All aboard for the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, dubbed the "scenic line of the world" in the 1870s, about eighty years before the route took a fifty-year hiatus. But the line has been back on track since 2006 and is introducing some innovations in its third season, which starts today. "We have invested somewhere around $10 million over the past few years," says the railroad's John Thomas. Some of that went to five vintage dome cars from the '50s, purchased from Holland America, which was using them in Alaska's Denali Park. "We barged them over to Washington," Thomas explains, then sent them by Union Pacific to Denver, and on to the railroad's yard in Alamosa. From those dome cars, as well as the train's open-window cars, passengers should have fabulous views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the ride up to La Veta Pass. "We're not clickety-clack," he says of the steam-engine rides on standard-gauge track. "We're more comfortable."
And creative. This year's service will include weekend excursions to the Great Sand Dunes and several concert treks on the "Highnote Express" one, on July 17, with Michael Martin Murphey and other Western entertainers, and another on August 22 and 23 with the Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute show. "The dome cars allow us to do an enormous amount of things we couldn't do a year ago," says Thomas. You can see for yourself with 360-degree panoramas when you board the train in Alamosa, La Veta or even Monte Vista. Prices vary depending on the date, distance and entertainment; for information, go to http://riograndescenicrailroad.com.
May 24-Oct. 31, 2008