Mudslides cut off Durango & Silverton for second time in a week

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DS_slide
A July 17 mudslide closed the Durango & Silverton. A second mudslide took out the railroad a week later on July 24.
Colorado Department of Transportation
DURANGO, Colo. — The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has suspended operations for the second time in a week after a series of mudslides impacted the iconic Colorado tourist road. Late Tuesday, the railroad announced that it would be closed until at least Thursday, July 26.

This week’s mudslides were the latest in what has become a trying summer for the D&SNG. Earlier this summer, the D&SNG suspended regular operations for six weeks after a wildfire torched more than 50,000 acres near Hermosa, Colo. Then, last week, a series of mudslides closed the railroad for two days after a storm dropped heavy rain over the burned area.

Mudslides are common after large wildfires because the fire weakens the topsoil and plants' root systems, meaning the dirt cannot withstand heavy rains. Fires can also burn off plants and trees completely leaving nothing to hold soils in place.

Tuesday’s mudslides and flooding resulted in “significant” damage to the right-of-way between Hermosa and Rockwood, railroad officials say.

“This service cancellation is a critical and necessary step to fully evaluate the extent of the track damage, move forward with all required repair work in a safe and methodical fashion, and allow adequate time for testing the viability of the line once repairs are completed,” says John Harper, general manager of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. “As always, guest, employee, and community safety is of the utmost importance to this company, and remains the top priority across all of the railroad’s operations and personnel.”

The storm and resulting mudslides trapped two southbound trains at Rockwood on Tuesday afternoon, forcing the railroad to bus hundreds of passengers back to Durango.

A flash flood warning is in effect for the area until Wednesday night.
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