Durango & Silverton Looks To Oil And Diesel For Locomotion During High Fire Danger

Photo: Durango And Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Locomotive
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad locomotive arks on the tracks in Silverton over the July 4 holiday.

The owner of a famous tourist railroad in Colorado is making plans to keep his trains running during periods of high fire danger.

The engines that currently run on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in southwest Colorado are fueled by coal. Coal-fired engines can produce sparks that could ignite a wildfire.

This summer, the railroad shut down for over a month while a huge wildfire raged and local officials enacted fire restrictions that banned coal-fired engines.

The famous trains draw a lot of tourists and the shutdown was a big economic hit.

Railroad owner Al Harper tells the Durango Herald he plans to spend as much as $6 million on oil- and diesel-powered engines that will stand in for the coal-fired engines as needed.

Harper called it a “momentous task” and vowed that the railroad would “never be shut down again for fires.”

There has been speculation that the Durango & Silverton’s historic steam trains were the culprit behind the 416 Fire, but no cause has been determined yet. Officials are still investigating what sparked the 84.5 square mile fire — the state’s sixth largest.

The Durango Herald notes that Harper accepts that the train may be a possible cause and asked for patience until the investigation is complete.

Read More: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Bolsters Fleet For Dry Years (via DurangoHerld.com)