Thursday, April 15, 2010

Grand Canyon Railway

Last month, my wife and I went on vacation to visit the Grand Canyon. We had been interested in going for some time, but the desire was heightened by her discovery of the Grand Canyon Railway in an advertisement in Westways Magazine. They were offering a package deal that included buffet meals and hotel reservations. It was an offer too good to pass that created memories to last a lifetime.

There is a history behind the Grand Canyon Railway that goes back more than 100 years, before the Grand Canyon became a national park, even before Arizona became a state. It's first journey to the South Rim occurred in 1901. Theodore Roosevelt was the first of many US Presidents to journey to the Grand Canyon on this historic trail. To quote their official webpage, "The train was the lifeline to Grand Canyon National Park in the early 20th century. It was the railroad, along with the Fred Harvey Company, that commissioned and built most of the historic structures that still exist along the South Rim. The historic train almost faded into history itself when passenger service to Grand Canyon National Park stopped in 1968 as train travel gave way to the popularity of automobile travel. But like any legend it refused to die. As fate would have it, Grand Canyon Railway was reborn in 1989 when entrepreneurs brought the Grand Canyon's train back to life. Today, the Railway carries well over 200,000 people by rail to the canyon each year."

On Saturday, March 13, our sixth anniversary, we experienced the "legend". We started our morning in Williams, Arizona at the Grand Depot Cafe across the street from the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel with a hearty breakfast. Then we went outside the Grand Depot where cowboys put on a Wild West gunfight show. As soon as that concluded, we boarded the train and began our journey toward the Grand Canyon. We stayed in the least expensive coach class, but I found the seats extremely comfortable. It was a very smooth ride there, hardly any bumps as I sat looking out the window taking in the beauty of the rocky terrain and wildlife. There was also musical entertainment from a cowboy with a plethora of harmonicas singing Western songs.

While on the two hour journey from Williams to the Grand Canyon, I read about how the Grand Canyon Railway steam locomotives had gone the bio-diesel route and were now powered by recycled vegetable oil. It struck me that as much as I write on this blog about the energy options for the future, sometimes there is so much value in the transportation methods of the past that we really need to reevaluate what can be utilized that incorporates both. Coming from LA, I know there is a vast need for decent, affordable public transportation that isn't being properly met. That need will only become more pronounced as the non-renewable energy resources upon which our automobile-dependent transportation system is built begin to decline. We used to have a fantastic railway system in this country. We could again if it became a national priority to expand existing rail services for public transportation and retrofit the locomotives so that they run on environmentally sound bio-diesel. It can be so much more in this country than just a vacation time pleasure like I experienced.

Arriving at the Grand Canyon, we were very pleased that the weather reports of rain had been inaccurate. It was slightly overcast, but we still got some great pictures of the snow clinging to the sides of the canyon and the mid-afternoon redness of the Colorado River.

After a buffet lunch, we went back on the train to Williams and got held up in a mock train robbery.

Like I said before, memories to last a lifetime!


Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Great photos! And that's very interesting to hear that they're using recycled vegetable oil to run the train.

Robert Paulsen said...

Thanks Tanya! Yeah, it was really a fascinating history to learn, both their past and their present.