An iconic Durango eating establishment, the Chief Diner started out as a dining car on the Otto Mears Silverton Northern Railroad in the 1880s. It sat abandoned for many years in Silverton. In 1944, it was purchased by C.E. Thompson and moved to Durango, where it was expanded, then opened as the Pioneer Café at the corner of 22nd Street and Main Avenue, now home to 2180 Lighting & Design Studio. In 1948, the restaurant was sold and the new owners, because they wanted to be the “chief” diner in town, renamed it the Chief. They later had a Walt Disney Studio artist paint the intricate native designs both inside and on the outside of the business. This picture is from a 1960s postcard that explains the origin of the dining car and also claims the car was attacked by Native Americans and that numerous arrowheads are buried in its wood. This is a dubious claim without known verification. The Chief was closed in the early 1980s and the dining car portion was moved to a property up Junction Creek, then moved again. The waving chief sign was salvaged and now is located outside the Toh-Atin Gallery on the 100 block of West Ninth Street. Read more about local history at durangoherald.com/westishistory.
Ed Horvat for The Animas Museum, firstname.lastname@example.org