Amtrak to reduce daily service to Glenwood this fall, potentially pick it back up next summer

Ike Fredregill
Post Independent
Westbound California Zephyr passengers arrive at their destination at the Glenwood Springs Amtrak station on Monday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Amtrak’s California Zephyr daily service to Glenwood Springs will be reduced to three times a week starting Oct. 1, the company announced.

Because of COVID-19’s long-term impact on ridership, Amtrak is adjusting its northeast corridor and state-supported services as well as reducing its long-distance train services, a news release said. 

“Our goal is to restore daily service on these routes (including the California Zephyr) as demand warrants, potentially by the summer of 2021,” the news release said. 

Running from Chicago to San Francisco, the California Zephyr line brings thousands of visitors to Glenwood Springs each year and is the primary means of transport for the city’s thriving Amish tourism sector, said Ken Murphy, the Glenwood Adventure Company president.

“Train tourism has always been big for Glenwood,” Murphy said, explaining he helped market the area to groups who abstain from modern travel methods. “We have a lot of Amish visitors that come to us by train from Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania.”

After building friendships with some of the Adventure Company’s Amish visitors, Murphy said he started visiting their communities and events where word spread about Glenwood Spring’s numerous attractions.

“It’s not a traditional tourist market, but family is everything for the Amish — they travel together,” he explained. “And, Glenwood Springs has something for everyone. Plus, we have a very respectful community that they enjoy visiting.”

Train traffic accounts for about 95 percent of the Adventure Company’s Amish customers, Murphy said. 

“Losing train days will certainly hurt, but it will be less so if they only do it in the off season,” he added. “If they decide not to bring back daily service by next summer, we might take a serious hit.” 

The California Zephyr is popular with locals and visitors alike. 

“The train is sold out a lot of the time, especially the stretch from Denver to Glenwood Springs,” Murphy said. “It’s an incredible journey, and train visitors tend to stay for longer, which is great for the whole community.” 

Glenwood Springs Tourism Director Lisa Langer said about 1 million people visit Glenwood Springs throughout the year, many of whom come by train. 

“Our Amish visitors make up quite a significant number of our visitors in the summer and early fall,” Langer said. “And, we promote that train line heavily, especially to our international guests.”

Foreign film crews, travel writers and tourists from around the globe have praised the train ride between Glenwood Springs and Denver, Langer explained.

“The California Zephyr route is really important to our tourist base,” she said. “It could really hurt us if they do not reinstate daily service next summer.”

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