Railroad tracks washed out by heavy rains, halting service to mountain town

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Photo Credit: miroslav_1 (iStock).

Heavy rains washed away a section of track along the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGR), impacting summer operations for one of the most scenic and iconic train routes in the state of Colorado.

According to D&SNGR officials, the train service from Durango to Silverton could be cut off for the next eight to 16 weeks after a recent storm overflowed Elk Creek causing a large buildup of debris and subsequently washing out about 40 feet of rail. Originally completed in 1882, the 45-mile route climbs nearly 3,000 feet from Durango to Silverton.

The damage is located at the Elk Creek Bridge, which is about five miles south of Silverton. It’s unclear exactly when the log jam occurred.

Crew members are currently on site assessing the damage caused by the storm to determine the next steps for repairing the tracks.

The D&SNGR resumed some operations on Tuesday following a three-month closure due to safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Round-trip excursions, such as the scenic route from Rockwood station to Cascade Canyon, will be available Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Silverton is located in the southwest corner of Colorado. Its located about an hour north of Durango and about an hour from Ouray. The small picturesque town relies heavily on tourism, with the train capable of attracting up to 200,000 riders each year, with a total economic impact of about $250 million.

Here’s a look at where it’s located on the map.

This isn’t the first disruption for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. In the summer of 2018, the historic railroad temporarily shut down amid the 416 Fire, which burned an estimated 53,000 acres.


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