The mystique of the Western railroads have been a part of my life since childhood—from my father’s boyhood tales of traveling the Super Chief to the railroad music of Johnny Cash
, from regular visits to Los Angeles’s Union Station and Griffith Park’s Travel Town to my first ride on the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in 1976.
The sight, smell and sounds of a locomotive and the haunting echo of a train whistle have become a strong part of my identity as a native-born Westerner. Over the years, I have enjoyed excursions with my family on Amtrak, the Durango & Silverton and the Grand Canyon Railway. Still, I am always ready to take another trip into the past. Whatever type of historic Western railway adventure you are planning—a family day trip or a steampunk rally—these great railroads are ready to take you on an adventure of a lifetime throughout the year. Pack your bags, climb aboard and take a trip into yesteryear!
Click on the image and watch the slideshow of 18 historic Western railway adventures. Photo Gallery
Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad / Abilene, Kansas The Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad is a non-profit organization. Located in the Historic Rock Island Depot, founded in 1887, in Old Abilene Town, the railroad has one steam locomotive that was built in 1919.
– Courtesy Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad –
Arkansas & Missouri Railroad / Springdale, Arkansas Located in Springdale, Arkansas, this short line carries passenger trains as wells as freight trains. Get off at Fort Smith and find out why it was named True West’s No. One town of the year.
– Courtesy Arkansas & Missouri Railroad –
Black Hills Central Railroad / Hill City,South Dakota Featuring the 1880 train, which is still in operation, Black Hills Central Railroad was built by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad to transport gold that was mined in the Black Hills—hence the name. It became a tourist excursion train line in 1957 and is still running strong today.
– Courtesy Black Hills Central Railroad –
The Canadian Pacific Railway The Canadian Pacific Railway was founded in 1881. These trains were instrumental in the settlement and development of Western Canada. They are still actively running today.
– Courtesy Stephen Low / Design by Daniel Harshberger –
Charlie Russell Chew Choo / Lewistown, Montana This fun train runs on a spur track that was built in 1913. Connecting Lewistown to the Great Falls, Charlie Russell Chew Choo crosses two historic trestles, rumbles through a tunnel that stretches a half mile.
– Courtesy Charlie Russell Chew Choo –
Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad / Leadville, Colorado Traveling 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River Valley, the Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad takes passengers through forests, meadows and lush groves of wildflowers from the end of May until mid-June. Guests can reserve special seats in the front engine or in the caboose. Plus, well-mannered pets are welcome aboard with their owners.
-Courtesy Leadville-Colorado & Southern Railroad –
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad / Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico A narrow gauge heritage railroad, Cumbres & Toltec was constructed by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1881 to support mining operations in the San Juan Mountains. From 1950 to 1960, it transported oil and pipes until traffic dwindled. In 1970, the line was resurrected for the enjoyment of tourists, who enjoy taking in the colorful scenes between Colorado and New Mexico.
– Courtesy Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad –
Memorable Train Movies
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad / Durango, Colorado Originally built in 1881 and 1882 by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad runs on a 45-mile track and is a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Its Durango depot was built in 1882 and stands today in its original architecture.
– Courtesy Durango
Fillmore & Western Railway Company / Fillmore, California The Fillmore & Western Railway Company runs in Ventura County, California, on a section of track formerly owned by Southern Pacific Railroad. The railroad is frequently used for the filming of television series, motion pictures and commercials.
– Courtesy Fillmore & Western Railway Company –
Georgetown Loop Railroad / Georgetown, Colorado Operating in the summer only, the Georgetown Loop pulls out of the station in Clear Creek County, Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains. Constructed in 1884, the two-mile track takes tourists through the narrow canyon of Clear Creek, horseshoe curves and four bridges. This line was heavily used in the 1880s during the Silver Boom to haul ore from the Silver Plume mines.
– Courtesy Georgetown Loop Railroad –
Grand Canyon Railway / Williams, Arizona Built in 1901, Grand Canyon Railway took passengers on a 64-mile-long trip for $3.95. Naturalist John Muir commended the railroad for its limited impact on the environment.
– Courtesy Grand Canyon Railway –
Memorable Train Movies
Memorable Train Movies
Kettle Valley Steam Railway / Summerland, British Columbia, Canada This heritage railway’s trains are pulled by a steam locomotive that was built in 1912. The Kettle Valley Steam Railway is run by a non-profit society whose purpose is to preserve Okanagan and BC heritage railways.
– Courtesy Doug Campbell –
Memorable Train Songs to Get You Moving
Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad / Elbe, Washington Founded over a century ago, Mount Rainier Railroad was constructed by the Hart brothers and originated in Tacoma, Washington. Its oldest locomotive, which was built in 1928, is still in operation today.
– Courtesy Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad –
Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad / Virginia City, Montana Home of the No. 12 Baldwin locomotive, which was built in 1910, the short line brought the first train to Virginia City. A few weeks later the Virginia City Depot, which was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1895, arrived. It was the first time Virginia City residents had seen a depot pull up to the train.
– Courtesy Dianne Carey and Montana Heritage Commission –
Texas State Railroad / Rusk, Texas Built in 1881 by prison inmates, in the fall of 2007, the railroad was leased to the American Heritage Railway. Passengers can enjoy exciting rides on steam locomotives that travel through the wild forests in East Texas.
– Courtesy Texas State Railroad –
Memorable Train Movies After riding these majestic steam locomotives, settle down with your friends and family and enjoy these fast pace, classic films. Trains have taken the lead in many films, but these are our favorites.
Memorable Train Movies
White Pass and Yukon Route / Skagway, Alaska Completed in 1900, the White Pass and Yukon Route in Skagway, Alaska, was a great substitution for the Chilkoot Trail, as well as many other routes in the Yukon Territory, which were rather treacherous. This route was originally built for prospectors during the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-1899). In 1988, part of the route was revived to become one of the many heritage railways enjoyed by tourists and rail enthusiasts today.
– Courtesy Jed Thompson –