Historic train tour: Rowan Travelers ride the rails out West

Published 12:10 am Saturday, September 17, 2022

A few weeks ago, the Rowan Travel Group headed west on an adventure of the Historic Trains of the Old West. The major focus of the trip was steam train excursions on narrow-gauge trains. Our group of 13 joined 16 others from all over the United States, and included a lovely couple from New Zealand.

The travelers began their trip in Denver, Colorado, circling down through New Mexico and returning back to Denver. The first question most people wanted to know when we returned concerned the weather. The weather was warm, but not as hot as it is in Salisbury. It was cool in the morning and shade provided the perfect escape from the heat. Bright, dark blue skies and beautiful clouds dominated every day.

After a two-day stay in Denver, the group began the tour to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The journey included historical and other factual information from our tour director about the land, the parks and other pertinent details about both states. The initial drive to Colorado Springs was very scenic, including vast acres of prairie with small evergreen cedar trees dotting the land. They looked as though they had been pruned and were evenly spaced for miles. Yellow plains sunflowers dotted the landscapes, adding a speck of color to the landscape without billboards or litter on our 6-hour journey.

Our first train excursion allowed the group to view the vast Rocky Mountain range along with deep valleys and sparkling brooks. The group was able to wander in an open flat car with commentaries from our train guide. It was a wonderful trip, however, our second train excursion, the Durango to Silverton ride was fantastic. A tour of the round house for a lecture on the train’s history and other mechanical information provided plenty of interesting details. Built in 1882, the narrow-gauge steam engines were originally coal fired, hauling silver ore through the Rockies. Recently, the steam locomotives were converted from coal to recycled automotive oil. The four-hour journey through valleys, hills and tunnels lived up to its name as the most popular historic train excursion. The Durango-Silverton is registered as a National Historic Landmark.    

As an added bonus, the travelers were able to hike trails to view historic Indian cliff dwellings and view very unusual rock formations at the Temple of the Gods. The views of these formations were quite captivating.

Another aspect of the tour was free time to visit beautiful Santa Fe, Taos, Vail and Durango. The cities were laden with history and very scenic. We had the opportunity to tour the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Roman Catholic church that is now a museum and wedding chapel. It is famous for its scientifically impossible curving, unsupported stairs built by an unknown craftsman with no compensation. Our hotel in Durango bordered the Colorado River, a perfect outdoor view during our stay.

Ospreys and eagles dined from the river as we sat in an open-air restaurant on the bankside. Santa Fe, Durango and Vail are wall to wall with gift shops loaded with exquisite local jewelry, art, clothing, Indian pottery and other western collectibles.

This scenic tour of the Old West was as wonderful as our previous adventures. Our travel confidant, Debbie Faggart, was instrumental in providing spotless logistics and pertinent detailed information.

Special thanks for her tireless efforts along with Salisbury Motor Company for providing our airport shuttle service. As always, the Rowan Travelers were simply a pleasure as travel adventure companions.