The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad will resume service to Silverton on Saturday with a modified route.
Because of damage to tracks caused by Tuesday’s mudslide, passengers will depart from the Rockwood Station north of Durango. The railroad will bus passengers from the depot to Rockwood, where they will get on the train to Silverton. The railroad intends to follow this plan until at least Aug. 15.
Damage to the tracks will likely take four to six weeks to repair, railroad owner Al Harper told The Durango Herald on Thursday. In one location, crews might have to build a 50-foot retaining wall.
“This is the worst incident we’ve had happen to the railroad since 1970, when we lost 13 miles of track to a flood,” Harper said.
On Tuesday’s return trip to Durango, about 800 passengers were stranded at the Rockwood station by the mudslides. During the first mudslides on July 17, passengers returning from Silverton had to hike to the highway to buses after the train was forced to stop at Shalona Hill.
Four steam locomotives and two diesel locomotives are still stuck at Rockwood, Harper said.
“They’re trapped,” he said. “I can’t even get them back to Durango.”
Crews will use vans to transport coal and other equipment required for the train to the Rockwood station, Harper said.
“It’s very complicated,” Harper said. “We don’t have any repair facilities, we don’t have any coal, we don’t have sand, we don’t have a major water source.”
The latest modification is but one in a series of changes the train has had to make after the monsoon rains triggered debris flows and flooding from the 416 Fire burn scar.
The train service was originally suspended for 41 days during the 416 Fire and La Plata County’s Stage 3 fire restrictions, which ban coal-fired engines.
“It’s a tough time for everybody,” Harper said. “We certainly recognize that. Everyone that’s been affected by the flooding, I hope everyone gets back on their feet, gets back home, gets everything fixed. We’re trying to do the same as fast as we can to get the economy rolling again.”