The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has released updated information about a Jan. 12 mechanical failure that stranded passengers for about two hours last month north of Hermosa.
At the time, the D&SNG said the separation of two rail cars was possibly the result of a deviation in the track where a private property owner had performed soil or utility work. The railroad used the opportunity to remind property owners who live adjacent to the railroad tracks to obtain licenses before performing work in the railroad right of way.
About a week later, property owner Shane Kairalla sent an email to the railroad taking exception with the notion that he had done something wrong.
The railroad never named Kairalla as the property owner who performed utility work under the tracks, but Kairalla said it was disingenuous on the part of the railroad to imply he had performed work in the railroad right of way – especially without a license.
Kairalla said it is true he had utilities installed under the tracks, but he said the work was done in 2021 by the railroad and its third-party contractor. He provided The Durango Herald with emails and an invoice showing the railroad performed the work, which he paid about $10,000 to have done.
The railroad has since backed off any suggestion that Kairalla or any other property owner is to blame for the deviation in the tracks that resulted in the separation of rail cars.
“We are in no way implicating the property owner as being responsible for the separation,” said John Harper, general manager of American Heritage Railways, which owns the D&SNG, in an email Feb. 2 to the Herald.
Harper said his earlier comments were based on initial findings, within hours after the separation. He said the railroad is still investigating the area where the rail cars separated.
A more recent report found that soft ground near the underground utility caused the deviation in the track, he said. He also acknowledged that the railroad installed the utility lines directly under the tracks.
Since the train separated, the D&SNG has excavated the site to fully inspect the utility lines, rebuild the subgrade and update the track infrastructure, Harper said. The excavation found that all utilities were property installed and no active standing water was found under the tracks.
The area continues to be monitored, but trains and other equipment have been safely operating over the area, he said.