The Historic Durango Train's Blog Series Conserving a National Treasure

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad touches the senses in different ways. Some ride because of the spectacular scenery deep within the rugged San Juan Mountains, and for the breathtaking views along the Animas River. Others ride because of the steam locomotives that lead passengers on their journey through time, bringing with it its own rhythm and song that resonates off the mountains. Maintaining these steam giants is an exhaustive task handled by the D&SNG roundhouse staff. The challenge of keeping a fleet of steam engines in top shape mounts with each passing year as unique materials, special lubricants, and obsolete parts all present challenges to keeping them going strong.

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The process of converting Locomotive 493 from coal-fired to oil-burning continues. Excellent progress is being made with a great deal of work beginning to come together.   Highlights include finishing up portions of the valve motion, rebuilding the rear tender end beam,  laying out of the shoe and wedge, finishing UT numbers on the boiler, doing flush patch work on the firebox, machining driver boxes, and finishing up the spring rigging and reinstallation of various other parts.  Cab steel work is now complete as is the front tender end beam.

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As discussed in previous posts, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s Locomotive #493 is in the process of being converted from coal-fired to oil-burning at the Durango depot in Durango, Colorado. But the actual mechanical work to restore and convert this locomotive to oil fire is only one aspect of being able to successfully operate the #493 on the D&SNG line.  Crew training, fueling logistics and estimating fuel consumption are also key elements in the transition from coal to oil. For this reason, the D&S railroad has leased a historic oil-burning locomotive, the Southern Pacific 18, a T44 16/20 68 locomotive, from Eastern California Museum in Inyo County, California.

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Conserving A National Treasure

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a 137 year old historical treasure, a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list experiential adventure for thousands of passengers each year.  It provides an unparalleled opportunity to experience, in a very visceral way, one of the last surviving narrow gauge trains and simultaneously connect with the wild and unspoiled beauty of nature while riding through the pristine wilderness of the San Juan National Forest.  And because of this, has been the conduit for many unforgettable moments of joy.

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