Article by Elena del Valle and photos by Amparo Cadavid
Although Sedona had plenty of worthy attractions and we were enjoying the local sites, the allure of the Grand Canyon was irresistible so we dedicated one day of our week long visit to Sedona to that majestic area. Instead of making the round trip drive from Sedona to the Canyon’s South Rim at an elevation of 7,000 feet, we chose to ride the Grand Canyon Railway (233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd, Williams, Arizona 86035; www.thetrain.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,1-800-THE-TRAIN). The train departed from the small town of Williams, about one hour drive north of Sedona.
We set out about 7:30 a.m. down a pretty canyon road from Sedona to meet up with the highway (Interstate 17) that led us to Williams; and returned to Sedona at 7 p.m. just in time for dinner. Parking was easy once we found the train station and we boarded the train on time for the daily 9:30 a.m. departure. The train, pulled by a diesel engine, traveled at 40 miles per hour over 65 miles and could accommodate up to 700 passengers in nine cars offering varying degrees of comfort.
Our Luxury Parlor Car, Chief, was the last and most luxurious on the train and to our delight it was only half full on the midweek August day we traveled, allowing us to spread out comfortably. There was a wood bar and a spacious water closet in the middle of the car. At the back, there was an open air platform for up to six people at a time to enjoy the outdoor sights and sounds. The platform was our favorite part of the train.
Our car was manned by Attendant Katie McKinnon and Christine, a trainee. They kept us informed, opened the complimentary small buffet (mini muffins, fruit salad, yogurt and apples) and served drinks including complimentary coffee (and champagne on our return). On the way there, we were assigned seats 21D and 23D at the back of the car. The two-and-a-half hour train ride passed quickly and soon we arrived at the Grand Canyon where we had three hours to explore on foot, take a bus tour or have lunch. While it was possible to have a sit down lunch at one of the local restaurants we were there to see the Grand Canyon and since we had limited time we preferred to explore the sites.
We chose to walk along the paved hiking path, following Katie’s recommendations, and have a quick bite at the cafeteria before returning to the train for our ride home. Since we were returning to Williams that same day we were invited to leave any belonging we didn’t require for our visit to the park on board our train car. This was very convenient since it was the middle of a hot summer day and we planned to walk for the better part of three hours.
Before boarding there was a “shoot out” which we missed due to a slight delay finding our way to the station. On the way back the train was “held up” by “robbers.” Also, Craig Summers, a native of Jacksonville, Florida played his guitar and sang country songs during the train ride, moving from car to car along the way. The Grand Canyon Railway, now owned by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, began operations in 1901.
Our day trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim was entertaining and relaxing at the same time. Making the round trip trek on Grand Canyon Railway rather than driving was the perfect solution to our time limitation and desire to visit the Grand Canyon for the day. The next time, maybe we’ll spend the night at the park and enjoy the sunrise and sunset or be adventurous and journey to the depths of the Canyon on mules.