Posts Tagged ‘Grand Canyon’

Steam Engines and Sand Dunes

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Old 4960 The last Steam Engine

Old 4960 The last Steam Engine

We left Bryce Canyon and took highway 89 south to Flagstaff. At Flagstaff we headed west on Interstate 40 until we reached Williams, Arizona. At Williams we decided that we would take the Grand Canyon train for just one more visit to the Grand Canyon. We boarded the train at 9:30 Am  on an all day adventure. The restored 1920 and 1950 era railroad cars take you back to a long lost era when the railroads were the main form of transportation.

The original Grand Canyon Rairoad began operations in 1901. It had service  from Williams to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Santa Fe railroad built the El Tovar hotel which is 6 meters 20 feet from the canyon rim. The hotel opened in 1905. Service continued for 68 years then Santa Fe shut the line down. Several attempts were made to reopen the line under private ownership and finally the line reopened in 1989 under the ownership of Max and Thelma Biegert. The line was remodeled and improved.

In 2006 the Biegerts retired and the Xanterra group bought the railroad. Daily trips increased from 1 to 3. The year 2008 brought the end to the steam locomotive era as the last steam engine 4960 was retired from active duty. Now only the diesel locomotives pull the train. The cars are restored 1920 and 1950 Pullmans.

Phillip Anschutz bought Xanterra in June 2008 and reduced the trips back to 1 per day. The daily trip leaves Williams at 9:30 AM and returns at 5:45 PM. The trip is an enjoyable ride complete with a staged train robbery and excellant service. Only time will tell if the line continues to run. If a rail trip to the Grand Canyon sounds like fun I would make plans soon before the trip becomes just a footnote in history.

We spent a whole day on our train ride then headed west on Interstate 40 the next day.

We drove west until we reached the Kelso Sand Dunes. The dunes cover a 45 square mile area near Baker California. There are five sets of dunes. Each set covers a different period of time over the last 25,000 years. The dunes are just south of the town of Kelso which is an abandoned ghost town.

Depending on how dry the dunes are you can go to the top of the dunes and slide down them and cause the dunes to sing or boom. The area is part of the Mojave National preserve. Unlike the Glamis Dunes to the south no off road vehicles are permitted. The area is a hiking only zone. The dunes are a peaceful place to rest and relax and contemplate life. The area is an enjoyable and fun desert recreation area.

We spent several hours enjoying the dunes. Finally we headed west again on into California.

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