My fiancée and I came to Colorado and New Mexico last year in large part to ride both the Durango & Silverton and Cumbres and Toltec railroads. This experience was so incredibly important and meaningful to me not just because of a love for trains and the magnificent scenery, but because my maternal grandfather, who raised me, took me on the D&S when I was eight years old while visiting family over thirty years ago.
I have been following the 416 Fire and the alleged connection to the railroad very closely, keeping note of both the comments and letters to the editor. The sentiment against railroad is not just something I merely disagree with, but rather is something that offends me, as it should offend any sensible, right-thinking person. Shrill cries to abolish stem engine service altogether abound. Some openly admit to disliking the train outright. One comment posited the grand idea of removing the rail line from Hermosa on. How very wrong they all are. Just some of the reasons include:
The railroad creates the prosperity Durango enjoys. As one astute commentator put it, you may not work for the railroad, but the railroad certainly works for you! And yes, while it is true people will not come with a forest fire raging, they will not come without a narrow-gauge steam train, either. As damaging as the 416 has been, it would pale in comparison if these malcontents actually had their way and the Durango & Silverton was forced to either close down entirely or substantially end steam engine service as we know it.
Forest fires are an inevitable certitude, one that the railroad has gone to extenuating lengths to prevent. Above and beyond the risk the railroad presents, the failure to properly maintain and cull dead and overgrown vegetation and other fuel sources makes these forests a tinderbox like never before, particularly with environmental changes that seem to have taken place over the last decade or so with incrementally warmer winters, bark beetles, and so on. In short, the railroad is only one of many risk factors for something that will inevitably happen from now till the end of days. Focus should be on improving and revising fire prevention and mitigation in conjunction with operation of this magnificent steam engine railroad, rather than entertaining this lynch-mob mentality demanding an end to such a national treasure.
The Durango and Silverton is part of our heritage. It is a national landmark for a reason, and something my grandfather, who was raised north of Durango, cherishes to this day, as well as the Rio Grande and Western railroad altogether, of which this is a last and most important vestige. It is an indispensable part of Colorado’s identity and heritage. Any effort that seeks to destroy this heritage is as outrageous as it is disgusting.
New York City