The Royal Gorge Route Railroad (reporting marks CRRX) is another tourist railroad that operates
part of the Denver & Rio Grande Western’s super-scenic trackage in
Colorado (today, there are nearly an incredible number of organizations
operating excursion trains on
former D&RGW trackage). Also close to other very popular lines like
the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, Cumbres & Toltec Scenic, and
Durango & Silverton the Royal Gorge Route operates 24 miles of the
Rio Grande’s famous line, the Royal George Route (this line runs
through the gorges carved by the Arkansas River and was a very popular
photo op location for railfans during D&RGW operations), departing
daily from Canyon City, Colorado
(it should be noted that the railroad is one of the few tourist lines to
operate year-round). Given the stunning geography of the region the
railroad now draws more than 100,000 visitors annually and hosts a wide
range of excursions for passengers to choose from.
Royal Gorge Route F7A #402 and an F7B lead an excursion along the Arkansas River near Parkdale, Colorado as a group of whitewater rafters floats by on July 29, 2007.
Like the rest of Colorado’s famous tourist lines, the Royal Gorge Route
Railroad offers some of the most spectacular views of the state, in this
case the famous Royal Gorge area in which runs the Arkansas River.
This Rio Grande line was built in the late 19th century primarily to tap
the lucrative silver mines in the region. However, the railroad fought
bitterly for years with the Santa Fe to obtain exclusive rights to
reach the Leadville area, where the mines were centrally located. The
two railroads continued to fight for years until March 27, 1880 when the
settlement known as the "Treaty
of Boston" was signed by the two railroads, giving the Rio Grande
exclusive rights to operate through the gorge and paying the Santa Fe
for the routes it had constructed through the area. The line would
become part of the Rio Grande's Tennessee Pass.
Despite the fact that the legendary California Zephyr
(famous for offering passengers along the Rio Grande, Burlington, and
Western Pacific railroads unparalleled scenery between Chicago and
Oakland) did not pass through the Royal Gorge, which was arguably the
most scenic area of the railroad, travelers could nevertheless travel by
train through the Arkansas Valley via the D&RGW's Royal Gorge.
This train took travelers from Denver, through Pueblo and the Arkansas
Valley all of the way to Ogden, Utah. The train remained on the Rio
Grande's timetable until August, 1967 when it was discontinued, the
result of both poor ridership as well as the cancellation of mail
contracts by the government (switching the service to trucks, instead).
The Royal Gorge Route Railroad was created in 1998 after Union
Pacific decided to sell 12 miles of the pass through the Royal Gorge
although the Class I railroad continues to own the rest of the dormant
route. While the river and gorge remain the top reason folks
continually return to ride the train its notable design
feature is the hanging bridge constructed by the Santa Fe. The
structure uses angled supports anchored to each side of the canyon walls
to sustain the bridge's weight over the river. It is a fascinating design
that remains the keynote feature of the route (even during the Rio
Grande's days, photographers tried to catch trains crossing the bridge).
Today, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad offers guests a variety of
adventures from cab rides and group charters to several different
trains. For instance, they host special trains throughout the year,
particular during the holidays including the Santa Express Train, Easter
Bunny Special, and Oktoberfest. Additionally, they offer passengers
several accommodation options from standard coach
to Vista Dome service and gourmet lunch and dinner trains. On top of
all of this the train is bedecked in classic Rio Grande orange, silver,
and black featuring the railroad's classic speed lettering. One thing
is for sure, a trip aboard the Royal Gorge Route Railroad is something
Three Rio Grande Geeps including GP40 #3088, GP40-2 #3097, and GP30 #3008 run elephant-style (nose to tail) as the power a mixed freight near Monument, Colorado during September of 1993.
Overall, depending on the type of service you are interested in or can afford the railroad offers it all, as it is one of the few tourist lines to feature restored, streamlined passenger equipment such as dome cars and diners. As with all of the other excursion services operating former Rio Grande trackage in Colorado, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad's seasonal schedule runs between late May and late October, outside of the frigid cold of winter. If you think you may be interested in riding train please visit theirwebsitefor more information. There you can learn about everything they currently offer including other information such as how to reach Canon City and local accommodations.
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