Monday, April 5, 2010

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Makes Some Changes for 2010 Season

The San Luis Valley has been a world unto itself for centuries. Cut off from the rest of Colorado by mountains on three sides, it has a rugged beauty and a feel that's different from the rest of the state. Once breached by the rails of the infant Denver & Rio Grande over Veta Pass on its way to Durango, the valley's riches were easily carried to Pueblo, Denver and beyond. Today, the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad based in Alamosa, Colorado functions as a short line feeding the Union Pacific connection at Walsenberg.

Adding new staff in the offseason, the RGSR has some changes lined up for the 2010 season. All of the trips will feature limited food service. Additionally, there are some improvements to the routes.

  • Potato Valley Explorer - Trips west of Alamosa to Monte Vista will run seven days a week aboard a mixed freight and passenger consist as before, but with upgraded passenger coaches
  • Toltec Gorge Limited - Riders will continue to board in Alamosa for a trip south to Antonito, where they will switch trains as they switch gauges to ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, but they will now enjoy a narrative of the history of the towns in the San Luis Valley that they pass while on route. Might they hear about the Manassa Mauler, Jack Dempsey, or the 150 year-old church at Conejos?
  • Fort Garland Limited - Riders boarding the train in La Veta will no longer go all the way to Alamosa, but will stop short in Fort Garland and visit the museum and shops there. Admission to the museum is already included as part of the trip fare
  • La Veta Mountaineer - The most popular of the routes, the run from Alamosa to La Veta and back seven days a week and has scheduled steam for three days each week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There are no real changes in store, aside from the named route
  • Festival Flyer - Weekends over La Veta Pass this summer promise to be an enjoyable experience. The Roots and Boots Summer Concert Series picks up some steam this year with an aggressive roster of musicians running from country to folk and most spots in between. Download a PDF bio of the artists scheduled to perform. Passengers will be able to board in La Veta (concurrent with the Fort Garland Limited) or Alamosa (concurrent with the La Veta Mountaineer), disembark at Fir for an optional BBQ lunch (extra) and a concert with two acts, a warm-up and a feature, and then board the train on return to its origination point. The stage at Fir is located within the balloon loop cutoff used for turning plow trains in the winter and is self-powered "green" out of necessity, as no grid (or roads, for that matter) reaches Fir. On my trip, I found Fir to be isolated and very beautiful as a high mountain meadow.
Don't forget the Third Annual Rails and Ales Brewfest on June 26th or the Bike 2 Build benefit on July 24th,

Despite the antics of Amtrak amid the failed Ski Train revival, the RGSR is doing very well for beginning its fifth year of passenger operations. What was rare mileage and unknown to most railfans is now a bustling standard gauge steamfest each year for young and old alike. With all this activity, Alamosa figures to be a great place for rail action this summer.

Hotels near Alamosa, Colorado

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