They built and opened up the American West. But like so many things, the sight, sound, sensation and even smell of the American steam engine is nearly extinct. Of more than 100,000 built, less than 100 can or still run in the United States, mostly on little tourist railroads.
But during the week of August 24, the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Arizona, a real daily* working railroad moving people from Williams to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, will fire up and run not one, but two “main line” steam engines. The two engines will alternate and power 1950s-era streamliner rail cars, including “dome” cars and a classic “open platform observation car.”
Both engines are powered by recycled waste vegetable oil (WVO), which has a lower carbon footprint than diesel-powered locomotives.
On Saturday, Aug. 27, the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel will double-head steam engines #4960 and #29 on the regular 9:30 a.m. departure out of Williams to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial. The train will arrive at South Rim at 11:45 a.m. and depart Grand Canyon Depot at 3:30 p.m., returning to the Williams Depot at 5:45 p.m.
The trip lasts 2 hours and 15 minutes each way. Rates are the same as the regular daily trains, so passengers won’t need to shell out more “green” to board this green machine. Tickets start at $65 for adults and $29 for children ages 15 and younger.
The Grand Canyon Railway will fire up its 1923 steam engine #4960 as well as locomotive #29, built in 1906 by ALCO in Pittsburgh and weighing 185 tons. #29 was in semi-retirement as a prominent fixture in front of the Grand Canyon Depot in the Historic District at the South Rim until she was returned to service.
Xanterra owns and operates the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel, as well as restaurants and lodges in several National Parks. For more information about the Grand Canyon Railway, visit www.thetrain.com or call 1-800-THE-TRAIN (843-8724).