We spent Father’s Day this year riding the train on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and we couldn’t have asked for a better day. I shared a bit of our trip to Durango on Instagram and Snapchat at the time and I promised that more photos would make it to the blog soon.
It’s finally the day and my youngest two boys are literally at my elbows as I finish this post. They’ve watched the video at least ten times already and my youngest is reminiscing on his “best day of life ever” all over again.
Like most kids, my boys have been into trains ever since they were little. However, my youngest is the biggest train lover in the family. So, we decided to book tickets for the train and head for Durango on a family vacation this year. We didn’t tell the kids about the train ride ahead of time and kept it for a surprise. The boys are 13, 11, and 7 now. The days of surprises like this won’t last forever and I wanted to make the most of this one.
We drove up with the camper on Saturday and as we were pulling into our campsite, the train was just coming back into Durango on the other side of the highway. My kids were excited to see a “real old fashioned steam engine!” My youngest was still talking about seeing the train later that night. I was bursting with excitement to tell them at that point, but I managed not to until we drove over the next morning to “watch the train pull out of the station.” It was so much fun to see their faces when they learned that we were actually going to ride the train that day.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad operates out of the original 1882 depot in Durango, CO. The depot itself is a lot of fun to see, but the coal-fired, steam-powered train is definitely the main attraction. Running on original equipment, a swaying, scenic ride on this 1880s steam engine is a real-life peek into American history. These are the same tracks that cowboys, miners, and settlers of the Old West rode over 100 years ago.
As we rode along, we noticed that anytime we passed people walking or driving or riding on horseback they waved at us. Mothers with babies in strollers would stop and wave, farmers in the fields waved and grinned at us, every driver we saw stopped at a railroad crossing was grinning as they waved at the train. My kids ate that up and spent a whole lot of time waving back to everyone.
When we bought our tickets a few months ago, we decided to splurge on tickets inside the Prospector car. I am so glad that we did. If at all possible, I highly recommend doing that. The train ride isn’t a short one (3 1/2 hours each way) and this car definitely made the day a fun one for all of us. We had tables on each side of the car and the kids were able to walk around, play card games, read, or draw.
However, the best part of riding on the Prospector car is the open air platform on each end of the car. This meant we could stand outside the car and make the most of the fantastic views during the train ride. We spent a whole lot of the time outside on the platforms enjoying the view and the fresh mountain air.
As an added bit of loveliness for our day, there were drinks and snacks served through the day in our car on the train. That unpretentious little cake in the photo below? It was pure heaven and I’m working on recreating that recipe now. You can bet I’ll be sharing it here when I do.
When we arrived in Silverton, we walked over to The Eureka Station for lunch. The restaurant is known for their old-fashioned Cornish pasties and my crew loved them. We wandered through town afterward and I found my Christmas ornament to remember our trip. I started buying an ornament to remember each trip years ago and now I love to place them on the tree each December and remember where I was when I bought each one. You can bet that we managed to find ice cream as well. The day was hot and truly, what’s a vacation without an ice cream cone each day?
The views of Colorado seen from the train as it winds through canyons in the San Juan National Forest are some of the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen. My photos certainly don’t do any of it justice. I found myself just watching throughout the day and often forgetting to grab my phone for more photos of each new scene. Waterfalls, wildlife, cliffs, and more, the train rolls beside the Animas river all the way to Silverton and the sound of the water plays in the background throughout the day.
I’ve been told that the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was voted One of the World’s Top Ten Most Exciting Train Rides, and while I admittedly have zero other train rides to compare it to, I would happily choose a day on this railroad over a day at Disney or any other amusement park in the country.
The memories we made, the things that we saw, the whole experience was completely unforgettable. Our day on the train was the fulfillment of my train-loving children’s dreams. As it turns out, Sean and I wound up having a great time and I would absolutely do this again with or without the kids.