Back in 1901, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad built a spur from Williams Arizona to the Grand Canyon making the 64 mile trip much easier for those pioneer travelers who wanted to see this famous canyon they were hearing about. The railroad continued operation until 1968 when competition from the automobile finally closed the railroad to passengers. The line continued to be used for freight up until 1974 when even that service ceased because of the speedier service on the highway. In 1988 Max and Thelma Biegert bought the line and began restoration, opening for passenger service once again in September of 1989.
I had heard from many people that the trip via train was something to experience so I decided it was about time I climbed aboard, so to speak.
The trip is now done not so much as an efficient way to get to the canyon but, rather a historic experience to give the traveler a little sense of what traveling to the canyon must have been like at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The trip to the canyon begins at the train station in Williams Arizona where travelers are invited to see a little preview show that sets the stage for a wild west adventure.
Several cowboys plan their day's activities and discuss a few misdeeds that might happen along the way.
Then everyone boards the train we set off on the slow trip to the Grand Canyon. And, when I say slow, I do mean slow. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to go those 64 miles but, the owners of the train have lots of entertainment available for the passengers to help pass the time.
We were treated to singers and story tellers along the way.
The car I was riding in was fairly close to the engine so I couldn't get one of those sweeping train photos when we rounded bends in the tracks. This little peek at the engine will have to do.
Once we arrived at the Grand Canyon station I was able to get a photo that shows most of the train as it sat on the tracks. Many people were going to stay a night or two at the canyon but, my goal was to just experience the train so I only spent the day there before heading back.
On the trip back to Williams later in the day, we got to experience an old fashioned train robbery with these desperadoes climbing aboard to "rob" the passengers.
You can see from the photo that no one appears to be really frightened. In fact most people took out a dollar or two and offered it up to those masked men.
It was a fun day and a unique experience. I can see that it would be lots of fun for families and even groups of friends. The train offers several classes of service from very basic to luxury class. There is even a couple of observation cars available. You can check out the possibilities on the Grand Canyon Railway website.