Family Travel: Riding the Rails in Colorado. Flickr: pcrean

All Aboard!

 

Eight scenic railways wind through the landscape of Colorado, offering train-loving families a wonderland of scenic options.  Start your railway tour just outside Denver at the Colorado Railroad Museum.  The museum features photographs, artwork, and a slew of miniature trains to get you acquainted with the history of these locomotives.  Rotating exhibits focus on different parts of train history; the current exhibit, “Life on Colorado Railroads, Construction & Expansion from 1870-1930” is the first of three in a series on celebrating the lives of the men who built Colorado’s railroads. Outside the museum, visit full scale working water tanks, a roundhouse, and turntable while riding the short 1/3 mile track by train.
Closest to Denver is the Georgetown Loop Railroad.  Running through Clear Creek Valley, this 3.1-mile tour is open May-December each year and offers stunning views of Colorado’s forests.  The line was originally built in 1884 to connect the two mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume.  Half-way through the ride, visitors can stop at the Lebanon Silver Mine taking you 500 feet inside an 1870’s silver mine.  The train park itself gets you into the old-fashioned feel with original mill buildings, houses, rock shelters, mines, and a depot station, all from the late 1800s.
Further south, just outside Colorado Springs, Pike’s Peak Cog Railway runs year-round taking visitors to the top of Pike’s 14,000 foot peak in style.  Four zones of flora and fauna are passed while riding the rails to the top giving visitors the chance to spot numerous species of animals and plants.  In fact, one of Colorado’s largest herds of bighorn sheep call Pikes Peak home. Nearby, visit the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad for an old-fashioned 45-minute train ride and history lesson through the hills.
Just a 20-minute drive away, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad is one of Colorado’s most famous railways.  The 24-mile loop follows the canyon carved out by the Arkansas River.  Traversing on 1,000 foot cliffs, around tight corners, over breathtaking bridges, and through stunning forests, this railroad is a must-see!  The train offers numerous classes of service, including the Vista Dome car, which boasts incredible views, and special trains offering gourmet lunches and dinners to compliment your trip.
The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad boasts five depots and offers both excursion trains with concerts and other entertainment, as well as passenger train service with connections to the Cumbres and Toltec line.  Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is America’s highest and longest coal fired, single gauge railroad, running from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico.  The railroad is essentially unchanged from its original 1880 state and offers great views as it travels through the Colorado Rockies.
Rounding out the scenic railroads in Colorado, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum, located in southwestern Colorado, runs year-round through the beautiful and remote San Juan National Forest.  The railroad has been in continuous operation for 127 years and is sure to offer your family amazing views, lots of history, and a ton of fun.
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photo: pcrean

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