25 railroad places you need to visit in the West

Trains editors list their top 25 railroad locations in the American West to watch, ride, or celebrate railroads, railways, and trains
Cajon Pass, California
Main lines of both BNSF Railway and Union Pacific squirm through southern California’s Cajon Pass, a primary route into the Los Angeles basin.
TRAINS: Drew Halverson
A version of this article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Trains.

1 GOAT LICK TRESTLE (Google image search) Fast-paced action of BNSF’s northern transcon and the beauty of Glacier National Park, plus live GN goats.

2 CAJON PASS Busy mainline mountain crossing for both BNSF and Union Pacific leaving LA.

3 TEHACHAPI Mind-boggling over-and-under loop in Southern California sees more than 40 trains a day. Approximate length: .7 mile.

4 DONNER PASS (YouTube video) The Central Pacific’s daunting challenge to cross the Sierras lives on here.

5 MOFFAT TUNNEL The 6.2-mile solution to move trains west of Denver didn’t get built until 1928.

6 GAVIOTA TRESTLE (Google image search) 80-foot-tall, 811-foot-long landmark on Southern Pacific’s Coast Line.

7 RATON PASS Steepest mainline grade on Amtrak (3.5 percent) is sadly devoid of freights but has plenty of semaphores, for now.

8 ELY, NEV. Home of the preserved Nevada Northern copper railroad — original shops, locomotives, route — is a step back in time.

9 BOZEMAN PASS Echos of the Northern Pacific abound, as do Montana Rail Link helpers. Lewis and Clark came through here.

10 COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE Action in unparalleled movie-like scenery features BNSF on the north bank and UP to the south.
Raton Pass, New Mexico
Descendent of Santa Fe royalty, Amtrak’s Southwest Chief attacks Raton Pass near the New Mexico border.
TRAINS: Tom Danneman
11 PROMONTORY SUMMIT Lonely Utah desert spot where work on the first transcontinental railroad was declared “done!”

12 SHERMAN HILL UP’s three-track “low” crossing of the Rockies is an amazing show in Wyoming.

13 ECHO CANYON (Google search images) Amazing rock formations form a backdrop for the legendary Wasatch grade. Best viewed from an Interstate 80 rest stop.

14 BILL, WYO. Heavy duty BNSF and UP action in the Powder River Basin coal field. Will coal’s uncertain fortunes render it irrelevant in 20 years?

15 ALONG ROUTE 66, ARIZ. BNSF’s former Santa Fe main line is busy and beautiful in the northern Arizona mountains and deserts.

16 ANCHORAGE, ALASKA Alaska Railroad headquarters town is the gateway to wilderness railroading adventure.

17 CALIFORNIA STATE RAILROAD MUSEUM North America’s best railroad museum is found in Old Sacramento, Calif. Excellent juxtapositioning of tiny 4-2-4T
C.P. Huntington with giant SP cab forward 4-8-8-2 No. 4295.

18 SKAGWAY, ALASKA Gravity defying White Pass & Yukon is tops in scenery and history with narrow gauge diesels and coaches.

19 GIANT’S LADDER Unbelievable attempt at running a railroad across the Rockies. Roadbed remains are all that is left.

10,000-foot crossing is a testament to the audacity of General Palmer’s Rio Grande narrow gauge, now the amazingly authentic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, a step back into railroading of the 1920s.
Sherman Hill, Wyoming
Eastbound auto racks snake down Union Pacific’s Sherman Hill in Wyoming, where traces of the original Transcontinental Railroad remain.
TRAINS: David Lassen
21 DURANGO, COLO. Busiest working roundhouse left in America; Durango & Silverton Mikados gather nightly in summer.

22 CASCADE TUNNEL 7.8-mile tunnel in Washington State is the longest in the U.S.

23 PORTLAND UNION STATION The essence of a classic major station resides in the Rose City of the Pacific Northwest.

24 DUNSMUIR, CALIF. Southern Pacific character lives on in mountainous Northern California.

25 LOS ANGELES UNION STATION Where named trains and Hollywood stars once gathered, commuters and light rail (and some long-distance trains) converge today.
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The history of the Transcontinental Railroad.


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