Verde Canyon Railroad

Verde Canyon - logo

300 N. Broadway
Clarkdale, AZ 86324
800-293-7245

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Verde Canyon - engine

May 3, 2016 – The promise was a 20 mile ride and thousands of years back in time.  Traveling at a leisurely pace of about 12 miles per hour, it’s about a four hour trip to/from Clarkdale to Perkinsville ghost ranch through portions of wilderness country not accessible except by this rail. Just the thought of seeing more of the red rock formations I’d become fascinated with in this area was enough to convince me.

Verde Canyon - open car

I was glad to see there were several of these open air cars with seating for the best views and for getting photos.  These viewing platforms were constructed from flat cars that were formerly used for hauling construction materials.  Great idea because when there’s so much to see all around, I want as little between me and the scenery as possible.

Verde Canyon - 1st class

But I started off inside in the comfy first class car as our way-cool attendant Kelly began with some basic info about the ride, then really started us off right by offering champagne or cider.  Just a few minutes after leaving the station, the bar and buffet opens with wings, cheese and relish trays, little sandwiches, nuts and desert.  I really appreciated not only the invitation to write about this trip, but the upgrade to first class was cool with me!

Verde Canyon - Don pointing

But pretty quickly the outdoors called me where another attendant, Don, said he was the official “pointer and hollerer” to make sure we didn’t miss important sights along the way. He was really great and his enthusiasm for the beauty and history of this area was contagious and added to the enjoyment of the trip.

Verde Canyon - Ruins

Like these ancient Sinagua Indian ruins that were once multi-story structures made from stone, mud and timbers.  Despite the simplicity of what’s left for us to see now, some of these dwellings had multiple rooms capable of housing hundreds of people.  The reason for building so high up was to avoid the common flash floods and take advantage of breezes on the higher bluffs.

Verde Canyon - cave

A cave condo?  These natives are long gone, but the remains of what they built still cling to the cliffs and left me wondering what their lives were really like before the idea of railroads were even conceived.

Verde Canyon - open range

Previews of coming canyon color attractions – breathtaking!

Verde Canyon - river

Glimpses of the Verde River and flashes of brilliant red rock were always welcome.

Verde Canyon - blooms

So were the flashes of red flowers featuring the desert in bloom.  It always amazes me how such delicate looking things can survive in this inhospitable climate.

Verde Canyon - train view

The train itself was a great sight to see making its way to the canyon.

Verde Canyon - bloody mary

Bloody Mary al fresco – can’t beat it!

Verde Canyon - walls

Getting deeper into the heart of the canyon you can almost reach out and touch the walls.

Verde Canyon tunnel

Coming into the tunnel is a pretty close fit, too.

Verde Canyon - Perkinsville station

Arrival in Perkinsville, named for a rancher who established a cattle ranch here in 1900.  The station here was used to service a copper smelter in Clarkdale and a copper mine in Jerome.

Verde Canyon - Perkinsville ruins

In its hey-day, the area supported 10-12 families, but the copper biz fizzled in the 1950s and it soon became a ghost town and was used in the 1960s for scenes in How the West Was Won.  It’s here where the engine switches tracks and travels to the caboose end to lead us back the way we came.

Verde Canyon - shapes collage

Some interesting shapes made by the rocks that Don pointed out along the way.  Do you see the Guardian Angel, the Budweiser Frogs and Turtle Rock?  If not, have another Bloody Mary!

Verde Canyon - Me & Heather

So what in the world are we doing?  Well, they play cool train related music during the ride like my favorite City of New Orleans, Last Train to Clarksville, etc.

So this is our spontaneous rendition of playing Pips to Gladys Knight’s Midnight Train to Georgia.  You know, making like the big train wheels turning… 

That’s me and new friend, Heather, who was visiting here from Chicago with her friend, Lucia, who took the picture.  They were a hoot and a holler (southern for a lot of fun)!

Verde Canyon - Pullman car

Here’s an example of a Pullman standard passenger car where the seating may not be as spacious and comfy, but the views are just as spectacular.

Verde Canyon - Caboose collage

But if you really want to treat yourself to the best of the best, you’ll opt for the caboose experience with your closest friends.  This car, that comes with its own private attendant, will accommodate a maximum of six people.  While it was not originally intended for passengers, the caboose was renovated to luxury class in 2005.  It’s a rare bird since there are less than 100 of these type cars still in existence and most of them not in active service.

Verde Canyon - return trip

Are we coming or going?  Here’s the caboose as the second car on the way back after the engine changed positions.  Even though it’s the same route, the shadows change the perspective and look of the trip.  No way you could get bored looking at this incredible beauty all around you!

Verde Canyon - Me

So if it sounds like I had a good time, that’s because I really did!  I think I’m going to start making a habit of looking up neat train rides, because I have loved every single time I’ve been on one, but the incredible scenery on this trip makes it worth putting this one on your list for sure.

Any train rides you particularly recommend?  Please let me know in comments below.

  • I’m going to add other train ride recommendations I get by email or Facebook comments here so I can have everything together in one place. I like this new train riding goal!

    There’s a beautiful train ride at Mount Rushmore. Besides beautiful scenery, they give you time to eat and shop in this little city. It’s a real Steam Engine that pulls the cars and make sure you eat at this very old German restaurant along the way! (Vicky)

  • Several friends recommended the Durango to Silverton, CO trip: Fall on the Durango/Silverton train is magnificent. Any time is good, but fall is my favorite (Beth). Rocky Mountaineer train ride through the Canadian Rockies (Joni). There’s a day train ride near Sault St. Marie, Michigan on Canada side (near the Soo Locks) that goes north into Canada. Fall best cuz of colors (Kat). The Sierra Railroad in Jamestown, CA. (Remember Petticoat Junction?) (Diana).

  • My first train ride through the White Mountains of New Hampshire where I gushed, “5 hour trip through heaven – winding up into the mountains on roads not available by car. The train chugged up into mountains that were technicolored with the changing trees.” Wish I would have taken more pictures, but I didn’t even have a digital camera in 2001! http://www.maliasrv.com/Pages/MAINE/LeafPeeping2.htm

  • During my 2003 trip around Alaska, this was one of my favorite memories: White Pass Yukon Route Railroad from Skagway: “billed truthfully as the world’s most scenic railroad. I took that 3-1/2 hour ride hugging the cliffs gazing at the spreading and soaring mountains and marveled at what it took to carve that route out of the long-frozen boulders.” http://www.maliasrv.com/Pages/CANADA/Skagway2.htm

  • More leaf peeping in Oregon in 2002 on the Mt. Hood Railroad: “The train chugged through the largest pear orchards in Oregon and the leaves were all in varying stages of changing colors, so that combined with the fruit heavy on the limbs was especially beautiful.” http://www.maliasrv.com/Pages/OREGON/MountHoodRailroad.htm

  • Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad that runs from Antonito, CO to Chama, NM. Or a second train runs the other way if you prefer. The longest (62 miles) and highest (10,015ft) narrow gauge railroad in the USA. Built in 1880. They even provide a full home cooked meal at the mid point at Osier, CO at 9,637ft where the two trains meet up to pass and feed the passengers. This should be on your bucket list for sure. Way more impressive than the Durango-Silverton train. Check out the web site http://cumbrestoltec.com/ See my blog post our trip at http://www.fulltime.hitchitch.com/july2015-1.html (Ron)

  • Jan Waggoner

    I am glad to see many of the same photos as we took last October. The rock formations looked very familiar! I second the Cumbres and Toltec! It was magnificent! I also really liked the Durango-Silverton and highly recommend it as well, but if I only could take one in my lifetime of those two, it would be the Cumbres and Toltec. However, I am so glad I have done both! We agree also with the White Pass and Yukon – we have been on it twice and it’s awesome. The train from Fairbanks to Denali was really cool, though not an old train like the others above. I love cog railroads too, so I would add recommendations for the Pikes Peak ride and the ride up Mt Washington in NH. I will have to think about others I have enjoyed. We do love the historic trains the most.

    • Thanks, my friend – I appreciate the tips about other train rides you’ve done. I love these excursions and want to do as many as I can! I wonder if you’re talking about the same train I did in New Hampshire. It was called the Crawford Notch Railroad and I think it was around the White Mountains. I actually think that was the first one I did shortly after beginning RVing in 2001. It was awesome!

      • Jan Waggoner

        not the same; the one I went on was a cog RR ride up windy Mt Washington. It was the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway, built in 1868. It was similar in the type of RR as the cog RR up Pikes Peak but older. We did lots of White Mt rides on our Harley but have not taken the Crawford Notch RR trip.

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