DURANGO, Colo. (CBS4) — A heavy equipment contractor finished plowing snow from an avalanche-prone portion of iconic railroad track in southwestern Colorado this week.
Bonds Construction posted on its Facebook page Wednesday that the operation concluded more than two weeks early.
The company said the 14-mile canyon section of track contained 42 avalanche and “sluff areas”, and posted several photographs of its equipment laboring through deep, long drifts.
That section of track is normally closed while the railroad conducts a winter season of passenger rides along the lower (southern) 26 miles of the track. But this past winter – in fact, the last year – has proven especially difficult for the tourism train.
In June of last summer, all trips were cancelled for five weeks due to the 416 Fire. The first of the resumed trips was cut short by a mudslide that damaged a section of track in the fire area. Regular tours were delayed another four weeks during repairs.
Though an official cause of the 54,000-acre fire still has not yet been determined, a civil lawsuit was filed in September against the railroad by residents and business owners claiming the railroad’s coal-burning locomotive was responsible for sparking the blaze.
By December, the railroad decided to pursue alternative means of fueling its locomotives. Coal has traditionally fueled the DSNGRR locomotives since the first runs were made to and from Silverton in 1882 (the route became passenger-only in 1951).
The railroad is currently using a diesel-oil locomotive from California while one of its own coal engines is converted to diesel oil. Two new diesels are on order, according to spokesman Christian Robbins.
The historic Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is now set to begin its warm-season schedule. First ride is May 4.