Grand Canyon Railway
15th August 2010
© copyright photographs by Colin Duff

The origin of this railway line was to transport minerals from the Anita Mines 45 miles north of Williams, Arizona, to the Santa Fe at Williams, though the tourism potential was realised at the outset. In 1897 the Santa Fe and Grand Canyon Railroad Company was incorporated and construction began. The ATSF (Santa Fe) took over in 1901 and completed construction. Transporting iron ore quickly proved to be unsustainable as a business so the railway turned to promoting tourism, the 65 miles of railway becoming the lifeline, being cheaper, quicker and more comfortable than the eight hour stagecoach ride from Flagstaff. All supplies for constructing the Grand Canyon Village, the lodges for the tourists, on the South Rim were transported by rail. In July 1968 the last Santa Fe passenger train on the line ran, the completion of the Interstate Highway system encouraging visitors to use their own car. In 1989 entrepreneurs re-launched the Grand Canyon Railway and by 1990 restoration of the tracks and depots at both ends of the line was complete. In 1999 Amtrak inserted a stop at Williams. In 2007 the Xanterra Parks & Resorts Corporation, who also run the lodges on the South Rim, took over ownership of the railway.
F40PH locomotive 295 plus consist at Grand Canyon depot on 15th August 2010

We had hoped to travel to the Grand Canyon by train, using the Grand Canyon Railway between Williams and the South Rim. However, the one round trip per day operation, either as a day trip or as an overnight, combined with our tight schedule this holiday, would not allow us to do what we wanted at the Grand Canyon. So instead we drove to the South Rim and used the excellent free shuttle bus services along the rim. I did, however, manage to steer Sunday lunch to a lodge close to the South Rim depot, so I could take photos of the train in its layover before returning to Williams.

Steam currently only operates on special days. Here is EMD F40PH #295 at the head of its consist having turned round on the triangle.

A closer, higher, view of F40PH locomotive 295

#295 was constructed by EMD in 1979. It was acquired with two others, #237 & #239, by the Grand Canyon Railway in 2003. It only re-entered service in February 2009.

The F40 passenger locomotive is relatively small as North American locos go. I have quite a few H0 scale models of F40s, they are compact, but it was not until I stood alongside that I realised quite how huge the real thing is compared to British diesel locos. (I had only previously seen F40s in motion from a distance!)

Modern generator car 460 The F40, being designed for Amtrak as a passenger locomotive, can supply "head end" power to passenger cars, however the Grand Canyon Railway uses a generator car of modern design smaller than the locomotive, bulkier than the passenger cars.
The majority of the passenger cars The Grand Canyon Railway has a creditable collection of historic fluted steel streamliner passenger cars, mostly constructed by Budd and the Pullman Car Co. Pictured here are eight of the nine in the consist. There are two dome cars - the type I really wanted to ride (though a hefty premium fare is involved) - towards the end.

USA Index

Main Index