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Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Offers Scenery, Music

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Jim Garling sings on the train (credit: CBS)

Jim Garling sings on the train (credit: CBS)

LA VETA, Colo. (CBS4) – Some say the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is the most unique railroad anywhere in the state of Colorado.

It leaves on a daily bases from two locations — from La Veta in the Cuchara Valley and from Alamosa in the San Luis Valley.

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from June through September, riders who board from both locations can experience a mountain music venue all to themselves in front of a stage that’s reached only by train.

A CBS4 crew went along recently on a ride that departed from La Veta and at the top of La Veta Pass got to experience the full glory of the Mountain Rails Live Summer Music Festival. The footage was featured on the travel show Colorado Getaways and can be seen below.

One the day CBS4 was there the main attraction at the top of the pass was long-time folk singer John McCutcheon. He came to the Rocky Mountains from the Appalachians, the world’s oldest mountains.

“I remember what my mother said the first time she ever saw these mountains,” McCutcheon said. “She said, ‘They’re beautiful. God just ain’t done with them yet.’

“There’s no place like this. Getting up here to what has got to be the most fabulous setting for any concert series — completely run by solar and wind power up here — it’s like a family reunion as much as anything else because you get to know the people coming up on the train, and then you go back down with them.”

Music also provided the mood for the ride out of the Cuchara valley and into the remote country of La Veta Pass.

“I’ve really had a great time coming up here today singing some old cowboy songs and watching the great scenery as we come up the tracks,” said Jim Garling, a cowboy singer who entertains in the club car of the railroad.

colorado getaways1 Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Offers Scenery, Music

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad (credit: CBS)

Matt Abbey, the general manager of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, called the ride “extremely rugged hard-core mountain railroading.”

“It’s 17 miles of 3 percent grade and steeper,” Abbey said. “We have sharp turns, we have tunnels of varying lengths, we have amazing vistas.”

The route the train runs through is so remote that it seems to be just a nuisance to the wild inhabitants of La Veta Pass. Engineer Charlie Shawcroft says it’s quite common to see bears on the pass.

“We usually see them every day. In fact, there was one time that I had to stop because he was sitting down in the middle of the tracks,” Shawcroft said.

Visitor Joy Lane told CBS4 the train ride is “just a little taste of heaven.”

“I think when you go to the mountains in Colorado, it’s just something you don’t have everywhere and you get to see the beauty that God has produced, and it’s just a breath of fresh air,” she said.

Colorado’s other tourist trains, like the Durango & Silverton and the Cumbres & Toltec, have made memories for generations of Coloradans. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad only began regular day-time trips over La Veta Pass in 2006.

“We’re creating a new generation of parents and grandparents and kids that have an affinity for this particular route,” Abbey said.

About La Veta And The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad

Colorado’s Cuchara Valley is dominated by the Spanish Peaks. Its beautiful country is explored by driving the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway. The town of La Veta, a bustling railroad town, lies in the heart of this tucked-away corner of the state. Learn more about the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad by visiting riograndescenicrailroad.com or calling (877) 726-RAIL (7245). The website features a list of performers, prices and schedules for the Mountain Rails Live Summer Concert Series.

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