Durango has 2 sister cities. One in Mexico and another in Spain.
On our vacation in October, 2015 I had us stopping in Durango, Colorado for a visit (we did not stay in town overnight). One of the main reasons I wanted to go here was the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. On my adventurous trip in my younger years I have a vivid memory of seeing the steam engines while passing through. I did not stop on that trip to visit but it has always been in the back of my mind to go back. I was not disappointed.
There are 3 major elements for tourists such as ourselves. One is the downtown area filled with shops and eateries. One of the focal points of this downtown is the Strater Hotel Building. It is one of the oldest and largest buildings on Main Street.
There are also a number of small coffee shops, saloons (including the Diamond Belle Saloon in the Strater Hotel), and eateries to satisfy any appetite.
After walking up and down several blocks of Main Street we had lunch at Nini’s Taqueria for some yummy tacos. We are not very eloquent in our food choices due to my picky tastes and my wife’s food allergies so we often eat Mexican food.
Across the freeway from the downtown area is Santa Rita Park right along the Animas River. This is a really nice place to go. It has several interesting items housed within it. There is a walking trail along the river, monuments (including the one above celebrating the town’s mining history), some art displays, and a full size steam train pictured below.
I was drawn to the train as this is one of my favorite engine designs. It was actually list as the star of the 1950 film “A Ticket to Tomahawk”. It is a beautiful train by any standards
The Chamber of Commerce is located within the park as well. It has the restrooms which is usually important to know. It also had an interesting video of the town’s events throughout the year. Most notable was a part that highlighted a western winter festival involving horses and riders performing some wild stunts in the snow. Imagine that famous Wide World of Sports ski jumper’s fall in the opening credits being performed with horses down a Main Street coated with snow. You gotta see it.
Of course I saved the best for last. The train is the main attraction in Durango. Above is the beautiful entrance to the train station and the statue in front. The gift store is part of the station in the background.
Unfortunately we arrived well after the steam trains left for their trip to Silverton. The engines leave around 8:00am to 9:30am depending on time of year. They return around 5:00pm to 6:00pm. If you are a train enthusiast then you will not want to miss these marvels of engineering. We had a tight schedule so I missed out but look forward to going back sometime.
The rail cars pictured above are actually working offices for the train yard.
Even though we missed the trains there is still a treasure to see in the back of the yard in the roundhouse. It is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum. This is a place that you MUST see no matter what reason you have for being in the area. First, it is free (woo hoo!). Second, it houses an amazing number of items from full size trains to several model collections.
Here is an example of the variety of items included within the museum. In the picture above you can see a full size locomotive, a bear, an antique plane, and a modern solar car (behind the bear). There is also a large display of models and memorabilia that salute our military.
Don’t forget to go out back of the museum to get a view of the inner roundhouse area. This is a working area as I caught the workers transferring an engine from the roundhouse out to the tracks.
There are also yard tours available of the workings of this facility including the roundhouse from the inside. There is a fee for the tour of either $5 or $10 depending on whether or not you bought a train ticket.
Even though the train museum is free admission it does survive off of donations. This was one place well worth a donation. It was fascinating and left me wanting more.