The Royal Gorge Train Route
The Scenic Royal Gorge Train is a Cañon City, Colorado, heritage railroad. A 1950s-era passenger train makes a daily 2-hour excursion from the Sante Fe Depot through the Royal Gorge along a famous section of the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The Royal Gorge Train is not a narrow-gauge train. For an authentic mining-era narrow gauge scenic train ride, try these:
Narrow Gauge Scenic Train Rides
- Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad – located in Leadville, Colorado. Train ride is 2.5 hours.
- The Georgetown Loop – located off I-70. The train ride is 1 hour and 15 minutes long.
- Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – located in SW Colorado, Durango. Shortest ride 5.25 hours. Package options.
The Royal Gorge Route
The train travels to the western terminus in Parkdale, Colorado, where it turns around. During its travel, the train goes under the Royal Gorge suspension bridge, by the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, and across the hanging bridge, all while in the Royal Gorge. In addition to these amazing attractions, you can expect to see some spectacular sights, such as an assortment of wildlife, river rafters, and the amazing canyon.
There are four departures daily with your choice of fare. Gift certificates are available.
The Royal Gorge Train Experience
The Royal Gorge Train takes pride in providing an exceptional dining experience. They purchase only the highest quality foods and provide various dining selections and fares.
Vista Dome Car
Ride in the modern Vista Dome car. This car has wrap-around dome windows that open up an overhead view of the canyon not seen from a traditional window. Reservation includes purchasing meals from the 403 grill menu and bar. All Vista Dome guests have access to the open-air car.
Ride in style via the Deluxe Class seating. Experience one of the traditionally restored Victorian-style railcars. Reservations include breakfast, lunch, or dinner and drinks from the bar. Guests have access to the open-air car.
Ride in comfort via Coach class. Relax in a modern cushion seat and take in the vistas via a large window. Reservations include access to meals and drinks. All Coach class guests have access to the open-air car.
History of the Royal Gorge Route
In the late 1870s, there was a race to build rail to access the Leadville district in the pursuit of ore rich in lead and silver. This attracted the Rio Grande and the Santa Fe railroads; both had tracks in the lower Arkansas valley. This conflicting interest turned into the historical Royal Gorge War. After significant gunfire and Supreme Court rulings, an out-of-court agreement was reached called the “Treaty of Boston” (Boston was the corporate home of the Santa Fe Train). This ended all litigation and gave the Denver and Rio Grnade (D&RG) back its railroad. D&RG paid Sante Fe $1.8M for the railroad it had built in the Gorge. The railway finally reached Leadville on July 20th, 1880.
The Era of The Passenger Train
In 1882 the Royal Gorge Route became the transcontinental rail link between Denver and Salt Lake. The rails were ultimately standardized to facilitate the foreign line cars and remain so today. The era of the passenger train began in 1880 and continued through 1967. The advent of passenger cars, planes, and buses contributed to the downfall of the Royal Gorge passenger train. The final blow to this era came when the U.S. Post Office canceled the mail contract with the train.
In 1996 the Union Pacific Railroad decided that portions of the track, at the time 221 miles, were no longer needed. Of this excess, the portion between Canon City and Sage, approximately 160 miles east of Gypsum, would be abandoned and converted to Rails to Trails.
Governor Roy Romer Preserves the Scenic Route
Colorado Governor Roy Romer told the Union Pacific Railroad that the state would not oppose the abandonment provided the 12 miles from Canon City to Parkdale was intact. Romer wanted the line through the Royal Gorge to be available as a means for tourists to see the magnificent natural gorge from the river level.
The Royal Gorge Express (RGX) purchased the 12 miles of line, including the track, bridges, and other improvements, from Union Pacific in 1998. The success of RGX has much to do with its association with Georgetown Loop company. The guidance of the “Loop” which had been in the business of running a scenic train for 25 years at that time, contributed greatly to the development and success of the Royal Gorge Scenic Train. Ultimately, the train has greatly benefited the economy of Canon City and Fremont County.
The Royal Gorge Region
The Royal Gorge Region remains a special place similar to our National Parks. The Royal Gorge Railroad believes riding the rails through the gorge and experiencing the amazing natural sights, such as Big Horn Sheep, Blue Heron, and Bald eagles with the turbulent Arkansas River at your side, is a unique experience that should be preserved for future generations.
Riding the Royal Gorge Train is an experience of the wonders of nature. It’s stepping back into the past and getting a real-time understanding of how our forefathers traveled across the country and what motivated the development of the train.