All Aboard Arkansas Missouri Railroad
ALL ABOARD! Shouts the conductor as eager passengers wait to board the Arkansas and Missouri Excursion train to Van Buren.
As excursion travelers board passenger cars baring names like Silver Feather, Spirit of Arkansas, Explorer, Golden Age, and Biloxi Blues they are reminded of a time when rail service was king. A timeless experience is what the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad is committed to on each of their excursion runs.
Once the show conductor releases the train for departure the ride begins.
Passengers are afforded some of the most breathtaking scenery in Arkansas as they journey to Van Buren. The road passes over winding rivers, lush farmland, narrow mountain passes, and jagged rock formations.
As the train journeys south, it passes over the White River, one of six in the United States that flows north.
Riding the rails southward the excursion train passes through old railroad towns like Fayetteville, West Fork and Winslow. Some are thriving metropolis while others, like Schaberg are only distance memories.
As the old Alco C-420 locomotive (built in 1964) and its load of passenger cars ascends to 1,735 feet above sea level, the highest point on the route, it reaches the sleepy little town of Winslow. From there the grade levels out for several miles as the train passes through the 1,703 foot Winslow Tunnel completed in 1884. A few more miles and the passenger passes over three trestles, the first of which is 125 feet above the forest floor.
The view of the Boston Mountain from the three trestles leaves passengers fighting for window space. The sounds of camera shutters and smart phones clicking fills the air as the train passes over each trestle.
Then the train begins its decent, down a 2.1 percent grade through Chester, Mountainburg, and Rudy to the final destination, Van Buren.
Upon arrival at the Van Buren depot, which was built in 1901, passengers can enjoy a three hour tour of the historic downtown area. After the train cars are cleaned and with a new crew, the excursion boards another group north bound to Winslow and back, about a three hour round trip.
Once back in Van Buren, the train is turned around, passengers boarded, and it is time for the return trip to Springdale.
And as quickly as it began, the journey into the back woods country of Arkansas comes to an end. The conductors each bids their final farewells as the train slowly approaches the Springdale Depot. The show conductor, standing at his post at the base of the vestibule of car 107 delivers his final commentary.
“Watch your step,” the conductor said. “Have a safe journey home. Come and ride with us again soon.”
The Arkansas and Missouri railroad began operations in 1986 from Monett, Missouri to Fort Smith, Arkansas hauling freight, primarily sand and grain. The excursion trains started three years later.
There are three regular excursions per week to Van Buren. Private charters and specials are available throughout the year. Visit www.amrailroad.com
Remember, “The Best Ride is On Us”.