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Holiday fun in Southern Colorado runs on tracks
Photo courtesy: Royal Gorge Route Railroad Facebook

By Joshua Pilkington

Several holiday trains in Southern Colorado embody the holiday spirit

Colorado offers a bevy of holiday-themed trains. From the Polar Express on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the Santa Express on the Royal Gorge Railroad there are many options to cozily chug your way along some of Colorado’s most scenic peaks en route to the North Pole. In this festive week leading up to the big day, we take a look at some of the trains that offer the best and brightest rides for the holidays.

The Polar Express

Based on the best-selling children’s book the Polar Express on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad spares no expense on the festivities. Having purchased the rights from Warner Bros. to predicate the movie, American Heritage Railways (which owns and operates the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad) reserves the right to recreate the children’s story and Academy Award-winning animated film just as adults and children remember it.

As passengers settle in the train as it prepares to depart from the station in downtown Durango they are treated to even the most minute details of the Christmas story. They’ll meet Billy - the story’s protagonist - drink hot chocolate, eat cookies and, if they’re lucky, catch a glimpse of a Tom Hanks look-alike. Of course, no trip on the Polar Express would be complete without a silver bell and a trip to the North Pole to see Santa.

As for the views, pajama-clad passengers - no trip to the North Pole could possibly be done in anything but pajamas - will journey to Cascade Canyon offering majestic views along the way. Once passengers reach the North Pole those views are enhanced by thousands of Christmas lights synchronized to movie music. The North Pole destination also features sets replicated from the movie and, of course, Santa Claus.

The Polar Express runs through January 2nd and offers ticket prices beginning at $32, though prices vary by travel date and time. The ride lasts approximately 60 minutes. For more information visit or call

Santa Express

Carter Kirkendall is a train enthusiast.

“I’ve taken a ride on every major railroad in the country and have traveled cross-country three times by train,” said the 56-year-old electric engineer from Colorado Springs. “I’ve also had the chance to visit all of Colorado’s Christmas trains.”

Kirkendall considers himself somewhat of an expert and in his “expert” opinion, no Christmas train ride compares to the Santa Express on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.

“The pajamas, the Santas, the amenities on many Christmas trains are very similar,” he said. “But nothing compares to seeing the Royal Gorge lit up and covered in snow from a warm seat while sipping hot cocoa, or - in my case - red wine. It really is a vision that I consider the embodiment of the Christmas spirit.”

That vision begins in Canon City where passengers board the Royal Gorge Route Railroad en route to Parkdale - which serves as the railroad’s North Pole. On their journey, passengers will have a chance to drink hot cocoa, eat cookies, listen to holiday stories and sing Christmas carols with elves.

For bigger kids, a full bar service is offered as well featuring micro-brews and wine as well as locally sourced lunches or dinners.

Once travelers make it to the North Pole, they will have a chance to take it the spectacularly lit village and meet Santa. The jolly, old elf even takes the time to walk through every train car to ensure that each child receives a gift.

The Santa Express Train runs through December 30 (though not on Christmas Day) and ticket prices start at $40 and vary by date and time. The ride takes approximately 90 minutes. For more information visit or call 719-276-4000.





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