Royal Gorge Route Railroad starts daily tours two months early

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On the heels of its best year, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad in Cańon City is rolling into its 2012 season early to capture more tourists during the week.

The railroad  takes passengers on  four historic railroad cars through the Royal Gorge canyon along the Arkansas River. This year, the train starts its season March 17 with a St. Patrick’s Day spread, including Gaelic tunes and Irish eats.

It’s a little early. Usually, the train only runs weekend rides in April and May. The Royal Gorge Route will run daily at 12:30 p.m. until May 26, when its schedule expands to additional daily departures.

“Last year was our best year ever,” said Steve Kaverman, Royal Gorge Route’s general manager. “We saw there was a demand for weekday departures – this is an experiment for us.”

Last year, more than 100,000 passengers – up 15 percent over 2010 – rode on the train, which is typically a 90-minute ride through the 1,000-foot-deep Royal Gorge. And, the railroad’s Santa Express tours hit record numbers, Kaverman said. The railroad, he said, pumps in an estimated $6.5 million to the region each year in tax revenue.

Kaverman said the added daily routes should help with walk-up business. Last year, the railroad saw a big increase in its walk-up business, which the railroad attributes to a more aggressive marketing campaign.

“We’ve been able to grow this business every, and I don’t see why we wouldn’t this year,” Kaverman said. “All the bleak news about gas might work in our favor; people might be inclined to stay at home for stay-cations. We’ve got lots of potential guests right here in the Front Range.”

To learn more and book tickets to ride Colorado’s Royal Gorge Route, visit royalgorgeroute.com