Last year, the Durango & Silverton ran its first Winter Photographer's Special. After doing fall photo trains for a number of years, they decided to give people the chance to photograph trains up in the remote parts of the Animas River canyon during the colder, whiter part of the year. For those interested, I was on last year's run, and the trip report is posted here. Apparently the first train was a success, because on Sunday, 19-Feb-2006, the D&S did it again. Since last year was so much fun, I decided to go do it again.
This year's train had K-36 481 for power, dragging along combine 213, coach 332, coach 331, open air car 401, concession car 64, coach 312, coach 319, open air gon 313 (part of the old railbus), and caboose 0500. Onboard were around 130 passengers. Unfortunately, while having a full compliment of photographers, the winter photo special didn't get much of a helping of winter. While storms had wrought havoc with much of Colorado's road system over the preceeding few days, Durango and the Animas Canyon got little to no snowfall, and had little on the ground.
Partially due to the light snowfall this year, the train was able to go further north on the line - up to Needleton - without running into any significant risk of avalanches. The train left Durango at 0800h and ran up to the first photo run-by at the High Bridge, then proceeded north to more run-bys at Tall Timber, Cement Fill (just below Cascade), and three around Needleton. After those, the train was shoved back to the wye at Cascade, turned, and run south for another set of run-bys at the Reverse Curves (just north of Tacoma). Thrown in as a bonus at the end of the day was an unexpected set of run-bys done on the High Line at the oft-photographed Horseshoe Curve. After a very full (and very cold) day, the crew pulled 481 back into Durango right on time, around 1730h.