The Best of Colorado’s Historic Railroads
The story of Colorado is stitched together with mining seams and railroad lines. Come learn why as you ride historic trains, visit historic towns and witness grand feats of engineering.
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Program No. 4345RJ
9 days
Starts at
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9 days
8 nights
22 meals
8 B 7 L 7 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Dinner, Presentation
Denver, CO
Hilton Garden Inn - DIA

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation. 4:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. As a special feature of this program, we will be accompanied throughout by a Colorado history and railroad expert who will serve as our resident instructor, provide commentary en route, and lead field trips. Travel and transfers other than railroad field trips will be by comfortable motorcoach. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the hotel dining room, we'll enjoy a plated meal catered by the hotel with salad, entrée, and choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Our resident Colorado Railroad expert's introductory lecture this evening will begin the fascinating journey of discovery for the amazing rail adventures ahead. Our expert will accompany us throughout the entire program and provide vivid descriptions along the route. Often in the motorcoach, we'll learn the fascinating history of Colorado and the impacts railroads made on the settlement of the state. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night's rest for the day ahead. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Colo. Railroad Museum, Georgetown Loop Narrow Gauge Railroad
Colorado Springs, CO
Hotel Elegante

Activity note: Walking at Railroad Museum with periods of standing. Walking up to 4 blocks around Georgetown; mostly level streets, sidewalks. Getting on/off motorcoach with 3 steps and antique rail coaches. Elevations up to 8,530 feet.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the hot and cold breakfast buffet includes juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we'll board our motorcoach for a field trip to the Colorado Railroad Museum in the town of Golden, a former important mill town at the foot of the Rockies. Most participants prefer to easily navigate this museum independently, but our resident expert will accompany those who want more information by exploring key areas of the 15-acre museum, where the collection of over 100 narrow and standard gauge steam and diesel locomotives, passenger cars, and cabooses offer a visual history into the state’s important role in the railroad industry. Next, we’ll transfer to the well-preserved Victorian mining town of Georgetown, nestled in the mountains at an elevation of 8,530 feet (2,600 meters).

Lunch: At a restaurant in Georgetown, we’ll order off the menu, soft drinks and water included.

Afternoon: After taking a few minutes after lunch to walk around and view the historic downtown surrounded by the rugged mountains, we’ll then take our first historic railway field trip aboard the Georgetown Loop Narrow Gauge Railroad. One of Colorado’s first visitor attractions, this spectacular stretch of railroad was completed in 1884 and considered an engineering marvel for its time. The thriving mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume lie 2 miles apart in the steep, narrow canyon of Clear Creek. Engineers designed a corkscrew route that traveled nearly twice that distance to connect them, slowly gaining more than 600 feet in elevation. The route included horseshoe curves, grades of up to 4%, and four bridges across Clear Creek, including the massive Devil’s Gate High Bridge crossing the top of the gorge on a 95-foot high trestle. Following our train ride, we'll ride our motorcoach to Colorado Springs.

Dinner: In our hotel in Colorado Springs.

Evening: At leisure.

Garden of the Gods, History Museum, Glen Eyrie, Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, CO
Hotel Elegante

Activity note: Walking up to 4 blocks during field trips; standing and steps in museum, hotel, and castle.

Breakfast: In the hotel, the hot and cold breakfast buffet includes juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll board our motorcoach and travel to the Garden of the Gods, so named by a surveyor in 1859 who said it was a fit place for the Gods to assemble. Now a registered National Natural Landmark and Colorado Springs City Park, we will visit several viewing locations where there are dramatic views of towering 300' sandstone rock formations in the foreground and Pikes Peak in the background. This is Colorado Springs iconic and must see attraction! We will next visit the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum for a visit. The Museum is located in the elegant and lavishly restored 1903 County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is one of the premier history museums not only in Colorado but also in the U.S. The museum’s thematic historical exhibits cover many fascinating topics about the Pikes Peak region. Included are Colorado’s Native American cultures; western exploration; General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and of Colorado Springs; the men and women who settled and developed the area; mining and related industries of the region; and the tourism industry that makes the Pikes Peak area the premier tourist destination in Colorado. Be sure not to miss the section about the era in which tuberculosis patients came to Colorado Springs from all over the world for treatment. Decorative and fine arts are also highlights of the museum’s collection including the largest public collection in the world of the Art Nouveau inspired Van Briggle Art Pottery, produced in Colorado Springs from 1899 until just recently.

Lunch: We travel to the world famous Broadmoor Hotel and enjoy lunch at the popular Golden Bee English restaurant on the Broadmoor Grounds. We enjoy a plated lunch, lemonade, iced tea, coffee water included.

Afternoon: Afternoon After lunch, we’ll enjoy a stroll around the Broadmoor’s historic structure and beautiful grounds. Businessperson, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Spencer Penrose built the Broadmoor in 1918 with the goal of making it the finest hotel in the U.S. It was certainly grand for its day: designed by the same architects who created the Ritz-Carlton and Biltmore hotels; with thousands of surrounding acres landscaped by Frederick Law Olmstead and filled with artwork from Europe and the Far East. It even once had a shooting school run by Annie Oakley! The Broadmoor is listed as a member of Historic Hotels of America of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Our next stop is the Glen Eyrie estate, popularly known as the Castle. It began as the home of Civil War veteran General William Jackson Palmer, founder of several railroads and the city of Colorado Springs. The name refers to the eagle's nest that overlooks the canyon. The original frame house was enlarged and remodeled in 1881 to resemble a Tudor-style castle. With our resident expert we’ll explore the beautiful castle and grounds.

Dinner: Our dinner will be a buffet in the Glen Eyrie Castle Dining Room. Non-alcoholic beverages included.

Evening: At leisure.

Transfer to Canon City / Royal Gorge Railroad / Transfer to LaVeta / Rio Grande Scenic Railroad’s Excursion Train to Alamosa
Alamosa, CO
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alamosa

Activity note: Note: Hotel check out after breakfast, bring luggage to coach. Walking up to 4 blocks during field trips; 3-4 steps boarding/de-boarding trains and coach. Elevations up to 7,543 feet.

Breakfast: In the hotel.

Morning: Boarding our motorcoach, we depart for the 40 or so minute drive to Canon City. Our resident expert will brief us along the way about the history and sights to come. Then we climb aboard one of Colorado's most scenic trains for a 24-mile journey through the spectacular Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad was established in 1879, making it Colorado’s oldest scenic railroad as well as one of the most exhilarating rides. Learn about its dramatic, complex, sometimes violent history as we traverse tracks that follow the Arkansas River amid 1,000-foot granite cliffs. A unique feature is the suspension bridge devised to transit the narrowest point in the gorge. We’ll then return to Canon City and board our motorcoach to LaVeta.

Lunch: Aboard the motorcoach, we’ll have box lunches with sandwiches, fruit, chips, dessert, and bottled water.

Afternoon: We arrive in the quaint town of LaVeta in time to board our next railroad adventure, the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad’s Excursion Train. This train takes passengers over an historic mountain pass to see the Rockies from the longest and highest standard gauge railroad in the country. LaVeta Pass is a majestic mountain pass with tight curves, untouched natural beauty and wildlife in the setting it was meant to be seen. This railroad leaves the highway behind as you travel the original rail route from LaVeta to Alamosa our destination for the night. Alamosa is located in the historic San Luis Valley,At altitudes above 7,000 feet the San Luis Valley is technically a high desert, but the surface is underlain by shallow aquifers that in places form lakes, marshlands, and warm springs. By the late 19th century, much of the land was cultivated, crossed by irrigation canals and wagon roads. Los Caminos Antiguos—a network of ancient trails that live on as modern paved highways—allow you to follow in the footsteps of Apaches and Utes, Spanish missionaries, and Western explorers such as Zebulon Pike and Kit Carson, settlers, Buffalo Soldiers, miners, and railroaders.

Dinner: At the hotel, enjoy a catered, plated meal with salad, entrée, choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to have a swim in the heated indoor pool, try the sauna, or simply relax.

Cumbres and Toltec Narrow Gauge Railroad Field Trip / Transfer to Durango
Durango, CO
Best Western Durango Inn and Suites

Activity note: Note: Hotel check out after breakfast, bring luggage to coach. Walking up to 1 block at lunch stop; 3-4 steps boarding/de-boarding train and motorcoach. Elevations up to 10,015 feet.

Breakfast: In the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes hot and cold items, juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We depart from Alamosa via motorcoach for a scenic drive along the San Luis Valley to the tiny town of Antonito, where we board the Cumbres and Toltec Historic Narrow Gauge Railroad. Step back in time as the steam engines starts their winding journeys to the top of Cumbres Pass. The line was constructed in 1880 as an extension of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, but its gauge of only 3 feet between the rails — rather than what would soon become the standard of just under 5 feet — made it an anachronism almost from the start. Nevertheless, it operated off and on until the 1960s, and was on the verge of being completely abandoned and dismantled until a group of enthusiastic railroad enthusiasts persuaded the states of Colorado and New Mexico to purchase the most scenic stretch of the line. Congress authorized an interstate agency to operate it in 1974, while a non-profit organization preserves these assets for the public as a living history museum that interprets railroad history and heritage. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad’s equipment and structures, and the vast landscape of the Colorado and New Mexico border, exist today as they were generations ago. During our ride, participants will have assigned seats but may wander to the open observation car, and snack bar where food and drink items are available for purchase. Our resident expert will accompany the group and strategically locate himself in an announced location for narration and to answer questions.

Lunch: Arriving at Osier Station, the extensive lunch buffet offers multiple tasty entrées — all made from scratch in the Osier kitchen — plus a large salad bar, dessert bar, and choice of beverage.

Afternoon: We’ll change trains and continue our journey to Cumbres Pass. Our train ride ends at the top of Cumbres Pass (10,015' elevation) where we disembark and transfer by our motorcoach to Durango, arriving late afternoon.

Dinner: At a restaurant in Durango, enjoy a plated meal with salad, choice of entrée, and beverage choices including soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad / Silverton / “Million Dollar Highway” to Ouray
Ouray, CO
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Note: Hotel check out after breakfast, bring luggage to coach. Walking in rail yard up to 1 block; walking 4-5 blocks in Silverton; walking 4-5 blocks in Ouray; 3-4 steps boarding and de-boarding train and motorcoach. Elevations up to 9,305 feet.

Breakfast: In the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes hot and cold items, juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We board our motor coach for the short transfer to the train station. [Some participants may choose an optional early morning visit to the roundhouse museum prior to boarding the train for the all morning trip. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been in continuous operation since 1882, taking passengers and mine ores from Durango (6,512' altitude) to Silverton (9,305' altitude). In addition to federally designated National Historic Landmark status, the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized it as an historic civil engineering landmark. It has also been named by National Geographic Traveler as one of the Top Ten North American Train Trips. We will have the same kind of experience as passengers of old, boarding at the original 1882 depot and riding rolling stock original to the line pulled by a vintage steam locomotive. The leisurely pace of about 18 miles an hour provides wonderful opportunities to appreciate the spectacular scenery experienced by Native Americans, settlers, cowboys, and miners. Participants will have ticketed assigned seats. The conductor gives narration along the route and our resident expert will circulate to our seats for commentary and to answer questions. We disembark in Silverton.

Lunch: We walk three blocks to our lunch restaurant. Lunch will be buffet style in the popular restaurant at the historic Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton. Enjoy some time to stroll downtown Silverton Historic District before boarding our coach.

Afternoon: We drive the most spectacular highway journey of our program, the “Million Dollar Highway” (U.S. Route 550) to Ouray. Built in the 1930s, the 25-mile stretch follows the old miners’ trail through the magnificent San Juan Mountains, some of the most rugged and scenic of all Colorado's mountain ranges. The highway cuts through steep cliffs in several places with hairpin turns that might give you a few butterflies, but the reward in awesome views makes it well worthwhile. Late melting snows encourage Summer wildflowers, while stands of Aspen trees turn golden in the Fall. We check into our hotel in late afternoon.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, enjoy a plated meal with salad, choice of entrée, and choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

Yankee Boy Basin Field Trip / Ridgeway Railroad Museum
Ouray, CO
Ouray Chalet Inn

Activity note: Note: Walking/standing in 12,526 ft. Yankee Boy Basin and Railroad Museum; walking 4-5 blocks in Ouray; 2-4 steps getting on/off the motorcoach and 4-wheel-drive vehicles.

Breakfast: We walk to a local restaurant where we order off a set menu, coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: Ouray is sometimes called the Switzerland of America for its alpine landscape surrounded by mountains. Among the many natural wonders is Uncompahgre National Forest, covering more than 950,000 acres, and Yankee Boy Basin within the forest. We will board specially converted 4-wheel drive vehicles for a safe and exciting journey to the beautiful alpine meadows of 12,526 ft. Yankee Boy Basin. We drive up and along Canyon Creek, under the dramatic cliffs, past the lower Camp Bird mine, through the ghost town of Sneffels, past the Revenue, Atlas and Ruby Trust mines and up to the beautiful Twin Falls surrounded by rugged mountain peaks. Arriving at the Basin, we are surrounded in Summer by fabulous wildflowers including the Colorado state flower, the Blue Columbine. In autumn, the magnificent fall colors of golden aspen and red shrubs await. Along the way we pass the Camp Bird Mine, one of the most famous and highly-productive old gold mines in the San Juan Mountains. It was discovered in 1896 by Irish immigrant Thomas F. Walsh, who became one of the richest men in America and — highly unusual for his time — a progressive advocate for laborers. As a result, Camp Bird Mine did not experience the violent strikes at many western mines of the era. We’ll then hop board our motorcoach for a short ride to the town of Ridgeway.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, lunch includes salad, choice of entrée, and choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Next, ride our coach or walk the short distance to the Ridgway Railroad Museum, dedicated to preserving Colorado railroad history with a focus on restoration, education, and research. Our resident expert will lead our walk although some may choose to self-guide the collection. The museum includes railroad equipment, artifacts, historical data, books, and photographs of Ouray County and the San Juan Mountains, plus exhibits and displays of railroad rolling stock. Most famous is the museum's collection of "Galloping Goose" rail-motorcars — a unique combination of locomotives and cars designed and built by adapting gasoline powered autos and trucks into small rail vehicles. Returning to Ouray, the remainder of the afternoon is free to enjoy on your own. Our resident expert will give recommendations about local historic sites and museum.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Evening: At leisure. Ouray, named for the most famous chief of the Utes, has much to offer for a small mining town. About 2/3 of the original Victorian structures are still occupied and have been restored. You might like to visit the Ouray County Museum, housed in the original St. Joseph Miners’ Hospital. Or, take a dip in the famous, sulfur-free Hot Springs Pool (open until 10:00 p.m.).

Ute History Museum, Redstone, Return to Denver
Denver, CO
Hilton Garden Inn - DIA

Activity note: Note: Hotel check out after breakfast, bring luggage to coach. Walking and standing in Museum and up to 1 block in Redstone,; 2-3 steps boarding and de-boarding motorcoach. Elevations up to 11,158 feet.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant, we order off the menu with juices, coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: We board the motorcoach for a drive to Montrose and the Ute Indian Museum where we get an inside look into the native people of Colorado. We learn from docents the history and the living culture of Colorado's longest continuous residents. The museum is a stunning new building and exhibition connecting the past with contemporary Ute life and culture. New exhibitions focus on the Ute peoples' history of adaptation and persistence, and unfold around a central theme of geography, highlighting significant locations in Ute history and Ute cultural survival, political self-determination, economic opportunity and the celebration of the Bear Dance. History Colorado worked with representatives of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Southern Ute Tribe and Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Utah on every aspect of developing the building’s design and exhibit content.

Lunch: We continue with a stop at the summit of McClure Pass (8,755') to our lunch destination, Redstone Inn with choice of entrée, salad, and choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, water included The tiny town of Redstone was created by John Cleveland Osgood, one of the 19th century’s richest “robber barons.” Completed in 1902, it was intended to be a utopian community for workers connected to Osgood’s coal mining enterprise.

Afternoon: The final leg of our journey back to Denver via motorcoach takes by way of Glenwood Canyon, a scenic byway with a uniquely engineered section of Interstate 70. We pass the ski resorts of Beaver Creek, Vail, Copper Mountain, and Loveland along the route. We also drive through the Eisenhower Tunnel. With a maximum elevation of 11,158' above sea level, it is one of the highest vehicular tunnels in the world. The tunnel is the longest mountain tunnel and highest point on the Interstate Highway system. Completed in 1979, it was one of the last major pieces of the Interstate Highway system to be completed. We arrive late afternoon at our hotel.

Dinner: In the hotel dining room, enjoy a meal catered by the hotel with plated table service including salad, entrée, soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. We reflect on our journey with closing comments.

Evening: At leisure. Say farewell to new Road Scholar friends and prepare for departure in the morning.

Program Concludes
Denver, CO

Activity note: Note: Hotel check out is by 10:00 a.m.

Breakfast: In the hotel, the hot and cold breakfast buffet includes egg dishes prepared to order, juices, coffee, tea, water.This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar learning adventures and we look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future.

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