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Now this is a REAL big-boy's train-set


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Author Topic: Now this is a REAL big-boy's train-set  (Read 2002 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: August 10, 2011, 11:06:56 pm »


The ideas keep rolling

Railroad owner shares dreams for the future

By EMERY COWAN - The Durango Herald | Friday, May 13, 2011

Al Harper's big train set: Durango depot on a Saturday morning with a narrow-gauge train about to depart on the 3½-hour journey to Silverton. — Photo: SARAH FRIEDMAN/The Durango Herald.
Al Harper's big train set: Durango depot on a Saturday morning with a narrow-gauge train about to depart
on the 3½-hour journey to Silverton. — Photo: SARAH FRIEDMAN/The Durango Herald.


BEFORE he begins each workday, Al Harper stops for breakfast at Oscar's Cafe. Between sips of lemonade and bites of scrambled eggs, Harper inevitably will end up in a conversation with another diner.

"We'll talk about an idea they've got or something they'd like to do," Harper said.

Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, is a man of ideas. And he's always up for pursuing a new one, especially if it relates to trains.


Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, left, starts his work day at Oscar's Restaurant talking railroad business with Marc Saehir, right, special project manager at the railroad. — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.
Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, left, starts his work day at Oscar's Restaurant
talking railroad business with Marc Saehir, right, special project manager at the railroad.
 — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.


As he enters his 13th year as the train's owner, Harper has a long list of future plans for Durango's tourism icon, and, despite the challenge of the current economy, it only keeps growing.

From real estate to trains

Before he entered the world of trains, Harper worked in real estate in Miami. While there, a group approached him wanting to start a train. That train failed, but in the process, Harper bought the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and fell in love with it. Over the years, he started his own company, American Heritage Railways, and bought two other railroads, in North Carolina and in Texas. Besides running trains, Harper also owns a company that works with major film-production companies to reproduce their stories through events on the train such as the Polar Express and the Lone Ranger.


Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, speaks to riders of the train during a brief pause at the Rockwood Station during the train's morning run to Silverton. Harper tries to ride the train once a week to speak to riders about their experiences. — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.
Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, speaks to riders of the train during a brief
pause at the Rockwood Station during the train's morning run to Silverton. Harper tries to ride the train once
a week to speak to riders about their experiences. — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.


A spring of ideas

Harper's biggest and longest-standing plan is Railroad Square. The $84 million project would include a 220-room hotel, a 22,000-square-foot conference center and 30,000 square feet of retail and office space. Harper already has invested $3 million into the project and received approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the city of Durango, but a lack of financing has put everything on hold.

"The economy has made it difficult to do that big of a deal," he said.

The sketches of the building, which would take over the railroad parking lot, lean against the wall in Harper's office.


Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, waves to riders of the train during a brief pause at the Rockwood Station on the train's morning run to Silverton. — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.
Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, waves to riders of the train during a brief pause
at the Rockwood Station on the train's morning run to Silverton. — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.


In the meantime, Harper has focused his efforts on 12 acres of land south of the glider park that will become a pumpkin patch and North Pole destination. The site is under construction and should be ready for the first Charlie Brown Pumpkin Patch Express train in October, Harper said. In its final stages, he said he envisions raising small herds of buffalo and reindeer on the land.

Though his attempt to buy the Strater Hotel fell through in March, the business side of Harper's mind is still set on owning a hotel.

"I'm bound and determined we're going to get some hotel rooms. It may be in a month, a year or maybe three years," he said. "We bring in 170,000 visitors. We should be able to capitalize to some degree on the rooms we fill."

Higher up on Harper's dream scale is "Colorado Close Encounters," where he would bring mountain lions and bears into a human-made habitat where train riders could stop to get a look at the animals.

Allowing visitors to see wildlife up close is "the best thing you can do for conservation of wildlife," he said.

An April article in The Durango Herald about an idea to designate parts of the San Juan Mountains as a geopark sent Harper's wheels spinning on another venture. Riders can see every geologic era as they ride the train, Harper said, so he wants to create a geologic tour handout that people can follow as they ride up to Silverton.


Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, awaits the arrival of the morning train at the Rockwood Station on its way to Silverton. — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.
Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, awaits the arrival of the morning train
at the Rockwood Station on its way to Silverton. — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.


Other ambitions in the works:

  • Purchasing an 8-acre historic homestead that lies at the entrance to the Weminuche Wilderness,

  • Soliciting screenwriters to produce a script for a movie plot idea he has created.

‘I'm a dreamer’

His reasons for seeking out new opportunities with the train are part idealistic and part realistic.

"I'm a dreamer, and I'm a salesman," Harper said.


Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, waves to visitors at the Rockwood Station during the train's morning run to Silverton — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.
Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, waves to visitors at the Rockwood Station
during the train's morning run to Silverton — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.


Over his 13 years with the railroad, he's learned what it takes to keep customers filling his seats.

"To be relevant, you always have to have things new and different," he said. "(The railroad) is all history, so a lot is how I present it."

Though it's hard to pinpoint exactly what impact the train has on local hotel stays, at the Strater, it's a significant amount, said owner Rod Barker.

"It's clear he has a passion for the train, and we're all benefactors of that," Barker said.


A Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train leaves Silverton during a heavy snowfall, bound for Durango. — Photo: MARK ESPER/Silverton Standard & The Miner.
A Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train leaves Silverton during a heavy snowfall, bound for Durango.
 — Photo: MARK ESPER/Silverton Standard & The Miner.


The train is one of the area's biggest draws for tourists from other states and other countries, said John Cohen, executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.

"There's an incredible awareness of the train domestically, regionally and nationally," Cohen said. "What Europeans and Japanese tourists like about Durango is our Americana, our history. Part of it is cowboys and Native American culture, but the other part is the train."


Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2011, 11:07:54 pm »


Track addicts

D&SNGR engineers' habit: Riding the rails

By DALE RODEBAUGH - The Durango Herald | Saturday, July 03, 2010



SILVERTON — When they say it's addictive, Bill Colley, Mike Nichols and Steve Otten aren't talking about habit-forming substances but railroading.

They are Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad engineers, the guys responsible for guiding the 286,000-pound locomotive/tender combinations that pull tourist-laden passenger cars between the two points.

No other work is as satisfying, each man said here Tuesday while checking air brakes and cab gauges in their locomotives in preparation for returning to Durango.

Colley, Nichols and Otten are among eight year-round Durango train employees. They work the winter runs to the Cascade Wye from late November to early May and the family-oriented Polar Express program at Christmas. "But we still shovel coal sometimes," Colley said.

Bill Colley

Colley, 51, had John Wayne as a neighbor during his formative years in California and briefly thought he'd like to be a cowboy. But his abiding dream was to grip a Johnson bar, the gear-selection lever on a locomotive.

"My grandfather gave me a train, an American Flyer, when I was a child," Colley said. "I was hooked."

Colley's dream job materialized when he was hired to operate the steam locomotive that circles Disneyland. He stayed 10 years before moving to Durango in 1981, when former D&SNG owner Charles Bradshaw was reorganizing and renaming the Durango & Rio Grande Western line. Because he was one of the early hires, Colley is the engineer with the most seniority.

"I've been with the railroad for 22 years, the last 15 as an engineer," Colley said. "I worked as a carman then an engine (night) watchman and a firemen for six seasons.

"Diesel engines are OK," Colley said. "But the history, the romance and glamour of the steam engine is what I like."




Mike Nichols

Nichols, 61, can say he comes from a railroad family — a grandfather was an engineer on the Rock Island Railroad, and his father did the same job for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Nichols worked as a fireman on Southern Pacific diesels for 23 years in California.

"When I was small, my dad would take me down to the roundhouse on paydays, which was twice a month, and boost me up into the locomotive," Nichols said. "I was in awe, and I think that's where my interest in railroads started."

At one time, Nichols thought of becoming a forest ranger, and he worked briefly for the U.S. Postal Service. But the call of the rails was too strong.

By the mid-1980s, Nichols and his wife were looking to get out of California. Nichols, who had visited Durango years before, talked with his wife, and she loved the idea. He landed a job with the Durango train in 1994.

While with the Southern Pacific, Nichols participated in a three-week engineer training course on a locomotive simulator.

"It was a crash course," Nichols said. "But you really learn on the job. You learn by doing."




Steve Otten

Otten, 54, also comes from a railroad family. His grandfather was a railroad telegraph operator in French, New Mexico, and his father was a carman in Alamosa.

"I've done a lot of things," Otten said. "I didn't set out to be a railroad man, but it just worked out that way."

Otten did many jobs in oil fields before he applied for a summer job with the D&SNG in 1988.

"I was tired of being on call 24 hours a day," Otten said of his oil field jobs.

Since 1988, he's become a jack of all trades — conductor, welder, mechanic, dispatcher, track hand and engineer since 1991.

Otten oversees locomotive engineers and firemen, makes schedules and is in charge of training.

"I love railroading because I use a piece of machinery that you won't find anywhere else," Otten said. "Outdoor beauty doesn't get any better than the Animas Canyon, and as a conductor, I get to talk to people from around the world."


http://www.durangoherald.com/article/20100703/NEWS01/307039986/Track-addicts
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2011, 11:08:30 pm »


Inspectors sign off on Durango train trestle

By DALE RODEBAUGH - The Durango Herald | Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nathan Marshall with Martin/Martin Inc. climbs around on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad bridge that crosses the Animas River near 15th Street on Tuesday during an inspection of the bridge. — Photo: JERRY McBRIDE/The Durango Herald.
Nathan Marshall with Martin/Martin Inc. climbs around
on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
bridge that crosses the Animas River near 15th Street
on Tuesday during an inspection of the bridge.
 — Photo: JERRY McBRIDE/The Durango Herald.


THE three-span train trestle over the Animas River at 15th Street passed its biannual health inspection with flying colors Tuesday.

"It's aging well," said Nathan Marshall with the Lakewood engineering firm of Martin/Martin Inc. "Regular inspections extend the life of the structure."

Martin/Martin has inspected the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad bridges and retaining walls in spring and fall for 30 years. There are now 30 bridges and 20 walls on the line between Durango and Silverton.

The inspectors reviewed all of them, and no serious flaws were found.

Tom Stauffer, another inspector, said, "Some of them need things to be done, but there's nothing major."

Martin/Martin also does bridge inspections for another railway owned by D&SNG owner Allen Harper, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in North Carolina. The firm currently is designing new piers for the railroad bridge over Mineral Creek in Silverton.

The historic 15th Street bridge was not built as a single piece but installed as sections of a bridge from 1917 to 1936, Marshall said. The middle span, built in 1888, was installed in 1917; the southernmost span was relocated in 1927; and the northernmost section was put in place in 1936.

"We're proud to be able to preserve the history of the line," Marshall said.

Marshall and Stauffer use several tools in their work:


  • A sounding stick to tap wood beams. A high-pitched sound indicates sound wood. A low pitch tells them there is some decay. Several crossties bore a smudge of orange paint to indicate they should be replaced soon.

  • A hand drill to bore into a suspect timber and a metal rod that resembles an oil-pan dipstick to extract a sample of wood.

  • A pole with an adjustable mirror on one end to look beneath steel or wooden beams that aren't readily accessible from the ground. It was used on the middle span that is immediately above the main channel of the Animas.

Stauffer and Marshall also look for loose or rusted metal, loose bolts or cracked metal, places where water can pool and intrusive vegetation.

They go beneath the bridge to inspect stone piers for wear and may recommend repointing — the addition of grout in joints. They inspect riprap at the base of piers that protects against assault of river currents and debris carried during high flows.

Driftwood deposited under the southernmost span must be removed because a large accumulation creates a dam.


The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad locomotive No.480 crosses the Animas River near 15th Street on Tuesday morning as engineers with Martin/Martin Inc. inspect the bridge. — Photo: JERRY McBRIDE/The Durango Herald.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad locomotive No.480 crosses the Animas River near 15th Street on Tuesday
morning as engineers with Martin/Martin Inc. inspect the bridge. — Photo: JERRY McBRIDE/The Durango Herald.


Nathan Marshall with Martin/Martin Inc. climbs on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad bridge that crosses the Animas River near 15th Street on Tuesday during a bridge inspection. — Photo: JERRY McBRIDE/The Durango Herald.
Nathan Marshall with Martin/Martin Inc. climbs on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad bridge that crosses the
Animas River near 15th Street on Tuesday during a bridge inspection. — Photo: JERRY McBRIDE/The Durango Herald.


There are some things only the human eye can detect, such as the "deflection," the give in the bottom flange when a train passes over the trestle.

When the train that departed the downtown station at 8:15 a.m. reached 15th Street, Marshall and Stauffer scrambled under the spans to watch for unusual movement of the structure. There was none.

As the 9 a.m. train crossed the spans, they clung to the outside of a truss to inspect at eye level any unusual movement in the structure.

"Martin/Martin will come up with a work order of recommendations," said Evan Buchanan, the railroad's superintendent of operations. "We always stay ahead of the maintenance required by the Federal Railroad Administration."

The Martin/Martin recommendations have always been Class 3 (routine maintenance) or Class 2 (get to it when you can), Buchanan said. The railroad never has experienced a Class 1 repair such as a fire in June that damaged a 310-foot trestle of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad north of Chama, New Mexico.

The Cumbres & Toltec line is not related to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Marshall, who as a 12-year-old rode the D&SNGR to Silverton, said he and Stauffer may not return for the 2011 spring inspection.

"We like to rotate inspectors in order to have fresh eyes," Marshall said.


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« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2011, 11:08:47 pm »


Workin’ the tracks

Crews keep D&SNG running full-steam ahead

The Durango Herald | Friday, October 01, 2010

Maintenance-of-way patrolman Dave Unterreiner walks along the rails of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in early September in search of spot fires that may have been started by the passing train. — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.
Maintenance-of-way patrolman Dave Unterreiner walks along the rails of the Durango & Silverton Narrow
Gauge Railroad in early September in search of spot fires that may have been started by the passing train.
 — Photo: SHAUN STANLEY/The Durango Herald.


ROBERT “MAC” McCOY starts his workday before dawn.

As the early-morning patrolman for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, he starts at 5:30 a.m., riding a small railcar 45 miles to Silverton ahead of the day’s first train.

Far from the glory of the engineer’s seat, men like McCoy and others on the maintenance-of-way, or MOW, are critical but unsung heroes of railroad operations.

On a recent morning, like every other, McCoy was watching for downed trees, rock slides, bent rails, flooding or anything else that might hinder the train. If he sees anything, he fixes it, alone, as the sun comes up and the train heads toward him.

The job is serious, stressful and physically demanding, but the third-generation railroader — and the rest of the maintenance-of-way crew — say it never gets old.

“I’ve got a pretty great office,” he yelled over the engine of his railcar somewhere near Needleton. “It’s an adventure every day.”

Each year, about 165,000 passengers ride this stretch of national forest along the rushing upper Animas River — past mountain lions and bears, over the stunning “highline” — 400 feet above Class V rapids and under postcard-worthy fourteener peaks.

Most passengers catch only glimpses of MOW workers, waiting for the cars to pass or tagging along behind them in a “popcar,” their faces, hard hats and hands invariably covered with grime.

MOW has a core of about 20 men who keep trains on the track. Women have worked on MOW, but none do now.

Much of what they do hasn’t changed since the first train ran to Silverton in 1882. They still hand-pound spikes, clear ice from rails with shovels and replace a tie in less than 20 minutes.

About 2,500 ties — wood beams that support the rails — are replaced each year. The ballast — rock base that provides drainage and supports the ties — requires constant attention, as well.

It’s the kind of work that builds back muscles.

“I don’t think there’s anybody tougher on the railroad than the maintenance-of-way,” said railroad owner Al Harper. “Summer, winter, fall, they’re out there in any kind of weather, working on the track. And it’s amazing what they get done.”

The work changes with the seasons, with more energy in the fall and spring devoted to track maintenance. Fire prevention takes priority in summer months.

Winters present a special challenge. Ice has to be cleared every day from switches and intersections in town.

It takes pretty much the whole crew to keep the water tank at Tank Creek free of ice, said patrolman Dave Unterreiner.

While at the tank recently, Unterreiner got a call on his radio. Someone smelled smoke to the north, in Cascade Canyon.

During the summer, a major part of a patrolman’s job involves scouting for fires started by smoke or embers that bounce out of a locomotive’s ash pan.

A typical summer sees dozens of small fires along the track, said Evan Buchanan, railroad superintendent and vice president. The worst fire year on record was 2002 — the year of the Missionary Ridge Fire — when there were close to 500.

Though most of these fires are small, railroad crews have developed into extremely competent firefighters who work in conjunction with local fire authorities and the U.S. Forest Service, Buchanan said.

The men spend weeks in the spring performing controlled burns in the mornings, training for the summer fire season.

In the dry early summer, a three-person water wagon might ride the rails all day scouting for fires. But after the monsoons, it’s just patrolmen like Unterreiner, riding about five minutes behind the nearest train, with a water bag and a shovel.

Unterreiner knows the smell of burning well. He stopped three times that morning to spray fallen embers and toss them in the Animas.

“You always have to be heads-up,” he said. “Things can get out of hand quickly. You try not to burn down your favorite place.”

Maintenance-of-way often finds itself a lifeline to the outside world. The crewmen get flagged down frequently by lost or stranded hikers, and they often are called in to assist rescue personnel with backcountry emergencies.

The gangcar has even assisted with fatalities.

But the crew’s biggest challenge simply is keeping up with Mother Nature.

After fire, water is the next greatest threat to the train. Three large mudslides have disrupted train service the last two years, costing the railroad thousands of dollars.

In July, heavy rains caused a mudslide that realigned the river bank in remote Upper Animas Canyon, submerging the track in more than 10 feet of muck. It took the crew 12 hours to get the track cleared while the train waited and a few of the passengers grumbled.

“We were thinking, ‘(12 hours) is pretty good’,” Unterreiner said.

Mother Nature’s intervention doesn’t end with water and snow.

McCoy pointed out a beaver’s dam at milepost 486.6.

“Me and that (expletive) go round for round,” he shouted over the gangcar’s gas engine.

About a year ago, the beaver flooded a stretch of track with its dam, delaying the train. McCoy scattered dam material nearly every morning for weeks after.

The beaver is still there.

“I think he’s got some family living with him now,” he said.

Some days, work keeps the men on the rail for 14 hours. But they all say the best part is being out there.

It’s good the cars only go 12 mph, Unterreiner said.

“It’s a long ride home.”


http://www.durangoherald.com/article/20101001/NEWS01/710019993/Workin’-the-tracks
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« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2011, 11:31:06 pm »


It's the hardest job they'll ever love

Locomotive's fireman shovels 5 tons of coal to get to Silverton and back

By JORDYN DAHL - The Durango Herald | Sunday, August 07, 2011

Isaac Randolph, a fireman with Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, throws a shovelful of coal into the furnace of the locomotive Monday as the engineer drives the train.
Isaac Randolph, a fireman with Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, throws a shovelful
of coal into the furnace of the locomotive Monday as the engineer drives the train.


AS a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad fireman shovels coal into his steam engine's firebox, the modern world's electric lights and paved highways fade away into the gritty, coal-fired memories of the railway's early days.

Shovel in hand, Charles Franz is dressed in classic blue-jean overalls and an old conductor's hat stained with coal dust. An oil can sits nearby to lubricate the engine.

In fact, the only real trace that it's the 21st century is Franz's protective eyewear and the curses he utters because the train is late to leave.

One rule about trains: They're never late. Every worker carries a pocket watch that are all synced at the start of the day. But August 03 is not a normal day. A rock pile fell along the tracks near Silverton and sent the railroad into chaos.

People waiting to board the train stand on the platform, and railroad workers bustle around looking strained.

Franz fidgets with the knobs in the locomotive, monitoring the water-pressure gauge that is steadily decreasing because the train has been sitting idle for 20 minutes, which only serves to provoke another line of profanities.

While Franz may seem a little obsessive about the water pressure, his attentive monitoring keeps the train in motion. He is the heart of the train, and the coal and water are its blood.

Before the train finally is ready to depart, Franz frantically starts shoveling scoops of coal into the engine. Each scoop weighs about 25 pounds, and every time he opens the butterfly doors that contain the firebox, 190 degrees of heat comes shooting out, hitting him head-on.

The ride is just starting, and Franz will continue to shovel coal into the train that needs constant feeding to make the trek to Cascade Wye. The train normally goes to Silverton, but a rockslide temporarily stopped all rides to the mountain town.


A fiery glow from the locomotive furnace lights up the face of Isaac Randolph, a fireman with Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The burning coal in the train's engines creates a fire that reaches 190 degrees.
A fiery glow from the locomotive furnace lights up the face of Isaac Randolph, a fireman
with Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The burning coal in the train's
engines creates a fire that reaches 190 degrees.


The fireman's shovel rests on the coal car before it will be used to move tons of coal.
The fireman's shovel rests on the coal car before it will be used to move tons of coal.

Isaac Randolph, a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad fireman, checks the tracks before leaving the Rockwood station on the way to Silverton.
Isaac Randolph, a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad fireman, checks
the tracks before leaving the Rockwood station on the way to Silverton.


Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad locomotive 480 tows a coal car to Silverton after stopping in Rockwood. Fireman Isaac Randolph spent the day shoveling coal, the engine's fuel.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad locomotive 480 tows a coal car
to Silverton after stopping in Rockwood. Fireman Isaac Randolph
spent the day shoveling coal, the engine's fuel.


Another fireman, Isaac Randolph, said he needs to feed the firebox of his engine four scoops every 15 seconds when the train is ascending a steep incline.

The train will use 5 tons of coal in a round trip to Silverton, all of which is shoveled in by the fireman.

One would think Franz and Randolph were forced into the job, but that's far from the case.

"I love it," Randolph said.

It takes more than brawn and stamina to be a fireman.

"It's a lot more mental than physical because you're monitoring the heat and the water boiler," Randolph said. "I have to anticipate the coming turns and steep inclines."

It's an art form and a balancing act. Every scoop and large piece of coal is carefully placed in the furnace to keep the water temperature up and the boiler running, but there has to be the right amount of coals or the fire will burn out.

It's a "labor of love," as D&SNG Marketing Manager Andrea Seid calls it.

Randolph grew up around trains and always had a love for them. He got his first job at D&SNG when he was 16 years old, performing track maintenance.

But his ultimate dream is to be an engineer, the other worker in the locomotive in charge of the brakes and handling the train.

Franz also wants to be an engineer. It wouldn't be his first time, though.

He started working with trains six years ago at the Napa Valley Wine Train, where he was an engineer on a modern oil-run machine. It took some time to adjust and learn the inner workings of the 1920s engines of D&SNG. The railroad makes its own parts now to keep the trains in pristine, historic condition.


Isaac Randolph, a fireman with Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad wraps up his day of shoveling coal on the train.
Isaac Randolph, a fireman with Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
wraps up his day of shoveling coal on the train.


Isaac Randolph closely listens to and watches the engine gauges on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge to get a feel of how the engine is running.
Isaac Randolph closely listens to and watches the engine gauges on the Durango & Silverton
Narrow Gauge to get a feel of how the engine is running.


Some of the five tons of coal that is shoveled into the furnace of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad locomotive.
Some of the five tons of coal that is shoveled into the furnace of the
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad locomotive.


Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad trains use 5 tons of coal for each round-trip to Silverton. Isaac Randolph, a fireman with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, shovels coal into the train engine's firebox every 15 seconds when the train in going up a steep hill. Train firemen are responsible for keeping tons of coal in engines each day for fuel. The locomotives are 100 percent coal-fired and steam-operated.
LEFT: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad trains use 5 tons of coal for each round-
trip to Silverton. | RIGHT: Isaac Randolph, a fireman with the Durango & Silverton Narrow
Gauge Railroad, shovels coal into the train engine's firebox every 15 seconds when the train
in going up a steep hill. Train firemen are responsible for keeping tons of coal in engines
each day for fuel. The locomotives are 100 percent coal-fired and steam-operated.


Franz and Randolph started out as brakemen, the starting position for a railroad worker who want to climb the ladder. They attended a week of classroom training to learn the ins and outs of how the train functions.

Then they were promoted to student firemen and spent six to 10 weeks taking tests, observing and practicing with a fireman before they were let loose on their own.

It's only one more step to engineer, but there is more classroom work and three progressive tests before becoming student engineers.

Randolph has been a fireman for three years and is just starting the tests to become an engineer. Like each day's climb up the mountain, it has been a long but gratifying journey to the top.


http://www.durangoherald.com/article/20110807/NEWS01/708079892/It's-the-hardest-job-they'll-ever-love
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« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2011, 11:57:38 pm »


Almost caught: Train worker recounts rockslide

By MARK ESPER - The Durango Herald and Silverton Standard | Saturday, August 13, 2011

Reece Hanson, a patrolman for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, watched and nearly got caught in a rock slide on August 02. — Photo: Courtesy of Silverton Standard.
Reece Hanson, a patrolman for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, watched and nearly got caught
in a rock slide on August 02. — Photo: Courtesy of Silverton Standard.


It was raining the afternoon of Tuesday, August 02 when Reece Hanson, a patrolman for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, pulled out of Silverton in his pop car.

Hanson, 22, had been on the job only a couple of months. Two trains had already left Silverton for the return trip to Durango that day. Two more also were soon headed southbound.

"I was looking for rocks and trying to stay about 10 minutes ahead of the train," Hanson said. Just below railroad mile-marker 486, 10 miles south of Silverton, he had to stop. A rockslide was blocking the tracks.

"I called it in," Hanson said. Then he realized the slide was not done.

"I watched this whole surge of material come down," he said. He put his pop car in reverse and backed up. The slide grew in intensity.

"My motor car was running and I had earplugs in, but I could hear it coming," Hanson said. "Full trees, big rocks — it was really powerful. I saw it go across the river and dam up the river. It created kind of a new still-water area there, then it cut a new channel."

He estimates the slide continued for about 10 minutes as he watched.

"It was kind of in surges — one big surge, and then it trickled off," he said.

Meanwhile, the train following Hanson was forced to stop by another slide about three-quarters of a mile closer to Silverton.

"I had a smaller slide above me and the bigger one below me, so I was pretty much stuck there," Hanson said.


Heavy equipment is used to clear mud and rocks from train tracks about 10 miles south of Silverton. A mudslide reported Tuesday, August 02 between Needleton and Elk Park forced the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to cancel its runs to Silverton until Sunday, August 07. More problems from mudslides were discovered Wednesday. — Photo: Courtesy of Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Heavy equipment is used to clear mud and rocks from train tracks about 10 miles south of Silverton. A mudslide
reported Tuesday, August 02 between Needleton and Elk Park forced the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge
Railroad to cancel its runs to Silverton until Sunday, August 07. More problems from mudslides were
discovered Wednesday. — Photo: Courtesy of Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.


The bigger slide covered about 300 feet of track with rocks, trees and mud up to 15 feet deep.

He said apparently the railroad sustained only minor damage — one bent rail.

The tracks reopened Sunday.

Hanson said it was stunning to watch such a rapid geologic process transform a section of the Animas River canyon. And he's thankful he didn't get caught in the huge slide.

"It blew out the whole gully," Hanson said. "It was wild. If I had been another minute or two ahead of where I was ...," Hanson shook his head. "I had good timing."


http://www.durangoherald.com/article/20110813/NEWS01/708139947/Almost-caught:-Train-worker-recounts-rockslide
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