Colorado Train Journeys

Colorado’s scenic rail journeys offer a glimpse into the past By: Janeen Christoff
Clients can travel through Colorado by rail // © 2011 Colorado Tourism Office
Clients can travel through Colorado by rail // © 2011 Colorado Tourism Office

Travelers to Colorado are missing out if they are not aware of the state’s 10 scenic train journeys. Clients can travel from mountaintop summits to deep river gorges, rolling valleys and lush vineyards. Visitors can trace Colorado’s vast history through its trains and railroads, from steam engines and luxurious antique passenger cars to 19th-century narrow gauge railroads and a famous cog railway, taking passengers to areas where no other conveyance can. Following is a brief description of Colorado’s passenger railroads and trains.

The Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad packs quite a bit of history into its four-mile route, which traces the path of the now-defunct Midland Terminal Railbed.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is one of Colorado’s most storied vintage railroad lines, having been in operation since 1880.This southern Colorado railroad boasts 64 miles of track featuring two tressles.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad debuted in 1892 after a top-secret expansion through the Animas Valley to the mining town of Silverton, Colo. The 45-mile railroad boasts vintage steam locomotives pulling a variety of rolling stock, including antique and open train cars, along the cliffs of the Animas River Gorge.

Experience Colorado’s wine country onboard a train that takes visitors from Denver to the vineyards of Grand Junction, Colo. Through a partnership with AAA, train passengers will enjoy spectacular scenery en route to western Colorado, from the Rocky Mountains to The Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-top mountain.

The Georgetown Loop Railroad originally began operating in 1872, running from Denver to Idaho Springs, Colo. In 1938, the line was abandoned and then dismantled. It wasn’t until 1969, following an extensive restoration and modernization project, that the railroad began operation once again.

The Leadville & Company Southern Railroad follows a 22-mile route along old lines that were originally developed by now-defunct railroads. Beginning in Leadville, Colo., the highest incorporated city in the U.S., the route follows dramatic switchbacks along the upper Arkansas River Valley and passes along the Continental Divide.

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest train in the U.S., takes passengers 14,115 feet above sea level to the summit of Pikes Peak. The cog railway, which combines a historic, nearly nine-mile route and a restored vintage station with modernized cars offering unparalleled views, takes a bit over three hours roundtrip.

The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is comprised of two separate railroads — the Toltec Limited and the San Luis Express — which, combined, span more than 100 miles. The two railroads criss-cross each other in the lush San Luis Valley and through the San Isabel National Forest.

The Royal Gorge Route Railroad partly runs along a historic, 24-mile track in Canon City, Colo., which was carved out of rocky riverbed along the roaring Arkansas River. The modern locomotive offers conveniences and comforts while offering amazing scenery via panoramic-view cars that are open to the sheer, massive canyon walls.

The California Zephyr, operated by Amtrak, is described as a spectacular, high-speed tour through the Rocky Mountains. The Zephyr, which boasts Vista Dome cars offering nearly unimpeded views of the landscape, operates on a 321-mile scenic stretch in Colorado making six stops: Fort Morgan, Denver, Fraser, Granby, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction.

If clients don’t have the time to make a journey by rail, Golden, Colo., is home to the Colorado Railroad Museum, which boasts a replica of an 1880s-style railroad depot, antique restored locomotives and rolling stock, rare photographs, artifacts and documents illustrating the colorful history of Colorado’s railroads.

Read about more rail journeys in North America.
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