One of the things that my kids love doing is going on train rides. Usually we just take them up to Cripple Creek to ride the train there, but earlier this year we decided to try out the much bigger train in Georgetown, Colorado. From Colorado Springs, Georgetown is about a two hour drive and is located off of I-70 just west of Denver.
It is an old mining camp that sits in an isolated mountain valley. I had been to Georgetown before after hiking up the nearby 14-thousand foot peak Mt. Bierstadt. Here is a picture of the town from Guanella Pass that rises above Georgetown that is the access road to the hike up Mt. Bierstadt:
We had tickets to ride the train in the morning and thus had to get an early start for the drive to Georgetown. We arrived at the train station just outside of town about 30 minutes before our train was scheduled to depart. This gave us sometime to checkout the train station and learn more about the railroad. The city of Georgetown was founded in 1859 as one of the many mining camps west of Denver. Eventually it was decided that it would make sense to connect the mining camps with a railway. Throughout the 1870’s construction of a railway slowly made its way up Clear Creek Canyon. By 1877 it had finally connected Georgetown with the other mining camps in the area. In 1879 Georgetown became the “Silver Queen of Colorado” and prospector flocked to the town on its new railway. As the silver played itself out in Georgetown the railway began to become a popular tourist train for people looking for a mountain excursion from Denver. Today this tourism history continues on the last remaining section of the track between Georgetown and Silver Plume. A more complete history of the railroad can be read at this link.
Eventually we could hear our train approaching and we headed outside to see it. From the station area it is possible to see the train crossing over the Devil’s Gate High Bridge:
It really is quite a sight to see this train crossing over this scenic bridge. The Devil’s Gate High Bridge is actually a replica of the original bridge that was built here in the 1870’s. A $1 million grant from the Boettcher Foundation financed the final segment of the railroad’s reconstruction in 1982. From the train station there is plenty of other great views that can be had of the steam engine as it approaches:
Eventually the train parked at the boarding area where slowly people began to line up to board the train:
There is a couple of options for seating on the train. The cheapest tickets were for sitting sitting outside while the slightly more expensive tickets were in the enclosed parlor car. The prices for these tickets and other ticket options can be found at this link. Here is a picture of what the outdoor seating looked like:
My wife and I decided to pay the little extra for the parlor car which we ended up being glad that we did. In the parlor car they have tables with chairs and windows that can be rolled down to allow for better pictures:
The best part of the parlor car was the snacks and drinks the attendants give you. I was expecting airplane stewardess like service where you are given a small bag of peanuts and a soda if you are lucky. Not on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. My two little kids would quickly eat their snacks and the attendant would come back with more for them eat. I think they had as much fun eating the snacks as they did riding the train! The attendant provided top notch service as well. As far as the train ride, it starts out quite spectacularly as the train goes across the Devil’s Gate High Bridge:
Much of the views after the bridge are obscured by the trees, but there was a few areas where Clear Creek could be seen roaring below the train:
There were also a few other areas where some views of the surrounding mountainsides could be seen as well:
There was also another area where you could see other engines that work on the railway such as this diesel engine:
The steam engines actually only work during the busy summer months and the rest of the year the modern diesel engines pull the train cars due to their much lower maintenance costs. It is actually very expensive to keep these old steam engines running because parts have to be specially made by skilled machinists when components on the steam engines break::
The halfway point for the train ride is at the Silver Plume station which sits at the lofty altitude of 9,178 feet:
At Silver Plume passengers can disembark and walk around the train station located there. I decided to go and take some more pictures of the steam engine instead:
It was hard to get good pictures of the steam engine because it immediately decoupled from the passenger cars and went over to the water tower to refill its tanks for the trip back to Georgetown:
While waiting at Silver Plume I as surprised to see a Cumbres & Toltec Railroad car parked there. The Cumbres & Toltec is a beautiful railway that runs along the Colorado and New Mexico border. I am assuming the Georgetown Loop Railroad bought this passenger car to restore and use on their railway:
After about 30 minutes at Silver Plume the “All Aboard!” was given to designate that the train was about to leave. Here is view from just outside Silver Plume looking down the valley towards Georgetown from the train:
On one of the bridges the train stopped on the way back to let out some of the steam that had been building in the engine:
During the trip down I spotted another train car this one from the old Rio Grande Railroad:
Finally we found ourselves crossing back over the Devil’s Gate High Bridge that took us back to the train station to complete our trip on the Georgetown Loop Railroad:
For adults the lack of many big views from the train may seem like a bit of a let down, but for people like me with young kids they will more than likely have a blast on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. This is especially true if you buy the parlor car tickets that will allow them to eat all the snacks they want during the ride. We will definitely be back to ride the train again in the future.