The (Not-So) Little Engine That Could
One of D&SNG’s coal-fired engines makes its way through the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
No, this isn’t a greatly delayed dispatch from the mid-20th century. Just this year, in fact, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge (D&SNG) Railroad is rolling out its first locomotive ever not to be powered by coal.
Locomotive No. 493 was actually manufactured in 1902, and later spent decades in a museum in Silverton, Colo. But more recently, D&SNG crews worked to convert the engine from coal-fired to oil.
The new locomotive will be less polluting than its coal-burning brethren that also travel the famous 45-mile railroad, a major tourist attraction and economic engine for the southwest Colorado area. But maybe more importantly to residents of this rugged and heavily forested region, it won’t produce the sort of hot cinders that were linked to a major wildfire in 2018.
“You’re talking to a guy who 15 years ago said I’ll never have anything beside coal engines,” D&SNG owner Al Harper told local media. “But we have to evolve. We all have to evolve. That’s just part of life.”