Steam-powered operations are temporarily suspended on the Durango & Silverton and sister Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad as a consequence of a forest fire north of Durango, Colorado, which some say was triggered by a passing D&S train. “No trains will be running on the D&S until at least June 17,” said General Manager John Harper on June 7. “The fire is still burning around sections of the railroad and it is inaccessible, so we haven’t even been able to assess damage yet.”
In the wake of assertions that cinders from a coal-fired locomotive may have started the so-called 416 Fire and that the railroad might be held liable for damages and costs of fighting the blaze, parent company American Heritage Railways is also suspending passenger operations on its Mt. Rainier operation in Elbe, Wash., through August 3. Full refunds are being offered to those with prepaid tickets.
Although D&S has already implemented extensive fire suppression measures, Harper said the company is reviewing various locomotive options to improve operational safety, including conversion of some of its six coal-burners to oil-fired operation, along with use of a diesel. “But we will always have coal-fired steam locomotives,” said Harper. “It’s a part of our identity.”