On The Job With The Winter Park Express Conductor

Winter Park Express conductor Brad Swartzwelter is steering the future of train travel.

Brad Swartzwelter
Photo by Jake Holschuh.

While most house hunters shy away from train tracks, Brad Swartzwelter is an exception. Alongside his wife, Barbara, he’s chosen a gem in Golden’s Blue Mountain neighborhood, where the main attraction is a front-row seat to watch trains on the iconic California Zephyr route as they begin their climb into the Rockies—a vantage point he describes as “the single best spot in the U.S. for a railfan.” When not relishing these views, Brad dons the conductor’s hat on the very trains that captivate him at home. In this role, he becomes the charismatic guide on both the California Zephyr and its seasonal companion, the Winter Park Express. He weaves tales, spots wildlife, and offers insights from his book Faster Than Jets, a visionary take on transportation. Here, he shares more of his perspective from the right side of the tracks.

“The first train ride I can remember was on the California Zephyr during the winter of 1966. From the moment I saw those dome glass cars and felt the train start rolling, I was smitten. It sparked an enduring love for trains that has stayed with me my entire life.”

“What exactly drew me to trains? Maybe their size; maybe their power. Or the fact that everything else has to stop when one is coming through.”

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“I started my railroad journey interning for Ansco’s Ski Train while earning my degree in tourism and hospitality. It was the perfect intersection of my education and passion.”

“After that Ski Train stopped running in 2009, I put together a comprehensive $3.5 million proposal for the Winter Park Express. This included critical infrastructure upgrades and a heated platform in Winter Park. Remarkably, the project faced hardly any opposition—the traffic woes of I-70 are well known.”

“While on the train, it is my job to make sure everyone feels safe and welcome. It’s about creating an experience where passengers can relax and enjoy—something impossible on I-70. They can sleep, watch TV, meet new people, visit the bar, enjoy a game of cards, or just walk around freely.”

“I’d sum up the train’s vibe as a relaxed, moving party.”

“I love skiing. I was even at Mary Jane’s opening day in 1975. They pulled the tape, and we all bombed the Drunken Frenchman.”

“My book explores the futuristic concept of the hyperloop: a revolutionary transportation system reducing friction to the bare minimum. Imagine a train speeding through a vacuum tube, cutting the Denver to Chicago journey to less than 30 minutes.”

“I wrote this visionary book back in 2003. Elon Musk echoed a similar concept a decade later, bringing the idea to the forefront in ways I couldn’t achieve. His company is making the strides we need in order to make this a reality.”

“I’m really excited about the future of travel. The required capital and precision are substantial, but I’m convinced we’ll get there. By the end of this century, I believe we’ll complete the project and see these dreams become reality. We’ll get there.”