Saturday, October 7, 2006

Steam Engines In Hot Water With Durango Residents

According to Trains, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is under pressure by residents to stop their steam engines from smoking...
On Oct. 19, a Train Smoke Mitigation Task Force will hold a public meeting in the Fort Lewis College Student Memorial Lounge to present the results of the recent feasibility study.

John Rimmasch, chief executive officer of Wasatch Railroad Contractors, will present the findings and recommendations of the study to the public at 6:30 p.m. Colorado's Air Quality Control Commission will attend the presentation and participate in discussion. A public question and comment session will also take place.
Currently, they are talking about changing the existing smoke stacks on the engines, putting a separate scrubber on the stack or switching the trains to alternative fuels like wood pellets or natural gas except when the trains are hauling tourists.

The Denver Post further explains,
Durangoans acknowledge the iron horse as the town's economic engine, but neighbors living just south and east of the downtown train yards have long complained about the black pall that sometimes hangs over their part of town at night. They hate the black soot that gathers on windowsills and smudges clothes hanging on the line.
Few things make me boil over (sorry) faster than people meddling with what has become a living legend in the tourist railroad business. What did they think they were getting when they moved near the railroad, an electrified trolley line? Instead, 125 years of tradition is just brushed aside because someone likes to line dry their laundry instead of using a dryer or hanging it up indoors.

Durango has long been a tourist town, but before that, as late as the 50s and 60s, it was a real working railroad town, serving as the junction point of two narrow gauge carriers that are the subject of many books and videos. Durango is perhaps the steam mecca of Colorado. Engines are already running under C&S-style bear trap stacks (Ridgway Spark Arrestors) that were never run on such locomotives, at least not while on their native rails. Converting an engine to run on duel fuel further reduces the historic authenticity of the steam engines and the railroad as a whole. It chips away at the legend. What's next? Demanding that they burn wood 100% of the time? Leave that to the Eureka & Palisade.

Many a night, I would go down to the areas around the depot in Durango and walk around, smelling the coal smoke as if it were lilacs in May. It appears that the next time I walk near the depot and roundhouse, with the smell of wood pellets, I'll get more of an urge to go get barbeque than ride the train.

People who move to the Las Animas River valley need to bear in mind one thing when they purchase their home: the railroad was there first. It's been there since 1881, and unlike so many other places in Colorado, the railroad is not going to pack it in.

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