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GCL Williams to Grand Canyon Village Page 1

The Grand Canyon Limited

Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon

May 16, 2012

Story and photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNewsNetwork writer

Can you imagine taking a train from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon?  That's a lot of miles and one of the best parts is that the only time I was in an automobile was to get from home to downtown Los Angeles to catch the Grand Canyon Limited.  After 2 extremely long days getting to Williams, now we are getting to the focus of this whole trip.  Now this is the day that we actually get to go to "the" Grand Canyon.  Well, really, we are taking the train to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and most of us will peer into the Canyon.  I've been on the Grand Canyon Railway once before and had a great time something like 15 to 20 years ago.  Last time my train was powered by the ALCO PA locomotives.  Today will be different with not one, but two steam locomotives pulling our train to the Canyon.

The Grand Canyon Railway has a lot to offer.  First, it is an alternate way to get to the Grand Canyon without driving.  It is a 65 mile 2-1/4 hour ride from Williams to Grand Canyon Village.  It has a storied history and almost fell into abandonment only to be Max and Thelma Biegert.  After a period of around 21 years of no service, the railway was reopened in 1990.  The route travels through diverse climate zones at different elevations with a variety of plants and trees.  One can even travel to and from Williams via Amtrak.  Need a place to stay while in Williams?  The Grand Canyon Hotel is conveniently located 100 yards from the depot and 
is a AAA 3 diamond rated property.  The Grand Canyon Railway property in Williams features more than the hotel.  There is an RV park, Depot Cafe, Wild West Show, playground, pet resort, several gift shops, Spenser's Pub and the historic railway depot.  The Grand Canyon Railway's own working steam locomotive No. 4960 pulls their train to the Grand Canyon on select days and 8 mile excursions throughout the year.  Oh, I almost forgot, when riding the regular GCRy train, expect to get robbed.  The Grand Canyon Limited train was spared the robbery but they tried on our way out of Williams to Parker.  The Grand Canyon Hotel has many amenities and is well taken care of.  According to the Grand Canyon Railway brochure, a full length dome car will join the GCR fleet some time in 2012.

One of the simple things I was impressed with at the Grand Canyon Railway depot was the water drinking fountain which had a dispenser to put water into your empty plastic water bottle.   As we pulled out I noticed employees with signs held up saying "Thanks For Recycling Refill Your Water Bottles".  I've never seen anything like this before.  We had gone through hundreds of water bottles in two days of the Grand Canyon Limited and not one was recycled as far as I am aware of.  There are probably a number of good reasons little is recycled from passenger trains.  One reason would be space while another would be separate bins for rubbish versus recyclables.  Passenger cars have little unused space, so where would recylceables be stored?


The train heads immediately east from the depot and then turns northerly and runs past the Grand Canyon Railway shops and yard.  The Grand Canyon Railway steam locomotive 4960 and ATSF 3751 were waiting for us.  While passing one of the buildings near the roundhouse I spotted this large banner regarding recycling at the GCR.  If I could only photoshop my BNSF Railway coffee cup and Overland Trail flavored coffee drink out of the photo.  You get the message though.  Their recycling is shown on a larger scale as in restoring an old ALCO locomotive.  An old Via PA locomotive is seen below with one of the working PA's.  Is the Via unit for parts or will it be restored?  My guess would be parts since the GCR has procured ex Amtrak F-40's.


After receiving our steam engines, we proceeded away from Williams and, yes, the followers were waiting for us.









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