- Grand Canyon Railway
Infobox SG rail
railroad_name=Grand Canyon Railway
Williams, ArizonaThe Grand Canyon Railway reporting mark|GCRX, is a passenger railroadand heritage railwaywhich operates between Williams, Arizona, and the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
anta Fe Ownership
In 1901, the
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railwaycompleted a branch line from Williams to Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim. The first scheduled train to carry paying passengers of the Grand Canyon Railway arrived from Williams on September 17of that year. The 64–mile (103– kilometer) long trip cost $3.95, and naturalist John Muirlater commended the railroad for its limited environmental impact. To accommodate travelers, the Santa Fe designed and built the El Tovar Hotel, located just 20 feet (6 meters) from the Canyon Rim. El Tovar opened its doors in January 1905.
Competition with the automobile forced the Santa Fe to cease operation of the Grand Canyon Railway in July 1968 (only three passengers were on the last run), although Santa Fe continued to use the tracks for
freightuntil 1974. After 1974, the tracks were abandoned and many track side buildings were razed.
Plans by entertainer
Arthur Godfreyto bring the railway back to life in 1977 fell through. In addition, two other companies attempted to resurrect the line in 1980 and 1984, with each attempt helping to maintain interest in preserving the line and saving it from scrapping.
Max and Thelma Biegert Ownership
In 1988, the line was bought by a
Phoenix, Arizona, couple, Max and Thelma Biegert. The railway was restored and in 1989 began operations as a separate company, independent of the Santa Fe. The first run of the restored railroad was on September 17, 1989, commemorating the September 17debut of the original railroad. [cite web | title = Grand Canyon Railway history | url = http://www.thetrain.com/history/]
The Biegerts, a couple from Nebraska, had made their fortune in
crop dustingthrough Biegert Aviation founded in 1947 which had a large federal government contract for its B-17and later C-54fleet. [http://www.thetrain.com/news/presskit/legacy.cfm] After leaving the crop-dusting business they operated a for profit day carebusiness in Houston, Texaswhich became the Childrens World Learning Center and is now part of KinderCare Learning Centers. The Biegerts never intended to get into the rail business. They had loaned money secured by the tracks to another person for the rail line. When they defaulted the Biegerts took over the line. [http://www.trainboard.com/grapevine/showthread.php?t=70525] In conjunction with the start up, the Biegerts were principal investors in the short-lived Farwest Airlineswhich was an air taxi service intended to bring tourists from California, Las Vegas and Phoenix to Flagstaff where the passengers would then take the rail line. [http://ronkilber.tripod.com/farwest/farwest.htm]
The railroad carries hundreds of passengers to and from the Canyon every day, totaling about 240,000 passengers in 2006. The restored Santa Fe Railway Station in Williams now serves the Grand Canyon Railway and is also home to a small railroad museum. The
Grand Canyon Depot, owned by the National Park Service, remains the northern terminus for passengers of the line.
During the summer, the railroad operates
steam locomotives, but also uses reconditioned 1950s vintage Diesel locomotives(ALCO-MLW FPA4s) for the remainder of the season. Passengers ride in restored 1920s vintage Harriman coaches and new 1950s climate controlled coaches. The railroad adds to the Old West experience by having actors dressed as bandits stage a mock train robberyduring the return trip from the Grand Canyon to Williams. During the winter season (November - January), the line runs "The Polar Express" from Williams to the 'North Pole', a station about convert|10|mi|km|-1 north of town. In 2005, this winter service carried 65,000 passengers.
In February 2006, the Grand Canyon Railway announced that it had established a new logo that unifies all of the operating divisions of the company. The new 'glyph' style "G" herald harkens to the native American petroglyphs common in Northern Arizona. As of June 2007, the logo only seems to be applied to merchandise, signs, and official company letterhead, as several cars have come into service or been repainted while retaining the "drumhead" logo on the sides. Even freshly painted locomotives MLW FA-4 #6793 and steam locomotive # 4960 have retained the old logo.
In March 2006, owners Max & Thelma Biegert announced to the media that they were placing the railroad and its associated restaurants, hotels and amenities up for sale. The combined properties have an annual revenue of nearly $40 million. The Biegerts are seeking a new buyer/operator with a possible theme park background, which will ensure that the railroad, hotels, RV park, restaurants (and a possible new amusement park in Williams) will continue to be operated as one entity.
On September 21, 2006, it was announced that
Xanterra Parks & Resortsof Denver, CO, had submitted the winning bid (for an undisclosed sum) and was selected as the new owner for the Grand Canyon Railway. Xanterra is the current operator of the Grand Canyon National Park's hotel, restaurant and store concessions, as well as National Park Service concessions of many other national parks throughout the nation. Xanterra is the corporate name and identity for what was originally known as 'The Fred Harvey Company', a legendary company with restaurant, hotel and service ties to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway as far back as the 1876.
Xanterra said that it intends to keep all 480 of the Railway's current employees, and plans on focusing on growing the business and increasing the coordination between the Railway and Xanterra's other services in the Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim. In the press release, the Railway and Xanterra reported over 225,000 passengers and over $38 million in revenue in calendar year 2005. The purchase of the GCR includes all of the Railway's assets, land, depots, hotels, RV park, rolling stock, shops and linear pieces of land along the convert|65|mi|km|0|sing=on line. The Biegert family's convert|480|acre|km2|1|sing=on ranch near Gonzales Lake in north Williams was not included in the sale to Xanterra.
End of steam operation
In September 2008, TRAINS magazine reported that Xanterra would no longer operate its steam locomotives. [cite news| url=http://www.trains.com/trn/default.aspx?c=a&id=3927| title=Ridership loss, rising fuel prices drove GCR to cancel steam program| work=TRAINS magazine| date=2008-09-11| accessdate=2008-09-14| ]
Also in September 2008, the Railway sought to double its number of daily trains. The National Park Service requested public comment on allowing "up to three round-trip passenger trains per day from Williams to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park and one round-trip evening train ride per day from the South Rim to a short distance outside of the park." [cite web
title=Train Operations at Grand Canyon National Park - Public Scoping
Proposed Phillip Anschutz Ownership
June 24 2008, it was announced that Phillip Anschutzwould buy Xanterra. Negotiations for the sale began on June 5and the sale is expected to be completed in Fall 2008. [cite news| url=http://williamsnews.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&subsectionID=1&articleID=7837| title=New ownership for Xanterra, GC Railway| work=Williams News| date=2008-06-24| author=Whitehurst, Patrick| accessdate=2008-06-25| ]
Two trains operate daily during the summer and holiday periods.
* Steam locomotive
National Register of Historic Places[http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/AZ/Coconino/state2.html #00000319]
* National Register of Historic Places [http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/AZ/Coconino/state2.html #74000337] — Grand Canyon Depot (former Santa Fe Railway Station)
* ATSF "
Grand Canyon Limited"
El Tovar Hotel"
History of the Grand Canyon area
List of heritage railways
* [http://www.thetrain.com/ Grand Canyon Railway] official website
* [http://www.kaibab.org/gcrw/gc_gcrr.htm History of Line]
* [http://www.desertusa.com/mag98/sep/stories/gcrr.html More History of Line]
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