DURANGO, Colo. — The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has purchased four locomotives that run on oil compared to the traditional coal-powered engines to decrease the threat of fire danger after a historic drought in 2018 culminated in a fire.
Company owner Al Harper said the historic diesel locomotives are powerful enough to make the 48-mile (77-kilometer) trip from Durango to Silverton through the San Juan National Forest but are expected to be used for shorter trips on the Cascade Canyon Express haul or for maintenance work up and down the railroad, the Durango Herald reported.
The purchase increases the number of diesel engines from six to 10, and is one of the many moves the company has made to adapt to a climate more prone to drought.
“We need to be prepared and just recognize the changing climate,” Harper said in a previous interview with The Herald, adding that a diversified fleet allows for more flexibility when dealing with extreme climate.
The White Pass & Yukon Route Railway in Alaska announced last year it was selling the locomotives as it sought to upgrade its own fleet, general manager Jeff Johnson said. The purchase was finalized in January and made public this week. The railroad declined to disclose the purchase price.
“I think a lot of people … are under the assumption that any criticism of the train is aimed at shutting it down,” Durango resident Nathan Morris said. “We’re supporting the train staying here, we just want the train to do so in a more sustainable way.”
The company expects the new locomotives to start arriving in May, but it is unclear when the locomotives will run amid the pandemic.