May 3, 2016 – The promise from Verde Canyon Railroad 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Previews of coming canyon color attractions – breathtaking!
Glimpses of the Verde River and flashes of brilliant red rock were always welcome.
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.
The train itself was a great sight to see making its way to the canyon.
Bloody Mary al fresco – can’t beat it!
Getting deeper into the heart of the canyon you can almost reach out and touch the walls.
Coming into the tunnel is a pretty close fit, too.
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.
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.
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!
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)!
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.
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.
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!
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.
The next year I was back in Sedona and I went on one of their special events – the Saturday Night Starlight Ride – on a full moon yet! Later in the year, I wanted to see the Fall Colors Tour and talk about popping yellow trees! Check out those special events rides here.
Any train rides you particularly recommend? Please let me know in comments below.