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All aboard for mountain scenery: 8 Colorado rails that take riders back in time

Back before cars were commonplace, trains transported people across the Rocky Mountain West.

Today, these historic locomotives are among the favorite tourist attractions in Colorado — a state that has more scenic railroads than most others in the country, according to Royal Gorge Route Railroad owner Mark Greksa.

Why are scenic railroads so popular here? Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad manager Kristen Olsen says the trains give tourists a chance to connect with the past. “Taking a scenic train ride is the best way for people to interact with history directly,” she says.

Colorado’s trains enable railroad enthusiasts — from the experienced European traveler to the child going through a “Thomas the Tank Engine” phase — to relive a moment in American history. And while the Colorado Railroad Museum is a must-see stop for such history buffs, it really doesn’t get any better than a quick trip on one of the state’s scenic railroads.

1. Georgetown Loop Railroad

Completed in 1884, this 3-foot, narrow- gauge railroad is one of the few active railroads in the world that loops over the top of itself without a tunnel or trestles. The 4 1/2-mile route runs 640 feet above the ground from Georgetown to Silver Plume.

Special events include a “Moonlight in the Mountains” dinner train, “Santa’s Polar Adventure” train during the holidays, daily tours of the Lebanon Silver Mine, and the new “Around the World Wine Tour,” which includes tastings and appetizers. Tickets are $16.50-$37.50. Open daily from May to October. 100 Mountain St., Silver Plume. 888-456-6777 or georgetownlooprr.com.

2. Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad