Colorado has some of the greatest narrow-gauge and peak-climbing railroads in the country. Despite their historic status, all have been equipped with accessibility to the tee! Perfect 1-day or 2-day trips from Denver, the state’s top three trains are located in Colorado Springs, Durango, and Antonito at the border of New Mexico.
Open May 23 to October 18 this year, this “living museum” dates back to 1880 and was part of the Rio Grande Railway, serving the silver mining distric in the San Juan mountains. The train use diminished considerably between 1920 and 1960 and the tracks were nearly abandoned and dismantled in 1969. But a local movement to save the railroad brought in monies and tourists to the area, sustaining the railroad since then. The ride is 64 miles long, from Chama to Antonito, and has several departures a day. It dubs itself “America’s longest and highest steam-operated train” and has wheelchair lifts up to the accessible coaches.
Open May 2 through October 31 this year, this beautiful scenic ride is along the Animas River from Durango to Silverton and offers motorcoach rides back if you don’t want another 3-hour ride through the canyon. Also dating back to the 1880s with the Rio Grande Railway, the train faced many challenges with physical and financial stability and risked losing part of its tracks during war eras when monies and focus was elsewhere. Registered as historic in the 1960s, and given additional attention from filming Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969, the narrow gauge gained momentum for tourism and has been sustained by it since then. The fully coal-steam operated train has an accessible car with restroom and a motorized lift mechanism to get you in.
Just an hours drive from Denver, this is the only train in the state open year round, and climbs the old carriage road from the 1880s to the top of this 14,000 foot peak which is the site for the inspiration of the song “America the Beautiful.” The train climbs up from 6500 feet and 9 miles for a three hour round-trip. A big red warning of altitude sickness fills one of the pages on their website, and is to be taken seriously by those who have traveled from sea-level locations. The train stops at the top for 30 minutes of views and snacking before returning down, and has a roll-in entry and accessible bathroom in both the depot and the summit house but not on the train.
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