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

CEO: American Heritage Railways

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

VP/GM: American Heritage Railways

John leads AHR sales initiatives, company growth/diversification, risk management and overall operations,  including oversight of the railroads, branded entertainment, hotels, real estate, retail and future acquisitions for AHR.  John joined the AHR family workforce in 2005 while attending Durango High School as a second shift locomotive laborer. From locomotive labor, he transitioned to retail, warehousing, track/bridge inspection and maintenance, train operations, coach maintenance and eventually into sr. management. John graduated from Fort Lewis College with a focus in the School of Business Administration, Tourism and Hospitality and Political Science. John currently serves as a board member on the FLC School of Business. John also holds certifications as a Firefighter, Emergency Medical Responder, Hazmat Ops and Awareness tech, Wildland/Urban interface Firefighter and Engineer.

Cathy Swarts

CFO: American Heritage Railways

James Harper

President/GM: American Heritage Railways Hotels

Jarrette Ireland

VP/GM Rail Events Inc. & Rail Events Productions

Jarrette leads Rail Events Incorporated and Rail Events Productions, Inc., subsidiaries of American Heritage Railways that focus on production and licensing of themed Events at different railways and museums throughout North America and the United Kingdom. Hiring out with the Durango& Silverton Narrow Gauge railroad in train operations in 2004, Jarrette has a wide level of experience with the company including, operations, sales, marketing, event logistics, business strategy and product and business development. Jarrette officially joined the Rail Events team in 2016 serving in roles as Brand Manager and Director of Business Management prior to assuming the role of General Manager in 2019. Jarrette is a graduate of Arizona State University with Bachelor degrees in Political Science and Public Relations as well as an associate’s degree in Journalism. Jarrette has also worked in sales, customer support, distribution, and product development of Hobby electronics manufacturing at Throttle Up! Corp. (dba SoundTraxx) and served as President of the Hobby Manufacturers Association Model Railroad Manufacturers board for 3 years.

Mike May

VP/Dir of Production: Rail Events Inc. & Rail Events Productions

Mike is responsible for the artistic and creative elements for both new event development and adapting and reinventing events across North America and the UK. He also serves as the Producer for events produced by Rail Events Productions in cities across the US. Before hiring out with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in 2005 Mike worked in theater, his other career passion, after studying theatrical lighting design at Columbia College Chicago. While at the DSNGRR Mike became qualified in multiple positions including engineer, fireman, conductor, brakeman, and dispatcher.  In 2010, Mike hired out with Amtrak as a Locomotive Engineer, working there 4 years before returning in 2014 to AHR and the little corner of southwest Colorado that he loves. With his combination of experience in the entertainment industry and railroading he joined the Rail Events team leading their production department. As Rail Events began to produce their own events Mike took the lead of the newly formed company Rail Events Productions in 2015. Mike also serves on the Board of Directors for KSUT Public Radio and the Rocky Mountain Region of the National Model Railroad Association.

Kim Albritton

VP/GM: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Kim has been in her position as Vice President and General Manager for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, a division of American Heritage Railways, since 2005. From 2000-2004, Kim served as Marketing Manager GSMR.  During her 31 years there she has served the Company in several capacities since its inception in 1989. GSMR is recognized as one of the top 5 scenic railroads in the country and has set ridership records consecutively for the past four years under Kim's leadership. In addition to her duties at GSMR Kim serves as the Vice President of Railroad Realty of North Carolina, LLC where she manages sixteen business lease properties in Bryson City, NC. Kim recently served as the Vice Chair of the Jackson County Travel and Tourism Authority; Secretary / Treasurer for the Railway Association of North Carolina, Treasurer for Smoky Mountain Host and Board Member for Southwestern Community College Foundation.


Jeff Johnson

VP/GM: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
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