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Grand Canyon Railway: Riding the rail to the "Big hole in the ground"
Monday, June 18, 2012
As one of the greatest wonders of the natural world, the Grand Canyon is a remarkable sight. Getting to Grand Canyon National Park can also be a wonderful experience if you take a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway.
Reviving bygone days when train travel was more available, the Grand Canyon Railway offers a traveler the chance to travel in style and have some fun at the same time.
Particulars of the party
On a daily basis, Grand Canyon Railway offers four classes of accommodations for the two-plus hour ride from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon. Since the scenery on the way to the Grand Canyon is monotonous – scrub brush and desert terrain changing to pine trees, entertainment is provided that makes the 65-mile trip go by quickly.
A non-stop party, the Grand Canyon Railway offers roaming entertainers traveling to each railroad car. On a recent trip, a fiddler, a banjo player, and two guitarists sang western songs, modern songs and, in one instance, French and Navajo songs. The fiddler, “Buckshot,” encouraged a young traveler to try his hand at playing. Despite the nervous look on the fifth-grader’s face, Buckshot made it a rousing experience for everyone with the whole school group looking on and snapping photos.
Each of the entertainers has patter they offer, complete with groaners, old jokes, and efforts to encourage audience participation. The songs and humor usually have a Western theme, in keeping with the destination. “What’s the difference between in-laws and outlaws?” “Outlaws are wanted.” Bada-bing!
On each car, a staff member shares information about the trip, makes jokes, and gets their visitors relaxed. “No calories are allowed on this train,” announced Carol, the “concierge” in the Luxury Parlor Car – the “Chief.”
Once at the train depot at Grand Canyon National Park, passengers disembark and, if they are returning to Williams the same day, they reboard the train for a 3:30 PM return to Williams. Those who wish to stay longer can return another day after spending more time at the Grand Canyon.
Returning to Williams
Things are not allowed to get boring on the return trip, either. Each car’s staff member announces that they will be robbed and discusses the “rules” for getting robbed!
“Throw your hands up in the air so they think you’re surprised,” Carol commands, “and don’t hurt the robbers.”
This is all said with a straight face and is hilarious.
When the robbers, members of the Cataract Creek Gang, finally arrive on horseback, the train slows to allow them to board. Then, they work their way through the many cars, ad-libbing, asking for money, and choosing willing “victims” to tease. (This same hard-working group also puts on an entertaining performance before everyone boards the train in Williams and in the evening on the streets of Williams. They are quick-witted and eager to draw audience members into their shenanigans.)
The robbers finish their clowning within a few miles of Williams, so it leaves the passengers smiling. The “sheriff” arrives to arrest them and, when one passenger asks about how the “stolen” money will be returned, the sheriff announces, “Money taken in robberies in the old West is kept as evidence.”
The audience chortles appreciatively.
Get on board!
Reservations for the Grand Canyon Railway and the affiliated Grand Canyon Railway Hotel are available at their website, www.thetrain.com, or call them at 1-800-THE-TRAIN (1-800-843-8724).
Rates for round trip train rides to the Grand Canyon from Williams, Arizona range from $75 for adults ($45 for children) for Coach Class to Luxury Parlor Class at $190 for adults (no children are booked for this level or for the Observation Dome Class).
The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel also evokes an old-time era with rooms that have a flavor of the old west. There are four classes of rooms at the hotel ranging from a standard room (starting at $109 per night) to a Rail Baron Suite (from $349). Packages of rooms with train travel are also available, plus packages that include a hotel stay at Grand Canyon National Park.
One upgrade the hotel recently installed is much appreciated by modern travelers – free WIFI in each room. Rooms are immaculate with triple-sheeting on beds.
Taking the train
For a unique experience, the Grand Canyon Railway round trip to Grand Canyon National Park is certainly memorable. And, with the cost of gasoline and the hassle of driving, the package deals are inviting. The hotel also makes it easy for luggage transfers so guests can know what it was like to travel in style in the old West.
Shelley Gillespie / CopaNews.com
Heading to the Grand Canyon on the Grand Canyon Railway, "Buckshot" entertains passengers with his energetic fiddling.