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Durango and Silverton Fall Colors Trip with Southern Pacific 18 10/01/2021

by Chris Guenzler

Our two travellers awoke at the Quailty Inn in Farmington and after our usual morning preparations, we checked out and drove across the highway to the Village Inn for an excellent breakfast. I then drove us to Durango with a stop for petrol for the car and Subway for me for two days of lunch. We then went to park the car.

Trip Information

Unlike the regular excursion trains, Photographer Special Trains allow you to de-board at pre-determined locations along the route to experience the pure majesty of early autumn in the San Juan Mountains, form a photo line as the train backs up and out of sight and with two blasts of the whistle, proceed forward steaming past you, shutters clicking and video rolling! Opportunities abound to photograph these historically significant trains against a backdrop of the high mountain peaks of the Rocky Mountains of southwest Colorado while enjoying the vibrant autumn colors and the free-flowing Animas River! This will be a trip where you will make lifelong memories!

The SP-18 consist will include the 3278 P-Box, standard coach, Red Mountain coach, and gondola. The Galloping Goose seats a total of 27. No concession car will operate. Instead, the Red Mountain will serve as the bar car as well as for seating. A box lunch and water will be provide and is included in the fare. Additional snacks and beverages are available for purchase. You are welcome to bring your own snacks and beverages (non-alcoholic only) if you wish. We will be on the rails all day, both days

Restrooms are available on the SP-18 train. There are no restrooms on the Goose. However, Goose guests can use the SP-18 restrooms at scheduled stops. You may book Coach/Goose each day with the bus service. If you choose to overnight in Silverton, you are responsible for arranging your own lodging.

Southern Pacific 18 History

It was originally built in 1911 for the Nevada–California–Oregon Railway and was sold to Southern Pacific in 1926. Number 18 worked the rest of its career on the Southern Pacific narrow-gauge. The locomotive, along with sisters Nos. 8 and 9, were nicknamed "The Desert Princess" for serving the desert areas of Nevada and California. In 1954, a new narrow-gauge General Electric diesel locomotive was purchased as Southern Pacific No. 1 to replace Nos. 8 and 18, resulting in the two steam locomotives retiring soon after the arrival of No. 1. No. 8 was donated to the City of Sparks, Nevada, while No. 18 was donated to the City of Independence, California.

No. 9 was the last Southern Pacific narrow-gauge steam locomotive to retire and pull a Southern Pacific narrow-gauge passenger train, with the last day of steam operation on the narrow-gauge line being August 25, 1959 and was retired a year later.

The locomotive was preserved, along with No. 8, was restored for operating condition between 2009 and July 2017 on a short stretch of track in a public park in Independence, California. Then, in early November 2018, No. 18 was leased to the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango, Colorado to train the crew on an oil burner, as the D&SNG is restoring K-37 No. 493 to operating condition while also converting the locomotive from burning coal to burning fuel oil. Restoration work on No. 493 was later completed on January 24, 2020.

On April 9, 2019, while the locomotive was working a spring excursion, a piston ring broke, creating a hole in the right-side cylinder head. The failure of the piston ring occurred on the grades between Hermosa and Rockwood. The four passenger cars, along with 100 passengers on board, were hauled back to Durango. The next day, No. 18 was hauled back to Durango for repairs.

The cause of the piston ring failure is unknown. On July 22, 2019, the engine returned to service. No. 18 returned home to the Eastern California Museum in October 2019.

On April 8th, 2021, it was announced that No. 18 is returning to Durango and Silverton from April 2021 to October 2021, and on April 11th, it departed for Durango, Colorado via truck. After arriving back at Durango, Colorado 18 has been used for many doubleheader runs to Silverton since early May 2021 and will be taking part in a Trains Magazine photo charter in September 2021 alongside 493.

Our trip

After paying sixteen dollars to park for two days, we walked over to the station, checked in and were given a release each to sign. Elizabeth and I waited outside until she put our overnight bag and laptop bag in the station to be taken to Silverton. The train for Cascade Wye left and we then waited for Southern Pacific 18 to come out of the shop area and run by us to the train.

Southern Pacific 18 ran by us on the way to pick up the train. We waited for it to come back to the station then all boarded coach 323 Animas River. The train consisted of Southern Pacific 18, Durango and Silverton covered open air car, coach 323 Animas River, Red Mountain 632 and covered open air car 314. Once everyone was onboard, we departed Durango a few minutes late, but we were off. We left the city scenes and entered a more rural countryside and made our way to Hermosa to water the steam engine.

Unknown Denver and Rio Grande Western combine at Hermosa.

Watering Southern Pacific 18 at Hermosa.

SP 18 has finished watering. We continued on our way, heading to Pinkerton for our first photo runbys of the trip.

Views on the way to Pinkerton siding where we unloaded the train. The Goose then came from behind us and unloaded its passengers.

Back up move of Galloping Goose 5 at Pinkerton siding.

Back up move of Southern Pacific 18.

Photo runby 1 Southern Pacific 18 at Pinkerton siding.

Photo runby 2 with Galloping Goose 5 at Pinkerton siding.

Back up move Galloping Goose 5.

Back up move Southern Pacific 18.

Photo runby 3 with Southern Pacific 18 here.

Photo runby 2 with Galloping Goose 5.

All the places a Galloping Goose could take you back in the day. We took off again and they decided not to do photo runbys on the High Line nor the High Bridge.

Views from along the High Line.

Views from the High Bridge.

View along the Animas River on the way to Tacoma where we all detrained.

My old dear friend was still at Tacoma. We would meet the steam train from the Cascade Wye trip here.

The steam train from the Cascade Wye trip at Tacoma.

Fire speeders at Tacoma.

Elizabeth and my old dear friend.

Galloping Goose 5.

Southern Pacific 18 at Tacoma.

Views on the way to Tank Creek where Southern Pacific 18 would take on water.

Southern Pacific 18 took on water at Tank Creek.

Tank Creek itself.

Galloping Goose 5 was right behind us, stopped and unloaded its passengers. We all were let off here.

Galloping Goose 5 passengers at Tank Creek.

Galloping Goose 5 at rest.

A part from the smoke box blew out the stack but one of the crew members found it and dipped it into the creek to cool it off. A welder was summoned from Needleton to weld the piece back on and to end any more problems with the engine.

The engine crew oiled the engine at the end of our stay here.

We next ran to Tall Timber siding where we would back into it to clear the mainline for the diesel train from Silverton.

Two views of us backing into Tall Timber siding.

The diesel train was led by DL535 107.

The car number of our forward open air car. We then took off for other places.

We then backed into the Cascade Wye to clear the mainline for the steam train to Durango.

The sign for the railroad at Cascade Wye.

The steam train to Durango at Cascade Wye.

The Needleton water tower.

Southern Pacific 18 took water at the Needleton Tank. We ran through Highball Alley for a double photo runby. This photo runby was under a raining sky so an umbrellas were used.

Back up move with the Galloping Goose.

Fall colors at Highball Alley.

Back up move of our steam train.

Photo Runby 5 of Southern Pacific 18 at Highball Alley.

Photo Runby 6 of Southern Pacific 18 at Highball Alley. It rained off and on most of the way to Silverton. It was then announced that the final photo runby would be at the Timber Trestle. Elizabeth decided to stay on the train for this one.

Here I detrained and took a picture of our steam train at the Timber Trestle.

The photo scene.

Photo Runby 7 Galloping Goose 5 came across the Timber Trestle.

Back up move with Galloping Goose 5.

Back up move Southern Pacific 18

Photo runby 8 Southern Pacific 18 at the Timber Trestle.

Back up move Southern Pacific 18.

Photo runby 9 Southern Pacific 18.

The final photo runby 10 Galloping Goose 5 at the Timber Trestle. The train made its way into Silverton and we both detrained. Elizabeth went to the Grand Imperial Hotel to retrieve our bags while I went to the Teller House to get into our room. Dinner that night was a solo affair at the Avalanche Restaurant as nothing on the menu appealed to Elizabeth and she was not hungry. I enjoyed the naked chicken wings then returned to the hotel to put the pictures into the computer and then convented them before calling it a night.