Well Trained

Once-upon-a-time trains ran from town to town here just as they do in Europe, local trains. When I was an elementary school kid, they were still running in places, and one of them was between the suburb of Denver where I lived — Englewood — and the next town — Littleton. Of course, Englewood and Littleton had been towns in their own right, until Denver pushed itself out to the netherlands.

All through the San Luis Valley are attractive turn of the 20th century buildings, most painted yellow and brown, all of them sitting beside the railroad tracks. The little depot in Monte Vista is a pretty one. I wish the trains ran now because if they did, I’d probably go to my high school reunion.

Parked tank cars by the golf course are good hiding places for deer…


Now many of the tracks around here are privately owned and maintained. They are rented out for $$$$$ to house coal cars for the most part. There are also three historical trains in the area, one of which, the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, runs cars from the City of New Orleans. It runs from Alamosa to a little spot up in the Sangre de Cristos where there’s a concert stage. I took that journey with friends the first summer I lived here to hear John McCutcheon. It was a beautiful trip and we bought fancy seats on the train so it was pretty plush. The other two trains are the Cumbres/Toltec that goes over a breathtaking mountain pass but costs $$$, and the Durango/Silverton — probably the most famous of these old trains. It goes through amazing scenery as well.

I think my favorite train of this nature was in California and it was actually pretty lame. The Southern Pacific. It goes out of an old train yard in Campo, CA, a dusty small town south east of San Diego not far from Tecate, Mexico. The prices to ride this are more along the $ lines. It was fun to take the stepsons and niece on this train (fun for me) and I dimly remember maybe having taken students. For a while it crossed the border into Mexico — its original route, but when GWB put up the giant border fence, it ran to the fence. That was a little grim, actually, seeing a giant, black fence stretched across rugged terrain in the middle of nowhere. There are so many amazing attractions in Southern California, that this little train museum in the desert struck me as a version of “the little engine that could.” It can’t, but it’s still there. šŸ™‚

Campo Train and a little of the landscape

My neighbor, Bob, Elizabeth’s husband, is a serious and legit train guy. He has bought and restored entire cars. His brother owns long lengths of track in the San Luis Valley. A little train used to run from South Fork nearly all the way to Creede on the old narrow gauge. Stupid me, I put off riding it until I was settled, so even though I was in South Fork for a month before moving into Monte Vista, I didn’t ride it. I didn’t know that the next year would be its last year. BUT, Elizabeth took me up to follow the little train on its last run. There’s a little conversation about my phone case which looks like a box of watercolors.

11 thoughts on “Well Trained

  1. I love the sound of the train whistle, more like a horn these days. It holds a certain nostalgia. Most of my experience growing up was riding the Toronto Subway or the Go Train. Once I travelled by train from N. Ontario to Kamloops BC. Sat up in the bubble car looking at the night sky.

    • That must have been so beautiful. Riding the train to Denver from Omaha when I was a little kid, we got to sit in the bubble car (called the Vista Dome) on the California Zephyr. I don’t remember looking up at the night sky and now I wish I had.

  2. I rode an overnight train through Mexico in an old Pullman car. It was perfect! A couch with a reading lamp. The couch folded out to a bed and the lamp remained at the perfect height. Just enough room for a sink to wash up. It was like home away from home for 12 hours.

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