While investigators have not yet concluded that the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad caused the 416 Fire, it has become clear that the coal-fired engine poses a serious threat to our lands in times of drought. Imagine if hikers or hunters flicked multiple lit cigarettes into the forest every day, and defended their actions by saying, “I carry water to put out fires!”
We wouldn’t stand for it. It’s asking for disaster. We put up with this from the railroad because it employs dozens of people, contributes to the local economy and provides a daily, colorful and fun re-enactment of local history.
So why can’t we have it all? Let’s find a solution that allows the train to continue but poses zero risk to our beloved trees, mountains and homes. Recently, the railroad’s owner ran through the options, and I was struck by something he said: solar power hasn’t been developed for trains. What? So we can send people to the moon, excise tumors from brains but can’t develop solar power for trains?
Let’s research the local resources and bright minds available and ask them to come together to accomplish something visionary. Imagine the tourist draw of the only converted solar-power train in the nation! If cost is a concern, consider: Fighting the fire has already cost well over $20 million, and local businesses – including the railroad – have lost millions more. We can come together around a vision and transform our future. We must.