We are an English retired couple and have spent many happy holidays touring the United States and this was our eighth visit. We were staying in Cortez and were going to drive the scenic route to Silverton. I noticed an advertisement for the Durango-Silverton Railroad and it seemed ideal for a day out.
My wife rang the company to book tickets for the following day but there was some confusion because of a computer problem - however eventually we purchased tickets by credit card and looked forward to an interesting day.
We left on the trip at 9.45 a.m. next day. The trip to Silverton was supposed to take 3 hours. The locomotive ahead of us from the earlier journey broke down and we spent several hours sitting in our carriage or standing around outside. At last we recommenced the journey and arrived at Silverton at 4.30 p.m. instead of 1.15 p.m.
We were told to be back on the train at 6 p.m. so we, along with many others, had a hurried light meal in a packed restaurant. The staff here were wonderful and did their best to cope with a frenetic situation. We were back at the train at 6 p.m. as requested and spent an hour waiting. We left for Durango at 7 p.m., the train pulling 19 coaches at a snail's pace. Darkness fell and no lights were operating in most of the carriages. The train stopped again with problems several times during the journey. The restrooms in the carriages were also in total darkness posing severe problems. The situation was not mitigated by the staff passing through the carriages offering facetious remarks, at no time offering either help or an apology.
The journey turned out to be something of a nightmare - we arrived back at Durango at 11.30 p.m. At this time all the restauants were closed and we arrived back, shattered, at our motel in Cortez.
We appreciate that breakdowns will occur with old locomotives but there appeared to be little in the way of contingency plans. We were told, but cannot confirm, that this was the third such breakdown that week.
We completed a complaints form requesting a refund and enclosing our email address. When we returned home to England no reply had been received so I emailed what I believed to be the company address. I received a reply directing me to the correct address. Then a Thomas Horstmann Jr of RailsNW emailed me with a diatribe of insulting material (such as "learn to take life as it comes", "be thankful you got back safely") insinuating that we were complaining about nothing and should have been grateful for our experience. When I replied to this material more of the same followed.
Eventually the company gave us a 50% refund and an apology - this provoked yet more insulting material from Horstmann Jr
What should have been handled with a swift apology and refund developed into an animated email exchange.
Our advice to those finding themselves in a similar situation is to be aware that this company seems to expect breakdowns and also expect travellers to accept that this is part of the fun of a day out. In our case the company's slogan of "a journey into yesterday" almost turned into a journey into tomorrow !
We are not whinging Brits but we expect decent treatment when things go wrong, as they can do.