The depot has a gift shop, a cafe, and a small museum. The museum is nice and worth a visit. There are also a lot of informational signs on the grounds which are interesting. If you are looking to eat or grab a drink, I recommend picking up your tickets then heading into Clarkdale instead if you have the time. Most trains board at 12:40 so plan accordingly. If you are like me, you always arrive early, so you'll have the time. The gift shop has a lot of nice stuff if you are looking for a gift or some memorabilia. I passed this time, but might pick up a few things next trip.
Upon boarding, you are directed to your reserved seat. I was at a two person table right on the right side window. My hostess, Jennifer, was very friendly and knowledgeable. Once I got settled in, I had a very good bloody mary and prepared for some sightseeing and relaxation. They set the mood well with a eclectic mix of railroad themed songs like Train Train, Boogie Woogie Choo Choo, Take the A Train, and others like that. They also have a pre-recorded narrator to point out some of the scenic items along the route.
Pulling out of the station, you will see a massive slag pile which is a leftover from the mining operations in the area. It's a big pile of lava like rock that was held back with pipe and sheet steel. Admittedly fascinating and disgusting at the same time, you need to remember that the views get better. After clearing the slag pile, you start to see the river, which you will parallel for most of the trip. There are some pretty good switchbacks in the beginning that give you great opportunities to get a side view pic of the train. After a bit, you'll be in the canyon and see the walls close in and get higher. The narrator and the hostess point out things along the way and you can also just gaze out the window. One of the highlights to me are the two homes that predate the National Forests and have been grandfathered in. There are some caves carved into the canyon walls that show signs of human habitation. There is also a cool curved tunnel where you can't see the exit from the entrance. The thing that I like most though is the river views and the high canyon walls.
When you get to Perkinsville, the train stops and the locomotives go to what was the rear of the train and hook on to take you back the same way you came. I like it as it gives you the opportunity to see something that you missed, or see something you passed from another view. FYI, there is pretty much no internet/cell connectivity on the trip. I consider it a plus. Disconnecting for 4.5 hours just adds to the relaxation. For more info on the Verde Canyon Railroad, go to verdecanyonrr.com.
Taking a curve