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GCL Free Day in Williams AZ

The Grand Canyon Limited

Free Day in Williams, AZ

May 17, 2012

Story and photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNewsNetwork writer

Williams is a town with a population of around 3,000 residents in Coconino County, AZ.  Formerly a stop on the famous mother road Route 66, the town was bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1984.  Should you want to drive to Williams, town has 3 highway exits and is even accessable via Amtrak.  Having spent 3 straight days on the Grand Canyon Limited, I was ready for a train free day.  As much as I would like to be on a train, I did not want to be on a train more.  I could look at trains.  Being in Williams Arizona, one could not avoid trains.  Williams is a train town with 2 BNSF mainlines running through and the Grand Canyon Railway.  After making coffee, the first order of business for me was to watch the GCRyWilliams Flyer leave town for the canyon.  My goal was to watch the cowboy show, but I didn't get over to the location and missed it.


The BNSF mainline to Phoenix runs parallel to the Grand Canyon Railway Depot.


Little did I know it, trouble was walking my way.  This dude looked baaaaaaaaaaad and I was afraid.  Luckily he walked past me and accosted a nice couple who were visiting Williams.


That bad dude's henchmen were waiting across Grand Canyon Boulevard in front of the Arizona coach.


Suddenly it was train time, and the Williams Flyer lurched into motion!  The boys above were probably planning to rob the Williams Flyer later.  I know they wanted to rob the Grand Canyon Limited very badly.  Good luck on that.  We were not accosted the day before when we went to the canyon.  Their plan might be to rob us tomorrow.  We'll wait and see.




My plan was to walk around Williams and take care of some minor business and find the Dara Thai restaurant.  I was glad I had not visited this place the night before as I was just completely spent from all the time aboard the Grand Canyon Limited.  I was hungry and ready for my favorite kind of food on this planet....not that I've visited any other planet yet.  Some like it hot and I ordered it hot.  This meal has happened at my house a number of times with a close friend.  We have made green curry with my Alaskan halibut several times and with chicken a several times too.  Dara Thai was excellent and I intend to eat there the next time I visit Williams.  They are located at 145 West Route 66 at S. 2nd Street with their front door facing west on 2nd St.  Google them and eat there.

After lunch, I walked down Route 66 and checked out the Safeway market.  On the way, I encountered Christie and Amanda Hatrick who were also checking out Williams.  I planted the idea of going to Cruiser's Route 66 Cafe for lunch and told them that there was also going to be live music at noon.  After my visit to Safeway and my other business, I returned towards the center of town and stopped at Cruiser's 66 Route 66 Cafe and checked out freshly brewed beer from an adjacent brewery.  Grand Canyon Brewing product is available on tap at Cruiser's.  Not knowing what to order, I tried them all.  On my first pass down east bound Route 66 I had noticed the musician setting up.  He was now working the crowd on this nice Thursday afternoon.  Two invited guest musicians were helping for one song.


You know the old adage, you never buy beer, you only rent it?  Well, if it were true, Cruiser's 66 men's restroom was a work of art.


The guy below left had a huge Canadian Cascade Mountain Wolf on a leash.  I forget both their names, but the guy was very interesting and said he owned one of the legitimate cab companies in Williams. One of the other transportation options was the horse drawn coach.


The railroad mainline bypass junction is slightly east of Williams.  This general merchandise train had come from points east and was heading for Phoenix via Matthie.  The highway bridge above the train is Route 66 overcrossing.  The Amtrak Southwest Chief actually stops at Williams Junction and has a freee shuttle to and from the Grand Canyon Railway Depot.  The Chief stops at Williams Junction at 3:50 AM eastbound and 9:33 PM westbound.




The Grand Canyon Railway Deopt has a spacious loading area with some playful signs (top of page) and benches for relaxing.  It is also a front row seat for watching whatever BNSF sends by.  I was standing on the platform at the No. 29 steam locomotive.  The young man in the above 2 photos is the one I had referred to the night before as the one who was taking the No. 29 home.


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