Friday, October 25, 2013


Tuesday evening we had a tri tip potluck dinner in the KOA meeting room to prepare us for the big day riding the Rio Grande Scenic RR from Alamosa over LaVeta pass to LaVeta CO and back.




Here are all of our members in front of the vintage diesel-electric locomotive pulling our consist of three cars –a  dome from the Santa Fe made in 1954, a club car used on the City of New Orleans, and an open observation car.


New members Cindy Wallace and her mother, Loretta Hernandez


Betsy and Dan St John, with ((( Mountain in the background.


President Kurt Simon and Betty



Bob Tucker and his camera on which he took over 1000 pictures during the rally  


The history professor – docent provided by the railroad added a lot to the ride and was a feature of the special excursion.



Jo Strong at our first photo runby at LaVeta Pass


First photo runby took place at LaVeta Pass


Don and  Bobby Pico


Depot at LaVeta CO


At LaVeta the locomotive ran around the consist through a wye to take us back to Alamosa.


After coupling, we will be ready to roll again.



This is the second runby.


A  freight car did not negotiate this curve. Near here we saw a flock of turkeys.


Beginning the long climb back over the mountain range.


Although the club car was very nice, most passengers stayed in the dome car. There were only about 20 of us on the train this day.


Bill Strong at the rear of the club car.


I kept looking for a little yellow color from changing aspen trees, but the turning this year was much later than last year.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


 These pictures were taken on September 19 Canon A 1100 IS point and shoot camera.


Near the depot is this home made from two standard gauge cabooses. They have been so joined for several years.


The Grand Imperial Hotel, built in 1882. Its first floor is devoted to retail stores and a  restaurant.


The City Hall was gutted by a fire in 1991 and so  carefully restored it won an award for the restoration..


The San Juan County Historical Society bought the abandoned county jail building and opened it as a museum.


Then the Society obtained grants and built this structure to house its extensive archives next to the jail museum.


Next, with more grants, the Society dismantled the New Caledonia Mine boarding house in a remote gulch and reused most of the material to build this wooden addition to the original jail - museum. The part with the raised roof to the right is new and built in the same style. Now another similar addition is under  construction behind it. All are three stories, including a basement  in which the mining displays are located.


The San Juan County Historical Society is nicely displaying the set of four annual railroad passes Otto Mears gave to C. W. Gibbs, the surveyor of the Silverton Railroad.



And here is the stately San Juan County Courthouse.


The county school built in a century ago was refurbished in the last couple of years


The western part of town seen from the Shrine road. The school is in the center, with the Grand Imperial Hotel on the left. The road in the background  goes up Kendall Mountain and the train tracks are in the canyon to the upper right.


Here is the easterly part of town, with the court house prominent at the right. We are looking up the Animas River canyon. 



One continuing project of the Historical Society is to maintain and improve the Hillside Cemetery. Every year new markers are placed on graves previously unmarked.


Here is the Congregational Church with parsonage next door. I happened to be in Silverton a few years ago when the steeple was put back on the building after being reroofed while on the ground.


This building was built as the office for a mine and mill on the northwest side of town. It was moved to this location on the southeast side of town on the San Juan Scenic Highway  to serve as the Visitor Center. A footrace is run every year to the top of the mountain shown here.


I am a fan of the 9300 ft. village of Silverton CO. I visited Silverton and the San Juan Mountains every year but one beginning in 1980. I named my little belt buckle company after it and have produced four belt buckles featuring Silverton, as well as writing a book about the silver passes issued by Otto Mears for the Silverton Railroad. In this blog I try to capture the essence of the tourist season of the town. It all starts with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad bringing in the tourists. IMG_5154

One of two daily trains has just arrived and passengers are disembarking to explore the town and grab a bite of lunch. In t he height of summer, three trains arrive daily.


Everywhere one looks from the main street of Silverton, mountains loom in the background. The Grand Imperial Hotel is at the right.



The proprietor of Fetchs variety store has reprinted my book on the Sliverton RR silver passes.


View to the northeast along Silverton’s main street, Greene. The aspens are just beginning to turn yellow.


Rails reached Silverton in July 1882 and this depot was built. It still is in use by the D&SNGRR. The Denver & Rio Grande sold the Silverton branch in 1981 after operating it for 99 years.


The last train of the day is leaving Silverton on September 18.


IMG_5173 The high revenue cars are at the rear of the train. The middle one is a replica of an observation car built in 1947 by the Denver & Rio Grande named the Silver Vista. The original car burned after six years of service. Modelers built models of the car, and new ownership brought it back to life on 2006. IMG_5174

The train is heading down Animas Canyon on its way back to Durango.


Locomotive 493 is one of several standard gauge locomotives rebuilt to narrow gauge by the D&RG for service in several areas of its narrow gauge empire. None are now in service because they are too hard on the light rail used for narrow gauge tourist operations. Railfans roaming the Silverton yards are welcome t oclimb aboard and pose as engineers.



Casey Jones rail car, built for the Silverton Northern  RR from a Cadillac touring car. It has been restored and is in operated on special occasions.



On Sept. 17 we took friends Jerry and Jill Wedlake on a day trip over Imogene Pass beginning at Telluride CO. Although they have a cabin in Ridgway, a few miles from pass, they never had been over it. It was our pleasure to introduce them to the pass. I have been over it several times, so it was not new territory to me. (Jerry and I attended elementary school together in Beloit WI in the 1940s!)


Here we have started our climb out of Telluride. Bridal Veil Falls is near the center. The road leading up to it in the lower part of the picture is the famed  Black Bear Road.  The day was partly cloudy with occasional spots of sunlight. Few of the aspens had turned yellow yet. 


Here our road is approaching Savage Basin above the falls.


The basin contained both mines and a mill on this large foundation. Stagecoaches regularly traveled the road at the right in the heyday of the Tomboy mine. A book titled Tomboy Bride tells the story of a newly married  young woman spending the winter in a cabin here with her mining engineer husband.


Debris makes an interesting pattern. The Tomboy mine was closed in 1927.


This is all that remains of a large structure supported by the lines of posts.


Jerry and Jill in the Tomboy Mine area. They have climbed 14,000 ft. peaks in recent years.


Here is the top of the pass at 13,114 ft. Fortunately, there was a brief period of sunlight while we were there.



A short side road at the top took us to an observation area overlooking the Uncompaghre valley in which the Million Dollar Highway is located. It is quite a sight to look down on the Red Mountains.


Now we began our descent through Imogene Basin into the Camp Bird mining areas.



A nice view of our road descending more to the Upper Camp Bird and Camp Bird mine areas. Fortunately we could take a shortcut through the lower Camp Bird mining area to reach the Yankee Boy Road down the Sneffels Creek canyon Ouray without traversing a rough and uninteresting part of the road to reach another bridge over the creek.

Fortunately the rain for the day held off until we were below timber line on the Ouray side. At the end Jill said that she enjoyed the trip over the pass but once was enough for her!