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Rock slide creates mess for Durango-Silverton railroad

Officials believe it was weather-related; Saturday and Sunday trains won’t go past Cascade Canyon
A rock slide happened either late Friday or early Saturday morning near mile post 486 just north of Needleton, impacting Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s weekend operations. Through at least Sunday, the train route will end at Cascade Canyon before heading back to Durango. (Courtesy of Jeff Johnson)

A rock slide created a mess for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, altering weekend services.

Jeff Johnson, vice president and general manager with D&SNG, said the railroad’s daily patrol crew encountered the rock slide north of Needleton, adding it was severe enough to where railroad officials will not be able to transport passengers further than Cascade Canyon through at least Sunday.

“(The rock slide) has every appearance of being weather-related,” he said, adding the recent rainfall was a factor.

The rock slide happened near mile post 486 just outside Needleton, which is about 55 minutes south of Silverton by train.

The slide is believed to have occurred either Friday night or the early hours of Saturday morning, and railroad officials were notified about the rock slide just after 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

“This location is entirely remote in a separate canyon from the highway,” Johnson said, adding it’s over a mile away from U.S. Highway 550.

No roads were impacted, and there’s no evidence that the rock slide crossed into the nearby creeks or the Animas River, he said.

The last train that made its way back to Durango before the slide was around 4 p.m. Friday.

Trains heading up to Cascade Canyon will turn back around to Durango rather than go the rest of the route to Silverton on Sunday, Johnson said.

“We’re going to be communicating with all of our passengers one-on-one, individually for those who have already booked,” he said.

Most passengers on Saturday opted to keep their reservations and go up to Cascade Canyon rather than ask for a refund, Johnson said.

Once the officials clear the tracks of rubble, they will determine whether there was any possible damage.

“It’s highly likely that we’re going to have some track damage to repair,” Johnson said.

If any tracks need to be replaced, he said that process could take a whole day, if not longer.


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