Wednesday, January 11

Loco for the Grand Canyon

The first passenger train from Williams to the Grand Canyon on Sept. 17, 1901.

It seems surprising now, but it took more than 30 years for the Grand Canyon to become a national park. The first bills to create Grand Canyon National Park were introduced in 1882, 1883 and 1886 by then-senator Benjamin Harrison. As President, Harrison established the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve in 1893.

President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon rim in 1903 and exclaimed:
"The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. ... Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see."
Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve in 1906 and Grand Canyon National Monument on Jan. 11, 1908. Senate bills to establish a national park were introduced and defeated (again) in 1910 and 1911. The Grand Canyon National Park Act was finally signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. 

Part of what protected it for so long was its remoteness. A railroad to Flagstaff was completed in 1882 and stage coaches started to take tourists from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon in 1883—a 70-mile, 11-hour journey at $20 per person.

The first train with paying passengers (the 64-mile trip cost $3.95) arrived on Sept. 17, 1901 from Williams.

Trains ran from Williams to the Grand Canyon until 1968. They returned 88 years after its maiden run to the day on Sept. 17, 1989.

For years the Grand Canyon Railway operated steam engines from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but they discontinued regular runs in 2008 because of environmental considerations. Operating a diesel fleet saves a lot of fuel and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants associated with steam locomotives.

However, the Grand Canyon Railway commemorates its anniversary every September with a special round-trip run to the Grand Canyon using steam locomotive No. 4960 fueled by recycled vegetable oil! The steam locomotive also makes special trips throughout the year.

In honor of Arizona's centennial on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, Grand Canyon Railway is offering round-trip coach class tickets for $7.50 per person - the same cost as in 1912! The Arizona Centennial Train will depart the Williams Depot at 9:30 a.m. for the Grand Canyon pulled by vintage steam locomotive 4960 with coach seating. 

You can be a part of this historic event by calling 1-800-THE-TRAIN or clicking here to order online.

Shall I see you there? All aboard!


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