In a week dominated by the US Presidential election result ushering Donald Trump into the White House, I have decided to post a ‘good news story’ on the USA. The Grand Canyon Railway is a fabulous example of how to safeguard one’s natural heritage, as well as support and preserve the local environment.
With relatively limited road access to north America’s famous natural wonder of the world, the job of travelling to – and away from – the remote 444km desert canyon is a challenge. Especially when one factors in the fact that approximately five million visitors a year are entering an area with limited visitor facilities. In the main these have been curbed by a strong mandate to hold back on any further development in such an outstanding wilderness location.
The Grand Canyon Railway, which has hardly altered its route since the pioneering years of the early 20th Century, was shut down in 1968, and has only recently re-opened. It is now responsible for keeping around 50,000 cars a year away from the Grand Canyon. The lack of car parking facilities, as well as inevitable traffic congestion issues, are therefore counteracted admirably by one of the Mid-West’s most enchanting and historic railroads.
Departing daily at 9am from Williams, Arizona, the train travels the 104kms north to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, on the Colorado Plateau, in 2.15 hours. A whole 45 minutes faster than the original journey in 1901. The return leg departs at 15.45. Traversing differing altitudes, the train takes in landscapes varying from open grassland prairie to Ponderosa pine fore
The joy of riding along the original railway track, aboard magnificently historic railway carriages, is an opportunity not to be missed. In addition to enjoying a well-supplied catering service, with wildlife viewing opportunities along the way, the train’s strong Mid-West theme is spiced up by re-enacted spaghetti western-style cowboy hold ups and shoot-outs.
I recommend the journey – particularly as you can walk the length of the train, experiencing the phenomenal collection of carriages. These include, among many others, vintage Pullman cars, GCR Budd coaches, parlour-cars, drawing rooms, Buckley O’Neill, Arizona & Bright Angel, Yavapai and Anasazi rolling stock.
A major train spotter scalp if there ever was one.