PHOTO: The Cape Cod Central explores even the Cape’s cranberry bogs. (Courtesy of Cape Cod Central Railroad)
The new 2014/15 brochure from the Premier Rail Collection (PRC) is so rooted in American history and geography you might call it a Smithsonian on wheels. Owned and operated by Iowa Pacific Holdings, the PRC includes such historic passenger railways as the Mount Hood Railroad, the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, the Texas State Railroad, Pullman Rail Journeys, the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, the Cape Cod Central Railroad and the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway.
Iowa Pacific has elevated its brand considerably in recent years with its Pullman Rail Journeys division, but it also operates these more regional railroads, many of which are ideal for the upcoming holiday season. The PRC has gathered these trains and today offers a variety of specially-themed and holiday rail events, from The Polar Express train in Saratoga Springs to a classic journey from Chicago to New Orleans on board a restored Pullman car with Pullman Rail Journeys.
The Mount Hood Railroad travels through the valleys of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge in the shadow of Mount Hood. Along the way the train passes orchards, forests, vineyards and farms. The railroad’s Parkdale Excursion is the most popular activity but there are also such highlights as a Murder Mystery Dinner Train, Wild West Train Robbery Train, Tribute Artist Dinner Train, Polar Express Train and The Dinosaur Train based off the hit PBS Kids Television series by Jim Henson.
The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad plies the Southern Rockies aboard historic railcars, including two authentic City of New Orleans club cars, pulled by a mid-century diesel engine. Guests can choose from a number of excursions or a one-of-a-kind concert at the top of LaVeta-Pass at 9,400 feet, as part of its Mountain Rails Live Summer Concert Series. New for the 2014 season was the railroad’s Americana Music Festival, featuring more than 20 western folk artists.
The Texas State Railroad explores East Texas and offers a full lineup of special events all year long as well as regularly scheduled excursion trains. Departing daily is the 4 ½ hour roundtrip Piney Woods Steam Train Excursion in addition to Engine Cab Rides and a number of specialty trains including the Moonlight Dinner Train, Pumpkin Patch Express, Fall Foliage Brunch Train, Teddy Bear Train Ride and Polar Express Train.
Pullman Rail Journeys uses regularly scheduled Amtrak trains to pull its classically restored Art Deco-era Pullman carriages between Chicago and New Orleans on the Illinois Central line. This fall the company will operate “three sneak peak fall 2014 trips from Chicago to New York City.”
The Saratoga & North Creek Railway journeys the Adirondacks along 52 miles of the Hudson River. From Saratoga Dinner Trains and Snow Trains to the Polar Express, the railroad keeps the train busy with specialty theme programs.
The Cape Cod Central Railroad explores the Cape’s woodlands, sand dunes, cranberry bogs and salt marshes, featuring dinner trains, lunch and brunch trains or one of the many special events available throughout the year such as The Train to Christmas Town.
The Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway features The Train to Christmas Town that is named for the Peggy Ellis book that details a journey to “Christmas Town.” During the journey, the book is read out loud by such characters as Janice and Bumble Bee the Polar Bear. A cheerful Conductor punches each rider’s ticket while elves travel through cars serving hot chocolate and cookies.
Key Holidays creates California-based programs in destinations along Amtrak’s routes. Combining hotels, attractions and Amtrak tickets among other products the company makes such places as San Francisco, Sacramento, Napa, Lake Tahoe, Virginia City, Reno and others railroad friendly tourism destinations. Key Holidays also operates a 15-car, 600-passenger excursion train as the Reno Fun Train and Sierra Scenic Train in the winter, offering themes and special guest riders from a Motown Journey with Martha Reeves to a Valentine’s Day railway renewal of vows.