Rail Journeys

The Western States Of The USA – Rail And National Park Adventure

15 Days | Dates available soon
Location: USA

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 autumn 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 eastward from California to Colorado using high end mini-buses (max 12 people per vehicle) which allows us more flexibility over a bus. With the wide variety of trains and scenic interest this is a great tour for the railfans to bring their wives (or partners).

Tour Includes

  • 20 meals
  • 21 train rides
  • 6 Western States
  • 14 hotel nights
  • 8 railway museums
  • 3 railway workshops
  • 9 national and state parks

This tour is run in partnership with our friends at Trains and Travel International in California. Normally about 50% of participants and from the US and 50% from PTG in the UK.

Maximum group size is 24.

Tour Manager: Chris Skow

From: London Heathrow plus other UK airport (indirect).

Tour Highlights

  • San Francisco and Denver
  • 21 train rides (many by steam)
  • Six states
  • Nine National Parks
  • Eight railway museums
  • Rio Grande
  • Valley of the Gods and Goosenecks State Park
  • Monument Valley
  • Durango to Silverton Railroad
  • Cumbres & Toltec Railroad
  • Royal Gorge Scenic Railroad

Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Various flight options from the UK to San Francisco. We will be met by our local tour managers and transferred to the hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf. Evening Welcome Dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. After dinner we take a ride on the famous San Francisco Muni Cable Cars to Market & Powell Streets downtown. Here we transfer to a Muni Street Car on Market Street and head uptown to the end of the line at the famous Haight-Ashbury District. From here we transfer underground and catch one of the Trams that will take us all the way to the foot of Market Street at the Ferry Building. From this point we go back up to street level and catch one of the Street Cars for the final journey back to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Outward Flight Options

From Heathrow: Direct flights with British Airways (11:10 & 14:05), United Airline (12:20 & 14:10), Virgin (12:35 & 17:30)

Day 2

After breakfast we again catch a ride on one the famous San Francisco Cable Cars, this time on a different route than what we rode last night. When the Cable Car passes the car barn we will pause and visit the San Francisco Muni Cable Car Museum.Here at the historic Cable Car Barn & Powerhouse we can view the actual cable winding machinery from an elevated gallery, as well as the path of the cable entering the building and leaving underneath the street. On display are various mechanical devices, such as grips, track, trucks, cable, brake mechanisms and some of the first cable cars.

After our barn visit we reboard one of the cable cars and continue on to the crossing of the California Street Line. Here we will transfer to that line and continue on to Market Street. We then transfer underground and catch a Bart train for the journey under the San Francisco Bay and on to the end of the Fremont Line. Next we visit and take a ride on the Niles Canyon Railroad. After our ride through Niles Canyon we again transfer to Bart and catch a train to Richmond which is the only location where Bart and Amtrak has a direct connection with each other. At Richmond we then catch one of the Amtrak Capitol trains for the ride to Sacramento. After hotel check-in those that would like we can take a ride on the Sacramento Regional Transit Light Rail System.

Day 3

Morning visit to the famous California State Railroad Museum. We then head east up into the High Sierra and make a stop at historic Nevada City and visit the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. We will take a ride on our charter narrow gauge railcar through the woods. Departing Nevada City we will travel to Oroville and enter the rugged Feather River Canyon. For the rest of the day we will be photographing the Union Pacific and BNSF trains in the canyon. Special attention will be spent at the famous Keddie Wye Bridge and the Williams Loop before arriving in Portola and motel check-in. After getting cleaned up a visit will be made at Chris Skow’s large outdoor G Scale model railroad and historic railroad artifact museum.

Day 4

Morning visit to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola. We then travel to Truckee and spend the afternoon on Donner Pass trackside on the Union Pacific. We end the day by visiting the Nevada State Railroad Museum at Carson City before hotel check-in.

Day 5

Morning visit to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad workshops at Virginia City. You will then have some time to explore colourful Virginia City before we start the long drive across Nevada on what is called the Loneliest Road in America.

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.

As we head east across Nevada our first stop is at Austin which was 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. Next we visit Eureka which 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 to 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. Early evening arrival in Ely, Nevada and hotel check-in.

Day 6

Morning visit to the Nevada Northern Railroad yards and workshops in East Ely. We have arranged to have one of their steam locomotives fired-up and operating in the yards for photos. Early afternoon we leave Ely and continue eastbound making a stop at the Great Basin National Park with a guided tour underground into the Lehman Caves. 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 this area of Nevada. After our national park visit we enter Utah and arrive at Bryce National Park early evening and hotel check-in.

Day 7

Morning visit to Bryce National Park. Enjoy the many Hoodoos (odd shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion). Mid-day we depart Bryce and continue eastbound to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and final check-in to our hotel in Torrey, Utah.

Day 8

Morning visit to 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 Water pocket Fold, a geologic wrinkle on the earth extending almost 100 miles. We then continue our trek eastbound stopping in Green River, Utah for lunch and then following the former Rio Grande Railroad mainline (Now Union Pacific) looking for some train action to photographic. Mid afternoon we visit Arches National Park. You will discover landscape of contrasting colors, 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.

Day 9

This morning we will return to Canyonlands National Park and explore a different area. We then head south towards the Utah/Arizona border. Still in Utah we stop to explore the remote Valley of the Gods and Goosenecks State Park near the town of Mexican Hat. Goosenecks SP is on the edge of a deep canyon above the San Juan River with 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. We end our day in the Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Park which is within the Navajo Nation of which part in Arizona and Utah and controlled by Navajo laws and customs. This is a nation within the boundary’s 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 colors of the valley. All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly wondrous experience. We plan to arrive here a couple of hours prior to sunset 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 10

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.

Next, we visit Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. 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 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

After spending several hours at Mesa Verde we travel to Dolores, and visit the Galloping Goose Historical Society of Dolores Museum. Galloping Goose No. 5 is the centre piece of this museum including exhibits that showcase the history of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad. We have arranged to have No. 5 in operation for our visit. We end the day in Durango. After hotel check-in for those that are interested, we will go a few miles north of town and photographic The Silverton trains.

Day 11

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. After returning to Durango we travel east to Cumbres, New Mexico and hotel check-in. For those interested we will take you down to the Cumbres & Toltec workshops for some night photography.

Day 12

After breakfast, visit to the railroad yards and workshops to watch the crew prepare the steam locomotive for a 10:00AM departure on the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad. This morning you will have a choice to either ride the steam train up the steep grades 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 travel to Canon City and hotel check-in.

Day 13

We catch the morning train on 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.

We then travel to Manitou Springs and catch the 2:00pm train on the Boardmore, Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The 9 miles up to the summit of Pikes Peak is spectacular. Enter Pike National Forest, travel along Ruxton Creek, by Diamond Rock, within the steep, rocky walls of Englemann Canyon, past stacked boulder formations, a striking waterfall, and through Deer Park. Move up Son of a Gun Hill, through the Icebox, a cool shaded canyon, past the remains of Halfway House Hotel, eventually moving above timberline, where the views get more expansive. At the summit, which is 14,115 feet you will have views of both the Collegiate and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges as well as the mining town of Cripple Creek and on a clear day you may even see the skyscrapers of Denver.

Back down at Manitou we travel the short distance to Colorado Springs and view the spectacular Garden of the Gods rock formations. We then head for Denver and hotel check-in.

Day 14

Morning visit to the Colorado Railroad Museum in nearby Golden. Afternoon ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. After our train ride we will host our Farewell Dinner in colourful Georgetown before returning back to Denver to our hotel.

Day 15

After breakfast we head for the airport but first make a stop at the Forney Transportation Museum. The Forney Museum of Transportation is a one-of-a-kind collection of over 600 artifacts relating to historical transportation. It began 60 years ago with a single1921 Kissel, but soon expanded to include vehicles of all kinds. Today it includes not just vehicles, but also buggies, motorcycles, steam locomotives, aircraft, carriages, rail equipment, fire apparatus, public transportation , sleighs, bicycles, toys & models, vintage apparel and much, much more! One of the highlights include: Union Pacific ‘Big Boy’ Steam Locomotive #4005. End of the tour upon arrival at the Denver International Airport.

Return Flight Options

To Heathrow: Direct with British Airways (19:35), United Airlines (17:45 & 20:20)

Indirect flights to other UK airports.

Prices & Options

Holiday prices per person

  • Full 12-day tour from San Francisco to Denver: £4,950
  • Return economy flight options from London Heathow: Allow £600-750
  • Return economy flight options from Manchester (via LHR): Allow £700-850


  • Single use room supplement for full tour: £765
  • Flight upgrade to Premium Economy: Allow £500-£700
  • Flight upgrade to Business: POA


  • £1,200 plus flight costs

Cheaper flight prices are available if you don’t mind flying indirect.