Eli's Western Adventure II

July 14, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We began Eli's adventure not with the Mesa Verde excursion as posted yesterday, but with the Durango-to-Silverton train ride.  Consistent with this out-of-sequence story, the images in this post will also be out-of-sequence with respect to the ride.  This trip was undertaken when the Animas River, along which the train route runs, was clear, rushing and pristine, before it was tragically choked to death by orange sludge from a nearby abandoned mine.

Again, we begin with Eli and the Great Iron Beast after arriving in Silverton.

Nothing pretty about number 473, but it's a magical throwback to the days of steam locomotives for some folks.

Here is the hardest working person on the train, the fireman.  More about him later, but take note of the color of his overalls.

And here is Silverton, not the main street which is paved, but a busy part of the town nevertheless - where the dirt streets are busy with strollers as well as vehicles of about any kind.  A major attraction in this area is the fudge shop!

Now for the train ride.  Here you see the engine pulling its load along the Animas River on its way to Silverton.  It's pulling different kinds of cars, some open, some enclosed, and all priced according to comfort level.  As for comfort, the springs beneath the cars determine the smoothness of the passengers' ride, some like a bucking horse, others a swaying effect.  They all move about because of the unevenness of the track bed.

Back to the fireman.  Here's a crop of the preceding image to show the smoke emanating from the beast.  The train averages 13-14 miles per hour on the uphill Silverton run, pulling itself and the rest of its 700 tons up the grade and blowing smoke the whole way.  That single fireman shovels four and a half to five tons of coal into the firebox during this run!

My point is not to demean the train because it's a great ride, but to say that there is soot everywhere - on the car surfaces, on your clothing and in your snoot.  The odor of the five tons of burning coal is constant.

Our car afforded Eli and me the opportunity to stand or sit in end-of-car platforms and view the scenery.  The Animas was full and rushing and occasionally joined by scenic waterfalls coming off the beautiful canyon walls.  Beds of wild flowers colored the way too.  At times the train ran precariously close to steep drop-offs as in this scene where the engine is at the border of the San Juan National Forest.

Another great adventure for Eli, one that he really seemed to enjoy.


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