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Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Depot (Denver & Rio Grande Depot)

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Denver & Rio Grande Depot
1882, J. H. Ernest Waters. 479 Main Ave. (NR)
  • (Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
  • (Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

The D&RG's distinctive pale yellow and chocolate brown colors shine on this debonair depot, a clapboard affair with a second-story central pavilion and side-gabled wings. J. H. Ernest Waters, an English mining engineer, designed the depot, and Charles Walker supervised construction. Tongue-in-groove wain-scoting added in 1935 cut off the lower half of the pedimented windows, according to long-time stationmaster Amos Cordova. The well-maintained passenger depot and its gift shop serve the tourist armies boarding America's most celebrated narrow-gauge steam excursion train.

A lawn and flower gardens grace the depot's front yard, and in back is a fabulous collection of antique or restored railroad shops and yards that can repair or fabricate every piece necessary to keep the railroad rolling. The old turntable (1884, Detroit Ironworks) is still in use although upgraded from the original manual operation. A February 10, 1989, fire destroyed the historic roundhouse and shops, but they were quickly restored in reproduction structures which visitors can tour for a fee.

The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is not a restoration, but a never-abandoned anachronism in use since 1882. D&RG engineer Thomas Wigglesworth oversaw construction of the 54 miles from Durango up the Animas River canyon to Silverton, in San Juan County. Despite the torturous mountain terrain, Wigglesworth achieved a maximum grade of 2.5 percent (a 2.5-foot elevation gain in 100 feet of track). He also used all-steel track, instead of the iron track previously used by the D& RG. Narrow shelves were cut into rock cliffs 400 feet above the Animas River gorge for this cliff-hugging railroad. The D&RG continued service between Durango and Silverton until 1981, when Charles Bradshaw bought the line and upgraded it. The line has been designated both a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel


What's Nearby


Thomas J. Noel, "Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Depot (Denver & Rio Grande Depot)", [Durango, Colorado], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Colorado, Thomas J. Noel. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, 555-555.

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