If you’re a big train lover, you may want to consider one of the many southwestern American rail tours available. In this article, we’ll explore the Rocky Mountaineer, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, and Amtrak’s California Zephyr. There’s something for everyone in this diverse region. Read on to find out more about the best trips!
If you are a history buff, a Colorado native, or just someone who likes to travel, you can’t go wrong with a Rocky Mountaineer Southwest American rail tour. The train has a stellar reputation in Canada and now offers a new route through the American Southwest. The train’s luxury SilverLeaf service includes oversized windows, storytelling, and cuisine inspired by the region. All passengers can expect to have a relaxing time on board.
The ‘Rockies to the Red Rocks’ train journey will take passengers through the sweeping landscapes of the American Southwest. The two-day journey will pass through a wide range of natural archways and desert landscapes, while also crossing the Continental Divide. The train will spend an night in Glenwood Springs before continuing through the Red Rocks and Moab, and you can extend your trip to include a stop in Las Vegas.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
The Cumbres & Toltec Sceenic Railroad is a historic rail line that runs through the southern San Juan Mountains. The scenic railroad crisscrosses a diverse landscape, including canyons, sub-alpine meadows, and transition zones. While travelers travel along the historic railroad, geologists and historians learn about the region’s history. Rail fans get to experience railroading in the early twentieth century.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scanic Railroad was named the best scenic railroad in North America by USA Today readers. This railroad is unique in that it has remained largely untouched since the last freight train traveled along it 50 years ago. In addition, the railroad’s steam engine is one of the largest in operation and requires approximately 3.5 to 4.5 tons of coal to keep it running.
The Cumbres & Toltec Sceenic runs daily from May to October. Trains depart from Chama or Antonito and climb a four percent grade. A second locomotive, known as a “helper,” is required to climb the hill. Each locomotive burns two to three tons of coal. To fuel the locomotive, Evan Martinez shovels coal onto the train.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Travelers can take scenic rail tours through the beautiful mountains and valleys of North Carolina and Tennessee by train. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad departs from the historic Bryson City Depot and Everett Hotel. Trips go to the Nantahala River Gorge and Dillsboro. Guests can opt for first-class cars with private attendants and open-air gondolas. Special themed excursions are also available.
Special events are held throughout the year on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. These include the annual Polar Express and the Peanuts-themed “Pumpkin Patch Express” in October. Western North Carolina was landlocked before the railroad reached its present location. When the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad reached the region in the 1880s, it completely transformed the lives of the mountain dwellers. The railroad required boring through the mountains to reach the area, which would not be possible otherwise.
The Nantahala Gorge Scenic Railroad offers seasonal rides. Winter train excursions reveal more of the mountain range, while spring train excursions provide views of budding trees. The train also offers discounts and special events. In addition, you can purchase special packages to enjoy the waterfalls in the area and enjoy a leisurely lunch while on board. While you’re at it, make sure to visit the Great Smoky Mountains Trains Museum to see the 7,000 Lionel cars and the model railroad villages.
Amtrak’s California Zephyr
Travelers who want to take a southwestern American rail tour should take Amtrak’s California Zephyr. The train is equipped with Superliner rail cars, two-levels tall with unassigned coach seats and bedrooms. Most passengers prefer to get a seat on the upper level, but if you’re prone to motion sickness, you should opt for a lower-level room. After all, there’s always an observation car, right?
The ride on the California Zephyr begins in a forest, and then climbs above the tree line. The train passes through some of the most scenic parts of the mountain range during daylight hours. The train takes between five and six months to complete the 2,000-mile route, and you can arrive at your destination early. The trip is approximately 41 hours long, and you’ll be able to get off at the stations along the way.