Forget about scenic helicopter flights, forget about skywalks, when visiting the Grand Canyon, one of the best experiences is to travel out there the original way, on the Grand Canyon Railway.
Actually, you shouldn’t forget about scenic helicopter flights or about doing the skywalk with its incredible views and unique sensation; that was just a bit of creative licence. Both activities are quite brilliant, and give different perspectives of the canyon. However, it is also worth considering visiting the canyon by train, as that too does give you another way to appreciate such a magnificent natural wonder.
Originally built as a mining railway in the late 1800’s which connected to the main Chicago to Los Angeles line at Williams. In those days little was known of the Grand Canyon, but investors knew they could make money out of mining, and a crafty promoter claimed that some good ore samples had come from the canyon, as he saw the possibility of making money out of tourism, so the Santa Fe and Grand Canyon Railroad Company was formed in 1897 and the line completed just four years later.
Tourism became the railroad’s saviour as the $3.95 train ride would replace the $15.00 eight-hour stagecoach ride from Flagstaff, allowing visitors to gaze upon what Teddy Roosevelt said “every American should see.” Thus this 65 miles of track that the iron horse travelled along became the lifeline to Grand Canyon.
Today, Grand Canyon National Park is revered as one of the world’s most impressive natural wonders, and millions of people visit each year.
Today, there is one train per day, and it is a full day schedule. The train departs Williams at 9.30am, arriving at Grand Canyon Junction at 11.45am. There are five different classes of carriage from which to choose.
Most basic is Coach Class which has bench-style seating in air-conditioned 50’s era carriages. Next is First Class which boasts oversize reclining seats and grand picture windows. The Observation Dome offers panoramic views and high back comfortable chairs. Children aged under 15 are not permitted in the Observation Dome. Luxury Parlour Class is a step up again, which promises an elegant rail baron experience preserved for those who enjoy the finer things, thanks to lounge-style comforts including a private bar and access to the open-air rear platform. The newest class is Luxury Dome Class which combines the breathtaking views of the Observation Dome with the opulence of the Parlour cars.
There are a range of options for sightseeing at the Canyon, with the train departing for the return journey at 3.30pm, arriving back at Williams at 5.45pm.