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Drivers ride the rails, become stuck on snow-covered tracks in Durango

Three cars mistakenly turn onto D&SNG line
Three cars became stuck this week on the railroad tracks in downtown Durango after having mistaken the snowy-covered rails for a road. (Courtesy of Durango Police Department)

Three drivers this week mistook the snow-covered narrow gauge railroad tracks for either Narrow Gauge Avenue or the Postal Service drop box alley and got themselves stuck on the tracks.

Two vehicles became stuck on Wednesday after the drivers made a right turn off College Drive onto the tracks. A third car made the same mistake Thursday, accidentally turning off Seventh Street. All three cars were quickly towed off the tracks and did not cause any delays to railroad operations.

Officer Dan Kellermeyer with the Durango Police Department responded to two of the three incidents and said drivers had difficulty differentiating the snow-covered tracks from the street. The two vehicles that made the mistake on Wednesday traveled about 30 feet down the tracks before getting stuck, while the white Subaru Outback that got stuck on Thursday made it nearly 50 yards.

The driver of the orange Jeep that became stuck on Wednesday told Kellermeyer that she was new to town and had been following directions from her GPS; the driver of the Subaru had intended to drop off some mail at the post office.

Jeff Johnson, general manager the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, said this happens on occasion, most recently during a storm two years ago in whiteout conditions.

An orange Jeep made it about 30 feet before becoming stuck on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge tracks. A white Subaru Outback that got stuck Thursday traveled about 50 yards before it became entrenched in snow. (Courtesy of Durango Police Department)

“It's a little beyond me how someone could get that far and not realize that they’re on the track,” Johnson said. “But interestingly enough, it’s rare as can be that it happens in fair weather.”

After each incident, Johnson said D&SNG is required to have the track inspected for damage. Luckily, he said, the train is not running until Saturday and the inspections are relatively easy provided that no damage has occurred. The most significant problem would be if a vehicle managed to spread the gauge of the tracks, although Johnson said that was unlikely.

“Heads up, folks,” Johnson warns Durango drivers. “Please pay attention for the alleyways and if you see two narrow bands that are 3 feet apart that look like railroad tracks, you might think twice.”

rschafir@durangoherald.com

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