In 2012, Amtrak recorded the highest ridership in its then 40-year history and passenger rail, in the view of this writer, is an emerging transportation option for those in North America wishing to travel at a more leisurely pace, with greater comfort and space than offered by a bus or plane, and with a more environmentally-friendly approach than that of single individuals travelling by car.

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That said, in some ways the growing popularity of rail travel in the 21st century is actually a “Back to the Future”-type of return to the commonality of rail travel in the 19th and early 20th century. Further, a number of historic railways can still be ridden to this day. The Emmy-award public television series Great Scenic Railway Journeys explores such railways in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and those routes include a number of important railroads in the American West. As the popularity of AMC’s Western series Hell on Wheels has demonstrated, there remains great interest in the history of railroads and their various impacts upon North America.

Among the Western rail lines profiled are the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado, which sees its origin with the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in 1879, the 1880 Cumbres & Toltec Railroad of New Mexico, and the Thunder Mountain Line of Idaho, which was completed in 1914. Here is a promo trailer for the series:

Locations of the historic railways can be found at this link to the Great Scenic Railway Journeys website – All Aboard!

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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