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After being closed during the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of scenic train rides have once again given the "all aboard!"
Some take visitors through rugged mountains and deep canyons. Many operate with historic steam locomotives. Some also have dinner trains.
A few remain closed because of the pandemic, and those that have reopened have precautions in place, including face masks and social-distancing requirements.
Many are accessible by car and are family friendly. Visitors may have their temperature taken and be required to wear face coverings. Here are some of the places you can go to ride the train.
Royal Gorge Route
This scenic route plunges riders deep into the Arkansas River Canyon in Colorado. The route was once part of the Denver, Rio Grande and Western line from Pueblo, Colorado, to Salt Lake City. The railroad, including its crossing of Tennessee Pass, was closed to freight traffic in 1997. The Royal Gorge Route was launched two years later. The trains offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serve locally brewed beer. (Find out more details about its COVID-19 policies here.)
Durango & Silverton
This narrow-gauge steam railroad in Colorado has reopened. Steam and diesel trains will operate out from Rockwood Depot (located 18 miles north of Durango), taking passengers Tuesday through Saturday for an two-hour ride to Cascade Canyon. The rail line, completed in 1882, is 3 feet wide, compared to the standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8½ inches. The narrower width helped the railroad navigate canyons with steep sides where there was little room to build. It operates with steam locomotives built from 1923-25 and maintained to their original condition.
Cumbres & Toltec
This narrow-gauge railroad in Colorado and New Mexico reopened in June with increased safety precautions and limited rides because of the coronavirus. Visitors will be required to wear face masks, which are available for purchase at the depot. Trains operate six days a week out of Antonito, Colorado. Round-trip ticket prices include lunch. The steam-powered railroad was voted North America's best train ride in 2016 by readers of USA TODAY.
Tennessee Valley Railway MuseumThe museum, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has taken a variety of precautions to protect visitors from the coronavirus. Visitors are asked to book their tickets online in advance, wear face masks on the train and respect social-distancing markers. Employees sanitize the trains after each ride, and indoor exhibits remain closed. The 55-minute ride passes through the nearly 1,000-foot-long Missionary Ridge Tunnel, which was built before the Civil War.
Conway Scenic Railroad
Conway Scenic, which operates out of North Conway, New Hampshire, has reopened. Visitors can take a 60- or 90-minute round trip through the Mount Washington Valley or a nearly six-hour round trip to Crawford Notch. The trains offer lunch and dinner service.
Cass Scenic RailroadThe West Virginia railroad is known for its large collection of operating geared steam locomotives that were once used to haul timber through the region's hills and hollows. It reopened for limited train rides starting July 4. The railroad will encourage – but not require – visitors to wear face masks.
Grand Canyon RailwayThis train operates daily from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It departs Williams at 9:30 a.m. local time and returns at 5:45 p.m., giving visitors three hours at the canyon. The train offers six classes of seating: coach, Pullman class, first class, observation dome, luxury dome and luxury parlor. Guests can also book packages that include a stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams.
The recently reopened Strasburg Railroad runs steam and diesel train rides on a 9-mile round trip through Pennsylvania Amish country.Reservations are only available online or by calling 866-725-9666. In addition, all visitors will have their temperature taken, and anyone with a temperature above 100.4 F will be denied entry. All visitors ages 2 and up will be required to wear a face mask. The adjacent Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is planning to reopen to visitors in the coming weeks. The museum has a collection of more than 100 locomotives and freight and passenger cars housed indoors.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
The railroad operates steam and diesel trains five days a week through western North Carolina's Nantahala Gorge. All reservations must be pre-booked online or by phone at 800-872-4681, face masks are required (in compliance with a state order) and first class is not available until Aug. 1. Food service is limited to pre-ordered boxed lunches. The train takes passengers 44 miles into the gorge from Bryson City and back over 4½ hours. Beginning in August, visitors can book a seat in a first-class car where they will be served North Carolina moonshine. In September, visitors will be able to take a 32-mile, four-hour round trip from Bryson City to Dillsboro. Along the way, they will pass the site of a train wreck staged for the 1993 movie "The Fugitive," starring Harrison Ford.
This article first appeared on www.usatoday.com
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