Grand Tour

Western States Trains & Treasures

26 Sep to 11 Oct
USA

We are pleased to join us with “Trains and Travel” in the USA to offer a unique holiday to the Western States for a small group of just 20 passengers.

This tour will present to you some of the most exciting and scenic excursion train rides in six western states of the USA during the fall colours. This tour includes visiting Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. Additionally, many spectacular national and state parks will be visited as we make our way westward from Colorado to California using vans which allows us more flexability. Group size will be kept small not to exceed 20 persons and will have three guides.

Includes:

  • 22 Meal
  • 21 Train Rides
  • 6 Different States
  • 14 Hotel Nights
  • 7 Railway Museums
  • 4 Railway Workshops
  • 10 National and State Parks

Further questions? Call 01235 768855

Itinerary

Day 1 Wednesday 26 September  Direct BA flight at 14.40 from Heathrow to Denver or indirect flights from Manchester and other UK airports. You will be met and transferred to the downtown Crown Plaza hotel. The rest of the day and evening on your own to relax. The hotel will be within walking distance of many shops and other attractions right downtown. For railfans, Denver has a 47 mile long standard gauge light rail system to explore. Opened in 1994, it has 172 vehicles serving 6 lines and 46 stations. We will be using one full van and perhaps two. A full van can seat 15 but we will only put no more than 10 persons in each van.

Day 2 Thursday 27 September  (L, D) Visit the Colorado Railroad Museum in nearby Golden. This museum is full of wonderful Colorado Narrow Gauge history and rolling stock, the best railroad museum in Colorado. We will leave the museum around mid-day and head to the Georgetown Loop Railroad up in the Rocky Mountains located at Georgetown. Most trains on this railway between Silver Plume and Georgetown are pulled by steam locomotive. After your train ride, visit the old wild-west mining town of Georgetown for our welcome to North America dinner before we return to Denver for a 2nd night at the Crown Plaza Hotel downtown.

Day 3 Friday 28 September (D) We have an early start today as we must travel south to Colorado Springs. We first visit the Garden of the Gods rock formations on the way to the railway station. The Garden of the Gods Park features dramatic rock formations that have a long history of Native American occupation. Morning photography is spectacular. Continue to the Manitou and Pike’s Peak Cog Railway, where you will ride the rack railway through spectacular scenery to the top of Pike’s Peak and back down to Manitou Springs, arriving at lunch time. There will be free time in downtown Manitou Springs for lunch and a little window shopping at the many unique shops. Leave Manitou Springs after lunch for the one-hour ride by highway to Canon City where you will climb aboard the Royal Gorge Scenic Railroad train for a journey through the spectacular Royal Gorge. Since 1879, these tracks have followed the winding, tumbling Arkansas River deep within the soaring, 1,000-foot granite cliffs of Colorado’s Royal Gorge. After our train ride we continue on to Alamosa and hotel check-in at The Best Western Alamosa Inn at about 9:00pm. This will be a very long day.

Day 4 Saturday 29 September (B, L) Morning departure by highway to visit near-by Great Sand Dunes National Park. This park protects the tallest sand dunes in North America. From the valley floor to the crest of 13,000 foot peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains the park and preserve contain ecosystems ranging from sand sheet to dunes to tundra. The morning shadows on the sand dunes are breathtaking and perfect for photography.

We then travel to near-by Fort Garland to board the Fall Colors excursion train on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad which will stop to pick up passengers here at 10:15AM for the scenic La Veta Pass Route. Fall in Colorado brings the rich golden tones of the Aspen leaves contrasted against the green pines, rugged rocks and the wide open blue skies. During the trip the railroad offers passengers two staged photo locations high in the Rockies to capture nature, leaves, mountains, and the train as it runs by your photo location. Everyone will have a great seat in the comfort of the dome cars where the freshly prepared lunch will be served with a fall themed menu.

Tucked away in the La Cuchara Valley below the twin Spanish Peaks, the quaint art town of La Veta may be one of the last, best undiscovered spots in Colorado. The marriage of scenic beauty, rich history and a charming town center with shopping, galleries and dining make it easy to see how this area became a haven for artists over the years. You can explore La Veta while the train is being turned around for the journey back to Fort Garland and on to Alamosa. We will ride all the way to Alamosa arriving at 5:30PM. We then motor by highway to Chama, New Mexico for hotel check-in at the Branding Iron Motel. Before checking in we will make a short stop at the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad yards and workshop where the narrow-gauge steam locomotives will be waiting for the next days run up into the Rockies to Cumbres Pass and beyond. It is possible to join the tour today for a shortened tour (second half) flying into Durango (via Denver).

Day 5 Sunday 30 September (B, L) After breakfast, visit to the railroad yards and workshops to watch the crew prepare the steam locomotive for a 10:00AM departure. This morning you will have a choice to either ride the steam train up the steep grades Chama, New Mexico to Cumbres Summit or you can follow the train by highway and get some great action shots then board the train at Cumbres Summit and ride the rest of the way to Antonito, Colorado arriving at 4:05PM. Once the train arrives at Antonito we head for Durango, Colorado by highway arriving early evening and hotel check-in at the Best Western Rio Grande hotel.   Option to upgrade to Parlor Car Class on the Cumbres & Toltec and on the Durango & Silverton in Presidential Class.

Day 6 Monday 1 October (B) Before boarding our train in Durango we will visit the Durango & Silverton museum which is attached to the workshops and give you a view into the roundhouse from the museum. We then board the first steam train of the day on the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This train leaves Durango at 8:00AM and arrives in Silverton before lunch having passed through the dramatic Animas Canyon. Being on the first train gives us the opportunity to photograph the second train which arrives 45 minutes later. The Durango & Silverton Railroad shares a special place with the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad as the two iconic narrow gauge steam railways of the American west. You will ride both of them and have opportunities for line-siding and photography. There is a railway museum in the old Silverton station. Your train will depart Silverton at 1:45PM and you will have the option to get off of this train at the Rockwood Station and follow by highway for photos on into Durango. After returning to Durango the rest of the evening is yours to explore this colourful town and have dinner. Option to upgrade to Presidential Class.

Day 7 Tuesday 2 October (B, L) Those on the “first half” tour leave the group this morning and fly back from Durango (via Denver). We say good-bye to Durango and head west towards Arizona and Utah first paying a visit to Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

Departing here we continue westbound to the Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Park which is within the Navajo Nation which is part in Arizona and Utah and controlled by Navajo laws and customs. This is a nation within the boundaries of the United States. You will be experiencing one of the most majestic – and most photographed – points on earth.

Monument Valley boasts sandstone masterpieces that tower at heights of 400 to 1,000 feet, framed by scenic clouds casting shadows that graciously roam the desert floor. The angle of the sun accents these graceful formations, providing scenery that is simply spellbinding. The landscape overwhelms, not just by its beauty but also by its size.  The fragile pinnacles of rock are surrounded by miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs, trees and windblown sand, all comprising the magnificent colours of the valley.  All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly wondrous experience.  We plan to arrive here and first check into The View Hotel. This Hotel is a Navajo owned business located within the Navajo Nation and the Navajo Tribal Park at Monument Valley. All rooms face east with a private balcony with views unlike anywhere else in world. You can enjoy the sunset as the shadows of late afternoon move across the valley and onto the massive rock formations right from your balcony. After the sun sets you can head for the hotel restaurant for dinner.

Day 8 Wednesday 3 October (B, L) Morning hours to explore Monument Valley as we travel the 17 Mile Drive through the valley to view some of the rock formations with Navajo names like: East & West Mitten, Merrick Butte, Elephant Butte, The Three Sisters, Camel Butte, The Hub, Rain God Mesa, and Totem Pole to name a few. We are then off and now headed north into Utah but still within the vast Navajo Nation.

Just a handful of miles into Utah we stop to visit “Goosenecks State Park”. On the edge of a deep canyon above the San Juan River there is an area known as a gooseneck, this small park affords impressive views of one of the most striking examples of an entrenched river meander on the North American continent. The San Juan River twists and turns through the meander, flowing a distance of over six miles while advancing one and half miles west on its way to Lake Powell. Gaze at the results of 300 million years of geological activity, where the San Juan River winds and carves its way through the desert 1,000 feet below

Next, we take you to a remote area called, Valley of the Gods, which is still within the Navajo Nation. This is a scenic backcountry area in south-eastern Utah, near Mexican Hat. It is a hidden gem with scenery similar to that of nearby Monument Valley. Valley of the Gods offers isolated buttes, towering pinnacles and wide-open spaces that seem to go on forever. Because it is not well known very few tourists come here. We will have a picnic lunch here. Back on the road northbound by late afternoon we will be enjoying the vast vistas at Canyonlands National Park. This national park invites you to explore a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Hotel check-in at Moab, Utah in the heart of canyon country.

SHORTLY AFTER WE CROSS FROM ARIZONA TO UTAH WE TURN OFF OF THE MAIN PAVED HIGHWAY AND HEAD WEST TOWARDS THE RED ROCK CLIFFS. BLINK YOUR EYES AND YOU HAVE MISSED THE VERY SMALL HARD TO READ HAND WRITTEN SIGN ON THE HIGHWAY THAT SAYS “VALLEY OF THE GODS”. WE MAY BE IN UTAH BUT WE ARE STILL IN THE NAVAJO NATION. THIS DIRT ROAD WILL LEAD US TO A REMOTE BOX CANYON CALLED “VALLEY OF THE GODS”. VERY FEW KNOW ABOUT THIS PLACE AND THE LACK OF TOURIST IS PROOF OF THIS. WE KNOW IT WELL AS OUR TOUR MANAGER GOES CAMPING AND HIKING HERE EVERY COUPLE OF YEARS.

Day 9 Thursday 4 October (B, L) Morning visit to Arches National Park. You will discover a landscape of contrasting colours, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. This red rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets. We continue our trek westward and head for Bryce National Park but first we will pass through Capitol Reef National Park. Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles. We plan to have a picnic lunch here. Late afternoon or early evening we arrive at Bryce National Park and hotel check-in Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. Hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion) can be found on every continent, but here is the largest collection of hoodoos in the world! Descriptions fail. Photographs do not do it justice. Bring your sense of wonder and imagination when visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. After sunset we check-in at the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel.

Day 10 Friday 5 October (L, D) Morning visit to Bryce National Park. Enjoy the many Hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion). Bring your sense of wonder and imagination when visiting here.

Mid-morning, we leave this national park and resume our westbound trip by entering Nevada. We soon pass by Great Basin National Park on our way to Ely, Nevada so a short stop is in order. From the 13,000-foot summit of Wheeler Peak, to the sage-covered foothills, Great Basin National Park is a place to sample the stunning diversity of the larger Great Basin region. It is then on to Ely, Nevada and hotel check-in at the La Quinta Hotel. For those interested the afternoon steam excursion train is due back in town at 6:00PM and you have the option to get some trackside photos along the line including a great shot of this train coming out of the one tunnel on this railway.

Day 11 Saturday 6 October (B, L) Visit the Nevada Northern Railway yards and workshops in East Ely, Nevada is the best-preserved, least altered, and most complete complex remaining from the steam railroad era in the US. It was established in 1905 to support the area’s booming copper mining industry. The East Ely yard escaped modernization because of its geographical remoteness and the decline of the mining industry it once served. We will explore the yards and workshops during the morning hours. Today’s excursion train pulled by steam departs at 1:00PM for the journey up to a point near the Ruth Copper Mine and returns at 2:30PM. You have the choice to ride this train or follow on the highway for some great action shots.

Once back in East Ely it will be time to yet again head west across the Nevada desert over what is considered the “Loneliest Road” in America. We will make stops in Eureka and Austin on our 287-mile stretch between Ely and Fernley.

Eureka is one of the best-preserved mining cities in the American West. Silver strikes made here in 1864 by prospectors from Austin proved uneconomical to work because of the high lead content of the ores. Ore was shipped to England and Wales for reduction until 1869, when the first of sixteen successful smelters was constructed. Within a decade three mines alone had paid out in dividends more money than had ever been invested in all Eureka County enterprises combined, and Eureka was famous as the “Pittsburgh of the West.” Eureka overtook Austin in size and mining productivity during the middle 1870s when the Eureka & Palisade Railroad was extended south from the Central Pacific. By 1878, when Austin had already begun its decline, Eureka had a population of about 9,000 and had taken second place among Nevada cities. There were dozens of saloons, gambling houses and bawdy houses, three opera houses, two breweries, five volunteer firefighting companies, and two companies of militia as well as the usual complement of doctors, lawyers, merchants, bankers, hotels, newspapers, and other businesses. Fifty mines produced lead, silver, gold, and zinc for the smelters, which could process more than 700 tons of ore a day. Many of its buildings are impressive. Eureka’s breweries were located on opposite ends of town, the heavy winters prompted the business people to drive tunnels underground from one end of town to the other in order to ensure the prompt delivery of beer to the saloons along Main Street. Much of the old tunneling has collapsed or is unsafe, but in its heyday, it was quite comfortable to use, fancy, even, with bricked walls, and arched brick chambers reminiscent of medieval dungeons.

Next, we stop at the town of Austin which discovered in 1862 by a horse which by accident, kicked up a piece of quartz containing gold and silver. The ore was sent to Virginia City for assay. Once word got out the silver rush was on. One year later, 10,000 people occupied the town. A lumber mill had been built and four hundred homes had been constructed. There were schools, churches, hotels, stores and, of course, the required number of saloons and pleasure houses. By 1880, the mines began to show signs of exhaustion and its total of $50 million in ore production was history. We continue on westward and we plan to arrive in Virginia City, Nevada by sunset and hotel check-in at the Silverland Inn & Suites in the downtown area. So, ends a very long day.

Day 12 Sunday 7 October (L, D) On Sunday’s the Virginia & Truckee runs a train from the Eastgate Station near Carson City up the steep hill to Virginia City and return. Today you will have the option to ride this train or follow by highway for some spectacular photography of the steam locomotive working hard up this grade. This train departs from the Eastgate Station at 10:00AM. Once this train arrives in Virginia City you will have the opportunity to visit the workshops. Nevada’s most famous short line is the Virginia & Truckee Railroad which connected Reno with Carson City, Virginia City, and Minden. Operating for 80 years, the V&T was Nevada’s Bonanza Railroad as it hauled valuable Comstock ore to quartz reduction mills located at Silver City and along the Carson River. The name “Virginia & Truckee” is recognized the world over: V&T locomotives and cars have appeared in scores of feature-length motion pictures and the historic equipment is preserved and exhibited in museums in Nevada, California, and as far away as Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad Company was organized in Nevada on March 5, 1868. The objective was to connect Comstock ore producing mines with quartz reduction mills and, on the return trip, to bring in needed lumber, mining timbers and cord wood for fuel. For nearly twenty years the V&T was a major political and economic factor in the growth and development of Western Nevada and Eastern California. During the late 1870s, V&T stockholders divided handsome dividends in excess of $100,000 monthly. After 80 years of continuous operation, the Virginia & Truckee finally succumbed to the increasing competition of highway truck traffic. The Bonanza short line’s last official revenue train operated on May 31, 1950 between Reno, Carson City, and Minden. Following the local sale of the railway’s structures and properties, the rails between Reno and Minden were finally removed and the famous V&T became but a legend. Now a section of this railroad between Virginia City and Eastgate just outside of Carson City has been rebuilt and is in operation.

After the morning hours on the V&T and Virginia City we travel to Carson City to visit the Nevada State Railroad Museum at Carson City. This railroad museum is a cultural resource dedicated to educating visitors and the community about Nevada railroad history. This mission is accomplished through the collection, preservation and interpretation on significant locomotives, rolling stock, artifacts, photographs and memorabilia directly related to railroads and railroading in Nevada. In addition to static exhibits, select pieces of equipment in the collection are restored and operated throughout the year to demonstrate steam and early gasoline technology and provide visitors with a first-hand experience with railroad history through the sights, sounds and sensations of a train ride.

After our visit to this museum we travel north through Reno and on to Portola, home to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum which has the largest collection of diesel engines in North America. Upon arrival we check-in at the Sierra Motel. In the evening we are invited over to Chris Skow’s home for a Mexican Buffet all you can eat dinner out on the deck. Chris will have his garden scale model trains running in the gardens and you can inspect his massive collection of railroad artefacts.

Day 13 Monday 8 October (L) Morning hours to visiting the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola. Around mid-day there should be a Union Pacific freight train headed westbound down the Feather River Canyon. We will plan to follow it and photograph it at such famous locations as the massive Clio Viaduct, Williams Loop and the Keddie Wye Bridge. West of Keddie we should see and photograph one or two BNSF freight trains as we make our way down the canyon all the way to Oroville. We will then continue on to Sacramento and hotel check-in at the Vagabond Inn in downtown Sacramento which is next to the California State Railroad Museum and the old historic section of the city. After hotel check-in you can explore “Old Town” Sacramento and get some dinner at the many restaurants.

Day 14 Tuesday 9 October (B)  For those that are interested we will take a ride on the Sacramento Regional Transit light rail line. Upon our return we will check-out of our hotel and visit to the California State Railroad Museum. After our museum visit we will board Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor Train 541 which departs Sacramento at 2:10PM and arrives at Richmond at 3:35PM. Richmond is the across the platform connection with the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). We will catch a Bart train here for the ride into San Francisco. We will get off at the first station in the city and transfer to the street level street car line which will take us to Fisherman’s Wharf. San Francisco has purchased old street cars from all over the world and put them back into service to the enjoyment of many people. We then check-in to the Holiday Inn which is next to the street car line and a block away from the famous Cable Car Line. Later in the evening after dinner and after the rush hour we will take you on a night time tour of San Francisco using the street car, cable car and trams. Do not worry about your luggage, as we will keep it in the van and transfer to the hotel.

Day 15 Wednesday 10 October (D) Morning check-out of our hotel and end of tour. Option to stay one additional night which includes dinner on the Napa Valley Wine Train in dome class.

Day 16 Thursday 11 October Morning check-out and transfer to the airport for direct flights back to London and Manchester.

Further Photographs: Just Click Here

Flights

Full Tour
BA219 14.40 Heathrow to Denver (direct)
BA286 19.30 San Francisco to Heathrow (direct)

Icelandair 13.25 Manchester, via Reykjavik, to Denver (arr 18.35)
Thomas Cook 16.50 San Francisco to Manchester (direct)

First Half
BA219 14.40 Heathrow to Denver (direct)
BA5861/1505 10.47 Durango, via Dallas, to Heathrow (arr 06.55 next day)

Second Half
BA1504/5996 09.15 Heathrow, via Dallas, to Durango (arr 15.49)
BA286 19.30 San Francisco to Heathrow (direct)

Hotels

Crown Plaza – Denver
Best Western Alamosa Inn – Alamosa
Branding Iron Motel – Chama
Best Western Rio Grande – Durango
The View Hotel – Monument Valley
TBC – Moab
Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
La Quinta Hotel – Ely
Silverland Inn & Suites – Virginia City
Sierra Motel – Portola 
Vagabond Inn – Sacramento 
Holiday Inn – Fishmans Wharf – San Francisco

Place(s) available
Holiday prices per person
  • Full 15-day tour from Denver to San Francisco: £4,540
  • Or First Half tour (26 Sep – 2 Oct): £2,335
  • Or Second Half tour (1 Oct – 10 Oct): £2,520
  • Return flight options from the UK from London or Manchester: Allow £700

Options

  • Single room supplement for full tour: £735
  • Or single room supplement for First Half tour: £420
  • Or single room supplement for Second Half tour: £570
  • Upgrade on the Cumbres & Toltec (Palour) and Durange & Siverton (Presidential Class): £225
  • Extra day at end of the tour (San Francisco) with Napa Valley Dinner Train: £250

Deposit

  • £1,250 (with flight) or £750 (own flights)

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We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice