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 to remember!
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 their website for more information. There you can learn about everything they currently offer including other information such as how to reach Canon City and local accommodations.
Related Reading You May Enjoy
Tourist Train Information
The Royal Gorge Route