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Mark Keathley's Mountain Pass

Mark Keathley's Mountain Pass

by guest blogger, Elmer Prather

My latest puzzle is a 500-piece titled Mountain Pass by Mark Keathley. To spend time putting a puzzle together, I must have a connection to it. My connection to this puzzle is my avocation for steam powered locomotives.

The puzzle picture depicts a steam powered locomotive pulling passenger cars on a railroad track that goes over a waterfall. As I looked closer at the picture, I saw that it displays the Fall time of year because the Aspen trees below and above the train are showing their golden hue. There is a mother bear and her two young cubs on the bank at the bottom of the waterfall. The mother bear and one of her cubs are having a touching moment as the cub reaches for her face and she looks at the cub in a motherly way.

Waterfall with a train passing through mountain side

I have been fortunate enough to have ridden on several steam powered locomotive trains. As I rode these trains, I would try to find a vantage point to take pictures and some of these locations put me in a position to have ashes from the coal burning in the engine fall on me. I will never forget the smell of the ashes and hearing the Engineer toot the steam powered horn. Nothing else in the world sounds like it.

My favorite steam powered train ride was the one that runs from Durango, Colorado to Silverton, Colorado. I booked this excursion for the early part of September and since we were still wearing short sleeved shirts and shorts in Georgia where I live, I dressed lightly with just a thin jacket. I had reserved a seat in one of the open or gondola cars rather than in one of the enclosed or coach cars because I did not want to miss seeing anything on the trip. Little did I know that it would snow two or three inches the night before the train I was scheduled to ride was to leave Durango for Silverton. I, along with my fellow travelers, almost froze on the trip both ways. I kept myself busy going into the concession car to get coffee and would hope for there to be a line of people in front of me doing the same thing since the concession car was heated.

The trip takes 3 1/2 hours to ride from the train depot in Durango to the train turnaround in Silverton. There is a 2-hour layover in Silverton where passengers can shop and walk around this historic old gold mining town and a 3 1/2 hour ride back to Durango. The narrow-gauge train travelled at eighteen miles per hour.

The D&RG Railroad chose to build the track from Durango to Silverstone narrow gauge because the construction was cheaper, the equipment cost less and the narrow gauge was better suited to the sharper curves of the mountain terrain. For a round trip to Silverton fireman shovels about six tons of coal per day! On a round trip ten thousand gallons of water are used to produce the steam to power the locomotive. As a side note, there have been twenty-three movies featuring this train one of them being Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Some of my fellow puzzlers reading this are wondering why I am spending so much time writing about the Durango to Silverton train, please allow me to explain. When I first saw the steam powered locomotive in this puzzle picture, I thought about my ride on the Durango to Silverstone train. When I finished putting the puzzle together, I took a closer look at it and as I looked at the side of the engine, I saw the name “Durango & Silverton”. Is this a small world or what?

Durango train passing by waterfall
I have taken the liberty of adding a collage of some of the pictures I took on this train ride to my write up. It is below.

collage of trains on the mountain

Elmer Prather
Canton, Georgia

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