This will be the ERA’s second Denver convention (the first was in the mid 1990s when Denver’s starter light rail system was all of five miles long), and its first in Salt Lake City. Along with our visits to Los Angeles in 2009 and Portland in 2010, our visit to Denver and Salt Lake City will round out the ERA conventions we’ve had in North American cities with the fastest growing light rail systems.
The Denver-Boulder-Aurora metropolitan area is home to 3.2 million people and is nicknamed the “Mile High City”, situated exactly 5,280 feet above sea level with a 140-mile vista of the Rocky Mountains to the west. From the opening of its 5.3-mile starter line in October 1994, Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) light rail system has grown to a 39-mile, five line, 36 station system carrying 69,000 passengers daily, making it the nation’s eighth busiest light rail system.
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) serves the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, home to 1.2 million people. Starting in 1999, UTA’s TRAX light rail system has grown to 35 miles, carrying 56,000 passengers a day, making it the nation’s ninth busiest light rail system. Along with UTA’s 88 miles of commuter rail connecting Provo on the south through Salt Lake City to Ogden to the north, Salt Lake City has seen the fastest growth of rail transit in any American city, from nothing to almost 125 miles in less than 15 years!
Both cities have a great deal to see for both traction enthusiasts and their spouses/significant others. Our convention features day trips to the Fort Collins Municipal Railway, the spectacular Pikes Peak Cog Railway, and a group trip from Denver to Salt Lake City through the Colorado Rockies on Amtrak’s California Zephyr, one of the great train journeys of the world. So mark your calendars for May 25-30, 2013 and plan to join us! Note: this convention begins May 24 in Denver and ends on May 30 in Salt Lake City. To register for the convention, please click on the PDF below to download the itinerary and registration form.
The luxurious Magnolia Hotel is our headquarters in Denver and site of our 2013 Annual Banquet. This 13-story, 246-room hotel began its life in 1911 as the First National Bank building. Re-opened in 1995 as a hotel after three years and $20 million in extensive renovations, the building reflects its original appearance, including terra cotta details and the addition of a replica corner clock. Of particular interest to our membership, the Magnolia is located adjacent to the main downtown light rail loop and is only one block from Denver’s renowned 16th Street pedestrian mall. Members will be able to dine at over 100 restaurants and other entertainment venues or take the free, high frequency MallRide low-floor buses to LoDo, the Lower Downtown historic district with attractions such as Larimer Square shopping and restaurants, Coors Field (baseball) and the Wynkoop Brewing Company. The Colorado State Capitol building, Denver Art Museum, Denver Museum of Contemporary Art and the Platte River Valley area with its Centennial Gardens and Commons Park are all nearby. Spouses/significant others interested in sights other than traction can visit the above local attractions on their own or book tours at their own expense with the Magnolia Hotel’s concierge to sites such as magnificent Rocky Mountain National Park, elegant Estes Park or the exciting college town of Boulder (also reachable on RTD express bus “B”). Contact the Magnolia Hotel’s concierge desk for more information or call 303-607-0808.
The ERA has secured the special rate of $112 per night (not including taxes), single or double occupancy, for check-in from May 24, 2013 through check-out on May 28, 2013 (plus three days prior and post these dates, depending on availability). With this rate, guests will enjoy more amenities than at most other hotels, including:
In addition, king bed suites, including a bedroom, modern kitchen and large living space with separate dining area will be available to the first 20 single ERA members or couples that book (one king bed is in the room, not two beds). Use the special access code when reviewing the hotel reservation page.
The AAA Four Diamond-rated Little America Hotel will be ERA’s home base in Salt Lake City and features 400 square foot garden rooms with French provincial furniture, complimentary in-room internet access, and an indoor-outdoor pool. It is located within one block of UTA TRAX’s Courthouse Station, the junction of all light rail lines. From Courthouse Station our members can ride TRAX cars free in 10 minutes or less to the various attractions within Downtown Salt Lake City including historic Temple Square, home to the Mormon Salt Lake Temple, Tabernacle and other buildings; the Utah State Capitol; the 1910 Rio Grande Depot; the 30-acre outdoor Gateway Mall with streets and plazas reminiscent of European town centers; and the high-end 20-store City Creek Center, anchored by Macy’s and Nordstrom.
The ERA has secured the special rate of $89 per night (not including taxes), single or double occupancy, for check-in from May 28, 2013 through check-out on May 31, 2013 (plus three days prior and post these dates, depending on availability).
Given our experience with past conventions, these rooms will be booked quickly and to capacity once this convention flyer reaches our membership. The cut-off date for reservations is May 6, 2013 (May 7, 2013 in Salt Lake City), OR when our room block has been fully booked, whichever occurs earlier. The Little America Hotel advises that they may accept reservations above and beyond the ERA-contracted room block pending availability.
We will be departing on our first excursion early Saturday morning, so the ERA urges members to plan on arriving no later than Friday evening.
We will leave the Magnolia Hotel at 8:00 am sharp (breakfast will be available at 7 am) on our chartered motor coach for Manitou Springs, just outside Colorado Springs, for a ride on the spectacular Pikes Peak Cog Railway, as close as one can get to a Swiss Alpine experience in North America. We will take a three-hour round trip to the summit of Pikes Peak, 14,100 feet above sea level (that’s almost three miles), the world’s highest cog railway (by comparison, Mt. Washington’s summit is only 6,288 feet above sea level). A 30-minute stop at the summit is included in the round trip as a rest stop; enjoy the magnificent panoramic view at the top, or use the opportunity to buy snacks and souvenirs. Please dress appropriately for the stop at the summit and ensure that you have no health issues that would preclude a journey to 14,000 feet.
After our visit to the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and a lunch stop, we will proceed to the Pikes Peak Historic Street Railway Foundation & Museum in Colorado Springs. This small trolley museum contains model displays and restoration shops and is promoting the return of streetcar operation on the streets of Colorado Springs. Featured rolling stock includes two Denver Tramways Company streetcars, a PCC car, and a Southern Pacific baggage car containing artifacts of the Rock Island Railroad. A Philadelphia PCC car currently operates on a 600-foot test track. There are also outstanding models and a good gift shop. We will return to the Magnolia Hotel before 6 pm, in time either for the Magnolia’s daily beer, wine and soft drink guest reception, or riding on the Denver light rail system outside of the hotel.
Evening activities are on your own. Outstanding dining opportunities abound along the 16th Street Mall, featuring most national chain restaurants as well as great local dining opportunities concentrated in the LoDo historic district near the hotel, reachable on foot or with the free 16th Street MallRide. Sports fans will be close to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. The Temple Buell Theater is also nearby.
We will leave the Magnolia Hotel at 9 am and travel by chartered coach to the Colorado Railway Museum in Golden, Colorado. The museum features narrow gauge and standard equipment, from a steam locomotive once used on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to a 317-ton Burlington Route steam locomotive and also a set of streamlined 1950s diesels from the Rio Grande. We’ll see the famous Galloping Goose self-propelled rail bus that ran on the narrow gauge Rio Grande Southern in southwestern Colorado, and the only preserved standard gauge Rio Grande steam locomotive, No. 687, a 2-8-0 built in 1890 and retired in 1955.
After a lunch stop, we will visit the Fort Collins Municipal Railway, a heritage trolley operation. Fort Collins is renowned as the last city in the U.S. to operate the four-wheel Birney trolley cars, a car built in the thousands from 1917 through 1930 and operated around the world. The regular 6.2-mile Fort Collins operation was discontinued in 1951. A volunteer group of citizens rebuilt the original Mountain Avenue track and restored Car 21 to like-new condition and returned it to operation on the authentic tree-lined route in 1984. The current length of the line of 1.5 miles was reached in 1986.
Our planned return to Denver is for 6 PM to allow time to prepare for the Annual Banquet.
ERA’s Annual Banquet will be held in a private room at the Magnolia Hotel. An hour-long informal reception and cash bar will begin at 7:00 pm, and dinner will follow promptly at 8:00 PM. At the time of printing, our confirmed guest speaker is Kevin Flynn, public information manager of the Denver FasTracks Commuter Rail project, connecting Downtown Denver with the Denver International Airport (DEN). Kevin’s presentation will cover Denver RTD’s FasTracks program, one of the country’s most ambitious rail transit expansion programs. The RTD FasTracks program calls for 122 miles of new rail service, 18 miles of new bus rapid transit and 21,000 new parking spaces. In fact, RTD’s new West Rail Line will open its first leg just about a month before ERA’s arrival. This is a program not to be missed.
We will leave the Magnolia Hotel at 8:45 AM and walk to the nearby RTD light rail stop for a 9:00 AM tour of the system on a light rail train arranged for the ERA. This 4.5-hour tour will cover not only the five routes operating in three existing corridors but also the new West Line from Downtown Denver to the Jefferson County Service Center which will have opened in April 2013. Photo stops will be made where safe for our group and while maintaining our planned schedule. This tour will terminate at approximately 1:30 PM at the RTD’s Union Station, close to the 1914 Union Station, currently under redevelopment as the Denver RTD’s premier transit and development hub. Members can have lunch at nearby restaurants in the LoDo district.
The Union Station area is currently the terminal for two light rail lines, the MallRide, several regional RTD bus lines and Amtrak. Once completed in 2014, Union Station will become the transit hub for all Denver bus routes terminating Downtown (with a new underground bus terminal) as well as additional light rail and commuter rail services. The station and surrounding 19.5 acres are the foundation of an emerging $900 million retail, office and residential complex, developed and managed under RTD’s FasTracks program.
After lunch, we will take the 15-minute walk from Union Station, passing by the South Platte Valley’s redeveloped complex of three contiguous parks: Centennial Park, Confluence Park and Commons Park. The 20-acre parkland was unveiled in 2001. We will take a 25-minute round trip ride on the Denver Tramway Heritage Society’s Platte Valley Trolley, a replica open-air trolley car that operates along the banks of the South Platte River. The South Platte River Valley has been successfully transformed from what was once a weed and trash strewn rail yard. Today’s activities on the Platte Valley Trolley conclude at approximately 4:30 PM. The rest of the day is on your own. Get to bed early as tomorrow is an early and exciting start to one of this convention’s highlights!
Early start! Check out from the Magnolia Hotel. A chartered bus will depart the hotel at 6:30 am and transport you and your luggage to the Amtrak station to catch the California Zephyr to Salt Lake City. The California Zephyr passes through the famous 6.2-mile Moffat Tunnel, Glenwood Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, the Continental Divide, the switchbacks of Soldiers’ Summit and the Utah Desert. This varied and spectacular scenery makes the California Zephyr one of the world’s magnificent train journeys.
The California Zephyr, Amtrak train #5, leaves Denver at 8:05 AM and arrives in Salt Lake City at 11:05 PM. ERA members will be seated in one car or two adjacent hi-level passenger cars. Members are free to sit in the observation car(s), space permitting, and enjoy meals in either the snack car or dining car. A chartered bus will transfer members and luggage from Salt Lake Central Station to the Little America Hotel. Our tour price includes your Amtrak ticket and bus transfers. On-board meals and snacks are at your own expense.
We will leave the Courthouse Station adjacent to the Little America Hotel at 8:20 am sharp for a tour of all UTA/TRAX light rail lines. We will travel on all three TRAX lines on our own train, including the line to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) that will open on April 14, 2013. While a modern system, TRAX lines feature a wide variety of traditional trolley operations from the high speed line to Sandy, Utah, to the line to the University of Utah operating in the middle of the street, to private right-of-way operations between major boulevards. UTA personnel will make photo stops where safe and not interfering with revenue operations. The tour includes a lunch stop (on your own), and return to the Little American Hotel by 4:40 PM.
We will leave the light rail Courthouse stop near the Little America Hotel at 5:30 PM sharp and travel to Salt Lake Central Station. We will enjoy a ride north on UTA’s FrontRunner commuter train to Ogden, Utah. FrontRunner operates one of the highest frequency commuter rail services in North America outside of the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut metropolitan area with half-hour headways for most weekday service. We have reserved space at the Union Grill Ogden, located inside historic Ogden Union Station. The Union Grill features a wide and delicious dinner menu, a PDF of which can be downloaded here. The May 29 tour price includes all train fares. Members will order off of the menu and pay for their own dinners. Prior to our 7 PM dinner, members will have time to stroll through the small Utah State Railroad Museum at Union Station as well as the 1924 Spanish Colonial Revival station, whose grand lobby was restored to original condition in 1977. We will leave the restaurant at 9 PM for our return trip to Salt Lake City.
If you are departing this afternoon, make sure that you have checked out from the Little America Hotel and stored your bags prior to this trip. We will leave the Courthouse Station near the hotel at 8:45 am sharp to travel to Salt Lake Central Station. We will travel on the southern leg of the FrontRunner commuter rail line from Salt Lake City to Provo, Utah, and return. This section just opened in late 2012. After our rail trip, charter buses will take us to the FrontRunner Warm Springs maintenance facility. After the visit, the charter buses will return to the Little America Hotel by 1:30 PM. Members will have enough time to pick up their baggage, and for the buses to drop them off at Salt Lake City International Airport by 3 PM for evening flights.
From Denver International Airport (DIA): Board the convenient Denver RTD SkyRide route “AF” express bus at DIA and take it to Market Street Station in Downtown Denver. From outside Market Street Station, board a free low-floor 16th Street MallRide bus and take it to Stout Street (buses run every five minutes or better). Walk one block east to 17th Street. The hotel is located on 17th Street, between Stout and Champa Streets. Route “AF” buses run every 30 minutes during rush hours and every 60 minutes otherwise. The 25-mile trip to Downtown Denver takes approximately 60 minutes. As of November 16, fares are $11 one way, $5.50 for seniors 65 years and older. Have your exact fare ready; operators do not make change, although fare machines will take $1, $5 and $10 bills. More information on schedules and fares can be found at RTD-Denver.com. This bus option is far cheaper than taking a taxi 25 miles into Downtown Denver.
From Amtrak: During reconstruction of historic Union Station, the relocated Amtrak station is approximately 1.5 miles from the Magnolia Hotel. We recommend taking a taxi from the station to the hotel.
Daily trip itineraries may be changed without prior notice to ensure on-time return at the end of each day. Announcements will be made to update guests on essential information during all ERA events. Providing your phone number (and email address, if any) on your registration form is important in case the Amtrak train block of seats sells out.
If you have questions regarding the itinerary or accommodations, please contact Bob Newhouser, ERA president and convention chairman, by e-mail at email@example.com or call him at 917-482-4235.
The 2013 ERA Convention covers two of the fastest growing urban rail systems, the iconic Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the Colorado Railway Museum, Fort Collins Birney cars and the California Zephyr train. This is a trip not to be missed. Please join us! To register for the convention, please click on the PDF below to download the itinerary and registration form.