Kim Fuller
Special to the Daily

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July 23, 2013
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All aboard: High Country railroads offer education, entertainment

The Colorado mountains are always worth climbing, even if it’s done from the comfort of a railcar. Hit the tracks this season for great views and an unforgettable journey, as well as historical insight into what the West once was.

Georgetown Loop Railroad

Tom Hill, vice president of facilities and marketing for Historic Rail Adventures, operators of the Georgetown Loop Railroad, said rail sites offer a look into classic Colorado history of railroading and mining.

The Georgetown Loop was completed in 1884, during Colorado’s silver-mining boom. Georgetown was known for a short time as the “Silver Queen of Colorado,” and the railroad was built to transport the area’s rich commodities.

Although silver and gold mining went through many of their own highs and lows, the railroad industry suffered a significant decline with the emergence of the automobile in the 1920s. In 1938, the line from Idaho Springs to Silver Plume was abandoned and the Georgetown Loop was dismantled, ending the days of the railroad loop until its resurgence began in 1975.

The Georgetown to Silver Plume tracks are historic by nature, with classic cars and seats that have been enjoyed since Historic Colorado reopened the Georgetown Loop four decades ago for touring operation. Yet Hill said the modern rides conduct a whole new level of engagement.

“Besides the historical aspects, we have expanded into the realm of entertainment,” Hill said. “The Georgetown Loop Railroad is really trying to appeal to a wider spectrum of people — those who may be looking for a fun day trip or night out, as well as a dose of history.”

New this year on the Loop are private trains, where guests can bring friends and family aboard their own train with their own conductor — perfect for parties and celebrations.

“Locals and visitors alike have extended families who come to the railroad from all over the country and have a get-together,” Hill said. “The train offers a venue for education, entertainment and fun.”

The Georgetown Loop offers “Moonlight in Mountains” dinner trains with meal themes of steak and lobster, rib eye or trout, as well as wine and beer tastings. In the fall, kids can enjoy the pumpkin festival and adults will savor Oktoberfest with free beer and brats.

Leadville Colorado
& Southern Railroad

Colorado offers a widespread history, so you may want to venture to the heights of Leadville to experience the elevation for yourself.

“The train out of Leadville is a great way to get up into the mountains for people of all ages,” said Kirstin Ayers, Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad director of sales and marketing. “Everyone from 3-month-old kids to 92-year-old grandmas are welcome aboard, so everyone is able to see the mountains without necessarily having to hike the mountains.”

The rail line out of Leadville was constructed in Denver in 1874, and the track finally reached Leadville in 1884. At that time, it was owned by the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railway, and they carried freight back and forth from Leadville to Denver, from the Climax Molybdenum Mine and carried passengers back and forth.

The last passenger train was in 1937, and then the route was solely for transporting molybdenum, a metallic trace element. The Leadville train depot was built in 1893 and is still used today; in 1988, Ken and Stephanie Olsen purchased the railroad for $10, making this the 25th anniversary of the up-and-running Colorado & Southern. The train is open from late spring until the first week in October every year and hosts special train trips throughout the season, including wildflower tours, fall photo specials and a Sunday morning “Trip to the Top.”

Ayers said the railroad is a great way to have a relaxing trip through the area. She said the onboard conductor will share history of the area throughout the trip, as well as stories of Leadville’s more “colorful characters,” such as Molly Brown and Baby Doe Tabor.

“It’s a relaxing trip, and people can enjoy it at their own pace and see a lot of wilderness during the fun adventures. Right now, we are in the midst of wildflower tours,” Ayers said. “The wildflowers up here are beautiful this year with the all the rain we had, and there are so many kinds that are out.”

Be sure to check out the packaged tours, which include rafting and zip-lining trips along with your railway adventure.

“Besides the historical aspects, we have expanded into the realm of entertainment,” Hill said. “The Georgetown Loop Railroad is really trying to appeal to a wider spectrum of people — those who may be looking for a fun day trip or night out, as well as a dose of history.”


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The Summit Daily Updated Jul 25, 2013 02:13PM Published Jul 23, 2013 09:34PM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.