Discover the Grand Canyon State on rails
by Ilse Romahn
(10.03.2021) Hardly any US state is as famous in the world for its breathtaking landscapes as Arizona. Road trips in particular are very popular with vacationers in Grand Canyon State, but there is another way to travel to Arizona that has a very special charm: By train!
By train through the Wild West
Photo: www.tourism.az.gov www.visitarizona.com
Ancient railroad tracks meander through the landscape across the state. The partly historic trains and wagons make the trip an experience that will definitely be remembered.
On the rails of the past
The Grand Canyon Railway (GCR) and its 90-year-old steam locomotive No. 4960 operates between the city of Williams and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from March to October. So that the environment is not polluted with too much smoking steam from the old locomotive, the locomotive is operated with environmentally friendly waste products such as old vegetable oil, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Even the water for the locomotive’s boiler is captured snowmelt and rainwater.
In authentically restored saloon cars, the train travels a good 2 ½ hours over 100 kilometers through the mountain landscape up to the Grand Canyon Village. Accompanied by country music and a staged robbery by bandits, which brings the train to an adventurous stop, visitors feel transported back to the times of the Wild West. So even non-railroad fans (up to now) get their money’s worth. Each car has its own passenger attendant who is dedicated to each travel group with great dedication. The physical well-being is also taken care of: Fresh fruits, pastries, chilled soft drinks and coffee specialties are served on board. With so many amenities and the view, the journey usually goes by faster than the guests would like. You can also enjoy this experience in the winter months, you just have to do without the steam engine. A diesel locomotive is used during this time.
Postcard motifs and bald eagles at Verde Canyon
Even when traveling on the Verde Canyon Railroad, passengers can enjoy the imposing views of the wonderful nature of Arizona. Like on a postcard, the landscapes seem almost surreal with beauty, but this is only part of the magic of this nostalgic railway. The passengers take a strolling four hours on the modern train from Clarkdale Depot to the Ghost Ranch in Perkinsville and back.
The train ride leads over bridges, through tunnels and along several reservations of Native American tribes. Through loudspeakers, the guests learn interesting facts about the formation of the impressive canyon and the diverse fauna. American bald eagles, for example, nest right next to the railway line and hatch their chicks in spring. Because they depend on intact nature to survive, the railway company has dedicated itself to protecting them. In order to be able to fully enjoy the surroundings, it is a good idea to travel in first class. Guests can look forward to comfortable armchairs and free snacks. There is also an excellent bar service. The economy class, on the other hand, impresses with vintage-style furniture, huge viewing windows and snack bars. In addition, open and spacious observation cars are available to all passengers to make the camera they have brought with them glow and to take the most beautiful souvenir photos.
The Wild West and its migration history
At the historic Tucson Railroad Depot, visitors learn about the exciting past of the Wild West. The famous 1882 shootout at OK Corral, for example, in which gunslingers Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were involved, is brought closer to visitors in an exciting way. In addition to an entrance hall designed as a passenger train, the museum also houses a restaurant and the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, which provides further information on the development of transportation in the USA.
If you still haven’t had enough of trains, you should visit the Arizona Railway Museum in Phoenix. Railway artifacts, old passenger cars, a real galley and a souvenir shop await train enthusiasts here.