Railroads and Railroad history in the San Juan Mountains

Railroads and railroad history brings many travelers to the San Juan Mountains.  Railroads were critical to the development of Ouray, Silverton, Ridgway and all the other communities in the San Juan Mountains. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was founded by Otto Mears to connect Ridgway and Durango by way of Telluride and Rico, thus avoiding the rugged expanses of the San Juan Mountains. A branch line was built fro Ridgway to Ouray while another branch connected Silverton to Durango. The San Juans proved to formidable and so the planned route from Silverton to Ouray was never built. Today, tourists can still take the train from Durango to Silverton but the rest of the area’s railroads can only be found in museums.

Durango-Silverton railroad trip

The Durango-Silverton train began service in July of 1882. It immediately began hauling freight to the mines of Silverton and bring back the gold and silver ore from the mines that dotted the mountains. Soon passengers too were being transported to enjoy the amazing views along the way.

Today, the historic Durango-Silverton train has been in continuous operation for 128 years, carrying passengers behind vintage steam locomotives and rolling stock.


Ridgway Railroad Museum

railroad and railroad history in the san juan mountains

Galloping Goose No. 5, originally built in Ridgway, in action on the Durango & Silverton. (c) 2007 Jim Pettengill

In the opposite direction, Ridgway, long known as the birthplace of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, is the home of a Ridgway Railroad Museum which is dedicated to the preservation of the history of railroading in Ouray County and surrounding areas. The annual Railroad Days brings people from all over the world to share in weekend of weekend of history, guided tours, talks and a symposium celebrating Ouray County’s world-famous railroad heritage.railroad history of Ridgway


ouray victorian inn site background