More than a dozen revelers who welcomed returning passengers on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad with bare butts and full frontal nudity last month irked a tourist and drew warnings from law enforcement.
The incident took place May 25 – the same day hundreds of bicyclists rode from Durango to Silverton for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. A photograph taken by the tourist shows naked men and women holding beers, whooping and hollering, and showing their backsides – and frontsides – for passengers aboard the train as it was pulling into town.
“It’s a shame that people do that stuff, isn’t it?” said Paul Schranck, general manager with the railroad.
Rafters have been known to “moon” the train, but full nudity is a whole new level, he said.
“People definitely moon the train, there’s no doubt about it,” Schranck said. “Most of the time, it’s been relatively minor things, but this sounds like it’s kind of amped it up a little bit.”
The train has reported similar incidents to the Durango Police Department, but it’s difficult to patrol.
“We can’t stop the train. If we do report them, by the time anybody’s able to respond, then whoever was responsible is usually gone,” Schranck said.
Jim Slavin, a passenger on the train, snapped the photo at 5:10 p.m. just north of Demon Bridge behind Durango High School.
“I found it quite offensive,” the Phoenix resident said during a phone interview this week. “Is this the way you want me to remember Durango? I don’t think it is.”
He sent the photo to Durango City Councilor Sweetie Marbury, who wrote Slavin an apology and then forwarded the photo to the Durango Police Department.
“I am deeply saddened by the picture you sent to Council,” she wrote to Slavin. “There is no excuse for rude behavior to the guests in Durango. ... I hope you will not judge all of our community by the acts of a few.”
Police were reviewing the photograph, but as of Wednesday, they had not identified anyone in the picture, said Lt. Ray Shupe.
If anyone can be identified, or if anyone is caught flashing the train, he or she can be cited for indecent exposure, a misdemeanor.
The police department has two bicycle patrol officers who will do extra patrol all summer along the Animas River Trail, Shupe said.
The river and the banks are considered a public park, he said, and it is illegal to have open containers of alcohol.
Slavin said he didn’t realize there were bare-breasted women and a fully naked man until he inspected the photo after taking it.
“I thought they were mooning the train, and I didn’t think it was going to be that bad,” he said. “I guess I didn’t realize how bad it was until I looked at the pictures and zoomed in on them.
“It’s pretty gross, depending on your taste,” he said.
Slavin, 77, said he doesn’t consider himself a “prude,” but this went beyond everyday sensibilities.
“Colorado is a pretty liberal area, and perhaps this is just a part of it,” he said.
It was Slavin’s first trip to Durango. He came specifically to ride the train. He was here for two days before going to Chama, N.M., to ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. In addition to riding the Durango train, he went for a hike, watched the bike races and ate dinner in Durango.
“I can’t say that I contributed significantly to the economy of Durango, but a little bit,” he said.
He didn’t notice if other passengers were taken aback by nudity.
“I got back and said, ‘Gee, this really isn’t right.’ I thought I’d at least give the people who are responsible an opportunity to see if they can do something about it,” Slavin said. “It will probably just embolden the people doing it to do it more brazenly in other places. But I hope not. I hope people understand that people are going away from Durango with an impression, and their rude, inconsiderate acts are contributing to a less-than-favorable impression.”
Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, said residents should be considerate to tourists and offer directions if they appear lost.
“People are on vacation, there are kids,” he said. “There are people enjoying their vacation, and to see that – they don’t want to see that.”
He encouraged residents to report similar incidents, and, if they have photographic evidence, then turn it over to police.
“With today’s technology, if you’re dumb enough to do that, you’d better also be ready to pay the penalty,” Llewellyn said.
He also issued a warning to anyone thinking about baring it all for the train: “Be careful because they blow steam. You’re going to get scalded.”