Animas River. The train goes down before heading back up another mountain before going down again into Durango. The passages through the mountain can be quite close.
Prices vary according to which options you choose. Whether you take the bus one way or do the train round trip and which class of service you choose. It can be as high as starting at $219 for Presidential class and as low as starting at $55 for Standard class and everything in between. Definitely plan for it using most of your day, but it is worth it. It is an amazing experience that you will never forget.