By Justin Franz
DURANGO, Colo. — Colorado’s Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad temporarily suspended operations this week due to high wildfire danger in the nearby San Juan National Forest.
The Durango Herald reports that the railroad suspended operations on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It appears service was expected to resume on Wednesday. The temporary suspension comes just a week after the railroad began its regular summer excursions to Silverton on the former Denver & Rio Grande Western branch.
Earlier this year, the railroad settled a $20 million lawsuit with the U.S. Forest Service stemming from a 2018 wildfire that the government alleges the railroad started with a coal-fired steam locomotive. The railroad denies any responsibility but has still agreed to pay $15 million upfront and another $5 million over the next ten years and agreed to a number of conditions to ensure safe operations. During Level 2 fire danger, coal-burning locomotives are prohibited; during Level 3, any work that produces sparks or open flames is prohibited; and during Level 4 the railroad is closed.
Last year, before the agreement was in place, there were three days classified as Level 4 that would have prompted the suspension of operations, according to the newspaper.
“Our hope is that the Industrial Fire Restrictions Plan will not impact us on a significant level, but it’s definitely something that we are monitoring on a daily basis with the different agencies and we will adjust our operations as needed,” John Harper, COO for American Heritage Railways, D&SNG’s parent company, told the newspaper.