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Unread 8 Apr 16, 01:51 PM  
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geoffa
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Grand Train Journey across USA - Day 9

DAY 9 (26th June 2006) Presidential handlebars.

Having slept like logs in a grate we rise to a glorious day.

The Strater Hotel and Saloon, our accommodation for the night was built in the 1860s and is the perfect location to start this part of our adventure setting the scene and period for our trip on the steam-hauled Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge railroad. Im just so excited this is the highlight of this entire trip for me.

We set off early to the train station.






Locomotive 480 is steamed up and reverses in to couple up with the carriages and parlour car.

There is no Health & Safety here. People swarm the tracks getting video and photos and everybody seems to realise the dangers of being in such an area without the need for notices and bossy officials. It is wonderful to stand against this monster - perfect engineering belching steam.





We are going to be travelling in the rear Presidential car called Cinco Animas Animas after the local river which runs from the Mountains through Silverton and on towards Durango.



We settle into the car where six other guests and us have luxurious surroundings with our own tables.







Dot, our car steward, brings coffee, pastries and goody-bags with exclusive souvenirs beautiful smoked glasses with the DSNGR logo.



Within a few minutes the train whistle is sounding and the Steam loco hisses and puffs its way out of Durango station. Moving slowly across the local roads we will soon be in the countryside and heading and a steady but leisurely pace (15 mph) towards the mountains and Silverton, some 45 miles away. Here's a lovely video of the train departure. You'll note that it passes the rear of the Strater Hotel where we've been staying:





The journey from Durango to Silverton is going to take approximately four hours. Not long after leaving town we pass through the area where the train was used for the hold-up sequence in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The locomotive was given a complete makeover to make it look like a Prairie Flyer locomotive.



Amongst our fellow passengers are Vern & Melinda - both retired teachers and enjoying what Vern describes as "Playtime". (** We have been firm friends for 10 years now and have visited them at their home in Wofford Heights, California. They recently moved to Grand Junction as they love that area. Vern has the most amazing large scale rail-road set in his garage!).



We climb into the mountains. At one point the Animas river is on our left, then our right, then our left again as we pass over trestle bridges and continue to climb.



At some points we are level with the river, at others the river is 300 feet below us cascading down deep canyons while we look down sheer rock cliffs. Sometimes the river is calm, at other locations the geography of the river-bed turns it into swirling rapids.






Durango had been founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Rail-road in 1880. The rail-road arrived in Durango on August 5, 1881 and construction on the line to Silverton began in the fall of the same year. By July of 1882, the tracks to Silverton were completed and the train began hauling both passengers and freight. Chinese workers would blast out exactly what was needed and no more so often the edge of the carriage is merely inches from a perilous drop. Its worth mention that the Chinese, having sweated and toiled, to create this train route were rewarded with being shipped back to China! No citizenships granted here.

The track itself is narrow gauge (3 feet) allowing the locomotive and its cars to traverse tight bends and twists.



Our train passes around several tight curves at this point, and the front of the train and engine are clearly visible from the rear car. It sometimes looks as though the engine is teetering on the edge of the shelf.



The views are spectacular and we snap away:





As the train approaches Silverton we descend approximately 1000ft over several miles.


and at approximately 11:45am the trains majestically pulls into town with its rails finishing at the junction with Main Street. Skill is needed by the engineer here there are no buffers and the train has to stop before the rails literally run out. Theres no platform either. You merely descend to street level.



We head into main street and following a recommendation of some staff on the train and head for a local bar and restaurant called Handlebars (as in the moustache). The entrance is on the side of the building:



The bar is decorated in western theming with stuffed animal heads, Antlers and antique style lighting. We sit at the bar whilst perusing the menu and we are invited to try the local micro-brewed amber beer called Handlebars.






This is the best amber beer we have ever tasted, served in Mason jars that are equipped with handles. A hint of honey, a nose of lavender, a smooth silky palate and no bitter after taste made it perfect as an accompaniment with the food Pastrami Sandwiches and Chicken Pot Pie.








Weve been given two hours in Silverton so there is just time for a little look around the shops. I buy an Indian silver ring with a little gold Narcoosee (bear) on it. (I would lose this ring some years later on a Disney Cruise when I took it off so I could write postcards.) We stroll around and see a caf which, in its day, was the bordello. There is even an original stage coach should you want to take a ride.



The bank is just like something out of a Cowboy film. You fully expect robbers to appear and stage a hold up.



We hear the four blasts on the locomotives whistle indicating All Aboard ! ready for the return journey to Durango.

Coffee is waiting for us on the train and we retrace the route arriving back in Durango at approximately 5pm, This was just the most pleasant way to spend a day and our fellow passengers on the train were also delightful company.






Once back in Durango we head back to the Strater Hotel to freshen up and get changed. We go window shopping as many of the retailers have closed for the day. We come across the Seasons restaurant.





We both choose centre cut beef sirloin local Yukon Gold smashers, onion strings, black pepper demiglaze.



Totally full we head back to the hotel deciding on an early night.




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Edited at 08:28 PM.
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Unread 8 Apr 16, 01:55 PM  
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MariaLynda
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Wow Geoffa you had such an amazing trip, the photos are wonderful, would love to do a train journey like this. Always wanted to do the one across Canada. The train is beautiful!
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Unread 8 Apr 16, 05:02 PM  
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geoffa
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Yes Canada is on our list too. So many places, so little time.
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Unread 8 Apr 16, 05:44 PM  
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Mr Tom Morrow
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Geoff. This was the one bit I was waiting for! What a lovely trip (My late Mother did this in her mid 80's on a Saga Tour) and what an impressive engine.
You certainly made the right choice picking the carriage you did, the rest looks a bit spartan or is it me?
The scenery is out of this World and again what tough engineering the Americans have had to achieve due to terrain.
P.S. Is Vern asleep?

Now thats what I call a pastrami sandwich - bit better than our M & S ones!
Seasons Restaurant looked like you made a good choice - locals haunt by the look of it. Food sounds lovely.
Well you Guys seem to be having a really good trip so far plus this train was on time!
Thanks for posting this.
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Unread 8 Apr 16, 05:58 PM  
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geoffa
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Darrin declared it a superb pastrami sandwich and it wasn't daubed all over with pickle. They served that separately.

I love steam trains. I just thank the various organisations that had the sense to preserve them.
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Unread 10 Apr 16, 02:02 PM  
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Eeyore rocks
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What a fabulous day... my aunt and uncle was going to take my dad on the Durango line... sadly it wasn't to be.

Stunning photos...

Thanks for sharing.
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Unread 20 Apr 16, 03:01 PM  
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Melvin Pearce
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What a brilliant train journey

We feel we have gone back in time with you.

Lesley and Melvin
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Unread 21 Apr 16, 01:31 PM  
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geoffa
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Would take that train journey again in a heartbeat.
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