Riding the train on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad


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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 at the time and I promised that more photos would make it to the blog soon.

It’s finally the day to write about it all here on the website 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.

Riding the train in the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

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!”

188os working steam engine for the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

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.

Riding the working steam engine train on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

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.

Train and For a Better Day

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 ½ 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.

Spending a day riding the train on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

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?

Riding the train on the Durango Silverton Railroad

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.

Spend a day riding the train on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - it's a trip through history!

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.

For more of our family road trips, check out these posts: 


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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Lynne | 365 Days of Baking and More says

    What an awesome experience for all of you. We’ll definitely need to go the next time we head to Durango. The joy on the boys’ faces makes my heart swell. It must have been so hard to keep it a secret, but the end result was so totally worth it! Great job, Mary!

  2. Rita says

    What beautiful memories you have built with your adorable kiddos! I am jealous of the Cornish pasties! We had them in Victoria BC many years ago and have never figured out what exactly was in them.

  3. Christina says

    Wow, what an amazing adventure! My Grampy and Granny used to take us to Colorado for vacation when my sister and I were kids. I have fond memories of seeing trains like this. As an adult, I would totally dig this type of vacation. Love your pictures 😀

  4. Deb says

    My family rode the train four years ago. We loved it too and had a great time. You are right it is beautiful. I have some great photos to remember it by.

  5. Starr Dallaire says

    Thank you so much for allowing me to share this wonderful trip with you and your family. What a wonderful place this is. Thank you again for the chance to see this especially by Train.

  6. Angela Avila says

    Thank you Mary for sharing your family’s fun adventures. Thinking we’ll spring for the prospect car next time. My boys are older now but my oldest still loves when I surprise him with special adventures or quality time. Son’s are the best.

  7. Linda Hoover says

    Oh.MY.GOODNESS!!!!! I can’t believe you visited my hometown!!! 😀 I’m delighted to hear you all had a blast riding the train! I greatly miss the sound of its whistle blowing as it passed through town going to & from Silverton (I live in Colorado Springs now). My family has ridden the train several times, usually dressed in late 1800s garb as part of the Victorian Aid Society’s reenactments for tourists! It was certainly a fun, if unusual, way to ride the train. 🙂
    Durango was a gorgeous area to grow up in. My family loved hiking, 4-wheeling, & camping in the mountains during the summers. I hope you had the opportunity to do some other fun touristy stuff in Durango while you were there, as there’s a ton of fun stuff like that in Durango & the surrounding areas! Did you visit Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory while you were there? Durango is where it started many, many years ago. And I must say, their chocolates are AMAZING! Anyway, I’m just so excited that you visited my hometown & enjoyed your time there! Lol!
    Great pictures of the train & the surrounding beauty, by the way!

    • Mary says

      I saw some photos of the reenactments on the train and it looked incredible. I’d love to see that in person. What a fun memory!