Journal of Applied Case Research (JACR) Volume 18 Number 1

JACR is a publication of the Southwest Case Research Association (SWCRA). JACR publishes teaching cases in all business disciplines. Cases may be grounded in primary and/or secondary data sources. Whether primary or secondary, sources must be well documented.

The Summer That Went Up in Smoke

  • Deborah L. Walker, Fort Lewis College
  • Lorraine L. Taylor, Fort Lewis College
  • Kristin Watson, Fort Lewis College


This teaching case is a decision-based case using secondary data.  All names, places, and figures are actual as represented by the sources.  None of the researchers played a role in the case. The case presents Al Harper, co-owner and Chief Executive Officer of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR) with hard decisions after a wildfire disrupted train service during busy tourist months.  Harper felt that the railroad had followed the proper procedures in the days leading up to the fire, which started on the first day local and federal government agencies implemented new fire restrictions. He knew he had to make some tough decisions going forward to maintain his and the train’s reputations. To add to the problem, the businesses in Durango, Colorado and Silverton, Colorado were suffering.  Both cities depended on tourism during the summer months to make ends meet.  The D&SNGRR was a major tourist draw and with the train not operating, tourists were not coming to Durango as usual, and not going to Silverton via the train.  The people of Silverton especially were learning just how much they needed to diversify their economy so as not to rely so much on the tourists brought to them by the D&SNGRR. Harper needed to choose how the D&SNGRR would move forward when so many people and businesses depended on his decision.


Crisis management, economic diversification, sustainable tourism, public relations, family business, decision case


Walker, D. L., Taylor, L.L., and Watson, K. (2021). The Summer That Went Up in Smoke:  Managing the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad During a Wildfire.  V 18 (1), 1-16. V18_N1a_Wildfire_Case.pdf