Who we Are

"We re all guardians of history. The best way to preserve history is to make its presentation so interesting and exciting that people will pay a fair price for the experience."
-Allen C. Harper, Cheif Executive Officer-Chairman. American Heritage Railways

Our Story

The preservation of history is an endeavor no less important to the future of this nation than the preservation of life itself. History defines and documents the very character of our country. It portrays our greatest social and technological triumphs, as well as reminds us of our failures so that they may not be repeated. Most important, history absolutely points out to us the true source of America’s greatness: the ideas, inventions, courage, ethics, and morality of the men and women living in our atmosphere of freedom.

American Heritage Railways is committed to:
• Excellent Customer Service
• Proven Expertise in Tourist Rail Marketing and Merchandising
• Community Partnerships
• Operational Safety
• Exceptional Track & Equipment

History may be a compilation of words, objects, and processes, but it translates to the human character traits of strength, morality, and the ability to achieve greatness. America’s greatest era still lies ahead for future generations, but the road to that future can only be read by reading the map of our past: our history.

American Heritage Railways (AHR) is a heritage tourism company based on the preservation of railroad history. Its current operations reach nearly 1,500,000 rail passengers annually through three directly owned railroads and through the licensing of special events at over 50 additional railroads.

Historically, railroads own significant land holdings. AHR is no different, and thus has extensive real estate expertise generating substantial revenues from its in-town holdings as well as miles of right-of-way. Access crossings, fiber optics, and development opportunities are regular business for the company. The greatest in scope will be the development of hotels at each of the company owned railroads.

American Heritage Railways is a unique company with a tremendous future grounded on the historic past. Its assets include American railroad treasures, extensive land holdings, and valuable intellectual properties. The long range profit potential of the company is just being realized as people see that our history is the roadmap to our future. American Heritage Railways truly presents our history in a way so interesting and exciting that our guests will - and do - pay a fair price for a great experience.


Allen Harper


Under his leadership, and in collaboration with his wife and co-owner Carol, American Heritage Railways  owns and operates the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango, CO; the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad™ in Bryson City, North Carolina; and Rail Events, Inc., which coordinates licensed special events from major entertainment brands, event promotions, merchandising, and related activities for over 50 railroad and museum operators throughout the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom. Leveraging their combined professional backgrounds in the commercial real estate, retail, restaurant, and travel and hospitality sectors, the Harpers completed the acquisition of Silverton’s historic Grand Imperial Hotel, originally founded in 1882, and subsequently renovated and reopened the well-known property in May of 2016. With their guidance, the Harpers have built American Heritage Railways into the country’s foremost tourist railroad organization.

John Harper


Harper began his railroad career as a teenager at the D&SNGRR by working on the company’s fleet of vintage coal-fired, steam-operated locomotives and coaches, all of which have been updated with modern conveniences to accommodate today’s discerning travelers, and then preparing them for every excursion. Throughout his time at Durango High School, he totally immersed himself in the railroad’s business by conducted apprenticeships, each for a minimum of one year, in every one of the company’s departments. Following his graduation from high school, Harper transitioned into a managerial role with American Heritage Railways-owned Rail Events, Inc., which coordinates licensed special events, event promotions, merchandising, and related activities to railroad and museum operators throughout the United States and Canada.

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