Jesse James’ Great Train Robbery
Durango and Silverton, Colorado Territory
September 24 – 29, 2017 | Only two slots remain open!
**Also Accepting Deposits for September 23-28, 2018
Price Per Person: $2,195.00
A Historic & Scenic Colorado Horseback Ride, Tour and Train Trip into the Old West
~ All Rides are Suitable for All Riding Levels – from the Novice to the Advanced ~
A classic staple from the movies: Rob the train (twice during the week), Victorian-elegance in accommodations, fine dining, great horses, and magnificent scenery.
Our five-day Durango / Silverton, Colorado tour, round-trip train journey and 4-day horseback ride ~ appropriately called The Great Train Robbery after the 1903 Western film of the same name, starring William S. Hart, Sr. ~ harks back to the days of the Old West, when Frank & Jesse James, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and other rather “upscale” outlaws and desperadoes became Robin Hoods of the Plains and terrorized and robbed trains for a living.
The adventure begins on Sunday afternoon in the historic 1874 mining camp and quaint Victorian town of Silverton, Colorado. Immediately after lunch, we’ll board the local narrow gauge steam locomotive. Our arrival destination is Durango, a tony little town and host to our ever popular Sunday evening “Meet & Greet.”
Period-dressed historians will greet us as we board our specially-reserved train car. They will regale us with interesting facts and history of the era and the building of the railroad as the majestic and picturesque San Juan Mountains serve as our backdrop.
Sunday evening we’ll meet in the rip-roaring Diamond Belle Saloon inside the 1887 Strater Hotel ~ a National Historic Landmark ~ for a drink – perhaps two – before being escorted to the hotel’s private Oak Room for dinner.
Directly after our Monday morning breakfast, we’ll depart for the train depot and return to Silverton ~ our base of operations during the week.
This entire area is rich in Old West history, and for the next week we’ll hoof it to the mining camps and ghost towns once frequented by Butch Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, and other lawmen and outlaws and where stagecoaches, gunfights in the streets and red light districts were as familiar a sight as they were in Deadwood, Tombstone, Virginia City or Fort Worth.
Cost: $2,195 per person
- Initial Deposit: $500 per person, non-refundable deposit required
- Final Payment: Due 90 days prior to ride
- Click Here to Book This Ride
- Trained horses (you’ll be matched to a horse based on your riding abilities)
- Tack (use of personal saddles okay)
- Wranglers (they do all the work)
- Historians / Private Tours
- Roundtrip train ride
- Three meals a day (sack lunches for saddlebags during the daily rides)
- Should you cancel within 90 days prior to the ride… all monies non-refundable
- Should Great American Adventures cancel this ride… all monies 100% refundable
- See Terms & Conditions / ** Also See: Travel Insurance – this is strongly recommended.
- Transportation to and from Durango or Silverton, Colorado Territory
- Motels / hotels in Durango or Silverton (recommendations below) / rental cars (not necessary)
- Period clothing (See Dress Code) … though not mandatory, attempting to dress in “period-clothing” makes these rides more fun, more adventurous and makes for great photos ops!! Try it! And don’t spend lots of money unless you want to … I make several recommendations on the Dress Code site where to purchase these items.
The nearest major airports are:
- The Albuquerque International Sunport Airport; located 219 miles southeast in Albuquerque, NM: about a 3 1/2 hour drive.
- Durango-La Plata County Airport; located 15 miles from Durango: about a 22 minute drive.
- The Durango-LaPlata County Airport via Denver or Phoenix is serviced daily by Frontier Airlines and United Express.
- US Airways offers daily service from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix, Arizona
- You could rent a car at the Durango-LaPlata County Airport (though you won’t need a rental car).
- Airport shuttles and taxi service is available to and from the airport.
The Concept Behind the Ride
I’ve been enthralled by Western movies since I was a kid – still am! Many of those Westerns had the inevitable train robbery. Watching Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid or Frank & Jesse James rob the train was usually the highlight of those Westerns … and always exciting! From the first narrative film, the 1903 Western The Great Train Robbery, to Tom Selleck’s 2003 production of Monte Walsh, to 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, to the 2013 movie adaptation of The Lone Ranger and even television’s Hell on Wheels, the train and train robbery remains a staple for Westerns.
During the filming of Disney’s The Lone Ranger in New Mexico, I had the privilege of being cast as a background actor as both a town citizen and train passenger. I witnessed the outlaws / stuntmen gallop next to the train and board it. It took many takes to get it just perfect … had the window been down, I could have reached out and touched the horses’ nostrils!! I was living one of my Western fantasies at that moment!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to safety factors, political correctness, liability risk and common sense, we won’t actually “rob” the train or ride anywhere near a moving train.
We will – however – rob the train as “entertainers.” Our first foray robbing the train (in 2014) resulted in high praise from the train employees and passengers. Yep – they loved us!!
In the Old West, train robbery was a unique American experience for the last quarter of the 19th Century. In addition to Butch Cassidy & his Wild Bunch and the James boys, there were the Reno Brothers, the Collins Gang, Sam Bass, Tom and Sam “Black Jack” Ketchum, and Gentleman Jack Davis to name just a few train robbers.
Join me for another Great American Adventure … this time reliving those action-packed scenes from the Old West… from history… from the movies… and from our childhood fantasies.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
- Arrive in Durango, Colorado Territory during the day … or during the weekend.
- Durango is the quintessential Western town.
- Arrive early to enjoy the shops, museums, art galleries, cultural centers, and Victorian architecture.
- Try one of their many excellent restaurants, or attend the theatre – all superb!
- There is enough here to keep you busy for days. (www.durango.org)
- Drive to Silverton Sunday – arrive before noon.
- It’s about 1 1/2 hour drive from Durango. Park in front of your hotel.
- Don’t have a vehicle? You took the airport shuttle or hitch-hiked to Durango? Tell me – I’ll arrange to get you to Silverton.
- Leave your clothes and gear in your vehicle.
- Or check your luggage with the Grand Imperial Hotel – GAA has made arrangements for the hotel to hold our luggage.
- Take only enough clothes and toiletries to change for Sunday evening and for the train ride Monday morning.
- We are limited to one small carry-on bag per person on the train.
- Noon: Lunch at the High Noon Restaurant, next to the train depot (yes, Will Kane, lunch at “high noon” at High Noon).
- 2:30 PM: Train departs for Durango.
- After lunch (we’re still talking Sunday – you paying attention, Butch?) we’ll take the train and return to Durango.
- We’re booked on the “Historical Narrative” coach car.
- 6:00 PM – Estimated time of arrival in Durango.
- 7:00 pm – “Meet & Greet” at the Strater Hotel’s World Famous Diamond Belle Saloon
- Freshen up, throw on a frock coat or evening gown and gather for our “Meet & Greet” dinner in the private Oak Room.
Motel Recommendation in Durango
In keeping with our Old West / Victorian theme, I strongly suggest the following for Sunday evening;
Originally built in 1887, it is a National Historic Landmark
699 Main Ave. / 800-247-4431 / 970-247-4431 / www.strater.com
Monday morning, September 25, 2017 – in Durango / depart for Silverton
- 7:00 am – early breakfast
- 8:15 am – arrive at train station with baggage / board train
- 8:45 am – train departs Durango station
- 12:15 pm – arrival in Silverton / collect luggage / proceed to hotel
- 12:30 pm – lunch
- 3:00 pm – historic tour of Silverton
- 7:00 pm – Dinner
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday, September 26 – 29, 2017 – in Silverton
- 8:00 am – breakfast each morning
- 9:00 am – drive to different trail head each day / mount / ride
- noon – lunch on the trail each day
- 5:00 pm – return to Silverton each evening
- 7:00 pm – dinner each evening
Saturday and Sunday – After the Ride – October 5th through 8th:
This year, the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a week after our visit, otherwise I would encourage you to stay over for the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Parade. The parade is one of the largest motorless parades in the country. In the past we have been invited to participate in the parade – ride in a wagon… there is a fee involved of course, or just be a spectator. Live music up and down Main Street begins at 9:30 am, a gunfight in front of the historic Strater Hotel kicks off the parade that begins promptly at 10 am. After the parade, there are sessions all afternoon headed up by various Cowboy performers and poets, and an evening show at the Strater. Go to: www.durangocowboypoetrygathering.org for more info. Hopefully next year we can participate!
Motel Recommendation in Silverton
Again, in keeping with our Old West / Victorian theme, I recommend the following during our stay in Silverton:
Grand Imperial Victorian Hotel – established in 1882 … very Victorian with modern amenities
1219 Greene Street / 800-341-3340 / 970-387-5527 / www.grandimperialhotel.com
Note: All our breakfasts’ will be here at the Grand Imperial Hotel
The Teller House Hotel – Victorian Bed & Breakfast … on the National Register of Historic Places
1250 Greene Street / 800-342-4338 /970-387-5423 / www.tellerhouse.com
The weather: Awesome and unpredictable | The Ride: Unforgettable and picturesque
- Involves a 3 1/2 hour train ride from Durango to Silverton.
- We’ll arrive in Silverton around 12:30 pm.
- We’ll have lunch, then transport our baggage to our hotels. This afternoon offers a historic walking tour of Silverton.
- If all goes well, we’ll rob the train en route to Silverton.
Tuesday through Thursday
Our ride includes us visiting:
- Various old mining camps (such as the Cunningham Gulch and Arrestia Gulch),
- Ghost towns (Animas Forks & Alpine Loop)
- The rugged and towering 13,000-foot, snow-capped peaks surrounding Ouray ~ nicknamed “Switzerland of America” ~ serve as our backdrop.
Designated a National Historic Landmark and nestled in the heart of the 14,000-foot peaked San Juan Mountains, she is rightfully named the Queen of the San Juans. During her heyday, Silverton became the center of commerce for the region. With the San Juan gold rush and the arrival of the railroad to export ore and supplies, she was swarming with prospectors, miners and railroad workers. Eventually, three separate railroads operated out of Silverton. By the early 1880’s Silverton would claim a population of 2,000 with 400 buildings – 2 banks, 5 laundries, 34 saloons, and several hotels.
Silverton’s largest industry after mining was saloons, with a bawdy red light district located on a three-block section of Blair Street between 11th and 13th streets. For the miners working the remote mines in the San Juans, going to Silverton and whooping it up in the bordellos, cribs, saloons and dens of inequity found in “The Badlands of Blair Street” or “Notorious Blair Street” as it was also called, was similar to going to Las Vegas, Nevada one hundred years later. In May 1883, 117 indictments were brought before the grand jury against “lewd women” that worked this three-block section of Silverton’s Red Light District. Of course, the indictments were dropped.
The Wild & Wooly Old West of Silverton
If you like Old West history like I do, just a few notable mentions:
- Jan. 10, 1881: Port Stockton, Animas City marshal, is gunned down on the streets of Durango by vigilantes from Farmington, New Mexico.
- Aug. 24, 1881: Town Marshal Clayton Ogsbury is gunned down on Greene Street.
- Aug. 25, 1881: The Black Kid, a suspect in Marshal Ogsbury’s killing, is dragged from his jail cell and hung by unknown Silverton vigilantes. Rewards totaling upwards of $5,500 for others involved with the murder are issued.
- Sept 4, 1881: Burt Wilkinson, the man believed directly responsible for the shooting of Marshal Ogsbury, is lynched in downtown Silverton.
- Sept. 26, 1881: Isaac “Ike” Stockton, Port Stockton’s older brother, leader of an outlaw gang, is shot in the leg by Sheriff Barney Wilson and Deputy James Sullivan on the streets of Durango. He dies the next day.
- March 24, 1883 – about a year after Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride – Mr. George Brower of Denver rents, from owner Tom White, the Olympic Saloon and Dining Hall, and completely refurbishes it into a deluxe saloon and gambling hall, renaming it the Arlington. It supported a back-bar of black walnut with finely-carved French veneer work along with one of the finest mirrors in Silverton. The Grand Opening is held on April 21st. To run his newly decorated establishment, Mr. Bower hires Wyatt Earp. Earp ran the “Club Rooms” of the Arlington. It was speculated that Wyatt had come to Silverton to escape an outstanding murder warrant (hum – perhaps from a Vendetta Ride?). In May the local papers write that Wyatt was part of a “gang” on their way to Dodge City to forcefully re-enter the town. Bat Masterson had visited Silverton to enlist Wyatt’s help in settling a situation with friend Luke Short, a gambler in Dodge City at the Long Branch Saloon. Earp left Silverton with Masterson.
- Doc Holliday dealt cards in Durango.
- In nearby Telluride, Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery was the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889.
We are truly riding where legends rode!
Hollywood Comes to Silverton
This frontier-looking town hosted celebrities such as:
Clark Gable, James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Stack, Audie Murphy, Janet Leigh, Barbara Stanwyck, and Marilyn Monroe … of course, Robert Redford, Paul Newman …. and, Billy Crystal
Several films made here include
- “A Ticket to Tomahawk”
- “Across the Wide Missouri”
- “Denver & Rio Grande”
- “The Naked Spur”
- “The Maverick Queen”
- “Around the World in 80 Days”
- “How the West Was Won,” and “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid”
- “Over the Top” & “Cliffhanger,” both with Sylvester Stallone
- “City Slickers” with Billy Crystal was filmed in the Durango area
High Altitude Sickness & Tips
With Silverton at 9,318 feet above sea level and Durango at 6,512 feet, altitude sickness can happen to anyone. This occurs when the body doesn’t get enough oxygen from the air.
Symptoms of altitude sickness
- Headache, dizziness or light-headedness, fatigue or weakness, insomnia, loss of appetite, shortness of breath and even nauseous during your first few days above 7,000 feet. You may have persistent rapid pulse, drowsiness, and swelling of the hands and feet.
- Take it easy, acclimate slowly by spending a day or two above the 5,000 to 7,000 foot level, get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and caffeine the first 48-72hours.
- During the ride, never drink from the many streams, lakes or rivers.
- And remember: Weather is always unpredictable: always have sunscreen, water, layered clothing, & sunglasses
* Dress Code / “Going Heeled”
I’ve learned over the years while doing these historic rides that it is always so much more fun to dress the part … although it is not a requirement nor mandatory. The photos we’ve all taken over the years have appeared in numerous magazines, websites, and editorials … and those photos do have us dressed “the part.” If you become a repeat rider – and so many of the participants come back again and again – I’m sure over time you’ll want to dress in period clothing. Just part of living the “fantasy!”
Bringing cowboy guns – just as it is so much more fun to dress the part, it is also fun to wear our cowboy guns. Basically we are “playing cowboy,” no different than we did when we were kids – just our toys are now more expensive. However, about 1% (or less) of the participants on these rides interpret my allowing the wearing of guns as an indication the guns can be loaded with live ammo!! Fortunately, I am happy to report that all the man-killers, wanted outlaws, cattle rustlers, train robbers and never-do-wells from the 19th Century are no longer with us. Sadly, with our litigious society, need for liability insurance, and just common-sense safety practices, I cannot allow anything in those cowboy guns … no live ammo, no blanks, no dummies (because I cannot tell by glancing at the cylinder what exactly you have in that revolver and am forced to ask you to show it to me). And I don’t want live ammo on your cartridge belts either – dummies are fine. Think of your guns, on these rides, as mere photo ‘props’ – they look great, photo great and allow us to play cowboy. Emphasis is on the word “play.” I offer historic horseback rides – not shooting scenarios. I prefer to leave that up to the different shooting sports that specialize in such endeavors. Thank you for understanding the need for safety.
Join us for this historic Old West horseback in Durango / Silverton, Colorado