The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad derailed near Junction Creek on Friday evening as it returned to Durango, delaying the 402 passengers aboard by an hour and 10 minutes. The cause of the incident remains unknown and under investigation.
General Manager of D&SNG Jeff Johnson said the lead truck on the locomotive – the part of the car to which the axles and wheels are mounted – went over the rail, spreading the gauge of the tracks. Wheels from some of the rail cars followed the locomotive off the track and fell into an area known as the track ballast.
“The initial investigation is not conclusive,” Johnson said. “It is extremely soft out there. There's nothing that was obviously in poor condition. So we're just having to take a closer look at it and maybe we'll come to a final conclusion of what may have caused it.”
Johnson said the railroad was able to quickly dispatch another train to the site to pickup the passengers and return them to the station.
The train was moving an estimated 11 or 12 mph when the derailment occurred, Johnson said, likely limiting the distance the cars traveled off the tracks.
D&SNG was able to repair the track within a few hours and had returned the train to the depot by 9:30 p.m. that night. The train has been traveling at 5 mph as it passes over that spot until the final investigation is concluded.
Johnson said derailments are uncommon on the D&SNG.
“We're investigating maybe a bit of an anomaly out there due to the softness of the track and melting snow and the moisture,” Johnson said. “We're going to look into that as a possibility but we haven't entirely determined it just yet.”