In May of 2003, my wife and I visited
Williams, Arizona, to see the Grand Canyon and the Grand
Canyon Railway. The home of the railroad is Williams, which is just west of
Flagstaff, and south of Interstate 40 and the old Route 66.
It is hard to miss the Grand Canyon station, as it
appears to be one of the newest structures in town.
It is a white structure and has plenty of parking for
automobiles and campers.
The history of the railway goes all the
way back to 1901 when the very first passenger train arrived
at the Grand Canyonís south rim; it was run by the AT&SF
Railway. For many
years, this was an active passenger route taking millions of
passengers to the Canyon.
Later, as the road improved, the passenger traffic on
the train declined, and, in 1968, it stopped running.
When I visited the Canyon in the mid 1980ís I noted
that trees that were almost six inches in diameter were
growing between the rails.
Not a pretty sight to a railroad fan!
My reaction must have been shared by Max and Thelma
Giegert -- it was with their work and dedication that put the
Grand Canyon Railway back in service in 1989 -- 88 years after
the first time it ran. This
service now continues with daily runs between the South Rim
The equipment varies from steam engines
to early diesel. While
I was there, Engine number 18 was parked outside the Williams
station with a Santa Fe Caboose coupled up to it.
Engine 4960, a Baldwin 2-8-2 Mikado, was not in sight.
This 1923 Baldwin-built locomotive has been restored at
the cost of more than $1.5 million and is the pride of the
fleet. One other steam locomotive (#20 a Baldwin 2-8-0) was seen
across the road, in less than running condition due to missing
engines are well preserved in the dry climate.
The last pieces of motive power are the 1959 Alco
diesels are unique in that they have steam generators used to
provide heating for the passenger cars.
The multiple diesels coupled up, which I caught on film
at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, looked and sounded as
nice as the day they left the Alco factory.
Passenger equipment consists of fully
restored 1923 Harriman-Style pullman cars; first class cars by
Budd Manufacturing made in the 1950ís; a club car with a
mahogany bar; two deluxe first class cars with upper deck
glass enclosed domes; and a luxury parlor car.
As you make your trip on the Grand Canyon
Railway, you will hear about the folklore and history of the
railway. You may even see an old-fashioned train robbery or shoot out
along the way!
Once you arrive at the unique wood
station at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, you will only be
a stones throw away from the canyon rim.
You may see mule deer and a lot of other wild life as
you arrive and walk around.
You can contact the Grand Canyon Railway
for schedules and events.
Or, you can call them at 1-800-the-train.
Their address is Grand Canyon Railway & Resort,
1201 West Route 66, Suite 200, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
The Canyon cannot be fully appreciated
until you take a 9 hour hike to the bottom and stay at the
Phantom Ranch near the Colorado River, (reservations may take
up to 2 years, but cancellations do exist so call ahead), and
then an 11 hour hike back up to the top.
They said it would take 3 hours down and
5 hours to hike back up, HA!
Not with a 56 year old man!
We were two pooped participants when we arrived at the
top again. If you
contemplate a hike to the bottom, be sure to take lots of
water, wear hiking shoes, lots of water, take a hat, lots of
water, hiking or walking poles (like snow ski poles), lots of
water, some food, lots of water, a camera with plenty of film,
and lots of water. The
trip is easier down than up!
Once down, there are only four ways up.
First, you can walk out on your own, (itís more
difficult than it looks).
Second, if you can talk your way onto a white water
raft on the Colorado River, you will arrive at Lake Mead in
3-4 days -- if youíre lucky. Third, you can send for a mule
to pick you up -- at a cost of $800, or if you have a medical
problem, a helicopter will pick you up for about $2500!
Of course you can take a mule ride down and up (with a
reservation at least a year in advance) if you weigh 200
pounds or less, fully dressed. According to my wife, next
time, we'll go by mule!