Should the Trains Keep Rolling into Grand Canyon National Park?

Should excursion trains still roll into Grand Canyon National Park on the South Rim? Xanterra Parks & Resorts photo.

Here's an item that, on its face, seems rather non-controversial: Should the one or two trains that roll into Grand Canyon National Park from Williams, Arizona, each day be allowed to continue their operations?

I'm biased, as I love train travel and wish there were more of it available in this country. Nevertheless, park officials are obligated to ask the general public what they think and so for the next 30 days you'll have that opportunity.

That's because Grand Canyon officials recently completed an environmental assessment concerning train operations on the park's South Rim and they're taking public comment on that EA. The document evaluates two alternatives including a no-action alternative. The no-action alternative would continue current train operations, which typically consist of one to two trains from Williams, special-use trains and events, and work trains. Currently, there are no limits on daily trains or special use trains and events under the existing contract.

The action alternative (Preferred Alternative) allows for current operations to continue with a maximum of three trains per day from Williams. The action alternative also allows special use trains, events, and work trains to continue and includes several improvements to the depot.

Special use trains and events would be limited to 30 annually. Work trains would run as needed to maintain the rails and crossings; approximately two work trains per week currently utilize tracks inside the park boundary.

Operational and safety improvements would include installation of ground power to run power to cars while trains are parked at the depot, and possible restoration of tracks 5 and 6, which are currently unused and partially covered with gravel. Additional interpretive opportunities would improve under the action alternative including the possible display of an historic steam engine.

Another alternative was proposed for an excursion train, which would have operated in late afternoon or evening hours. That alternative was considered and dismissed due to its conflict with the purpose and need, and objectives of the project. Specifically, the excursion train is not a historic use of the rail lines and depot. The excursion train does not reduce the number of vehicles entering the park, and finally, the excursion train does not enhance visitor experience or opportunities for interpretation in the park since it travels out of the park to the Apex/Imbleau siding in Kaibab National Forest.

You can review the EA online at this site by clicking on the project name and then scrolling to “Open for Public Comments.” Comments can also be submitted online at the same Web address or mailed to Steve Martin, Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, Attention: Train Operations, P.O. Box 129 (1 Village Loop for express mail), Grand Canyon, Arizona 86023. Comments will be accepted through July 29, 2009.

For additional information, contact Rachel Stanton, the park's environmental protection specialist, at (928) 774-9612.

Comments

It is a great way for more people to enjoy the beauty of the park with minimal environmental impact. To me the main reason to have parks is for people to enjoy them.

I think there should be an assessment into providing rail service from Las Vegas to GCNP. Seems that all those day-trip tourist buses create a hugely negative impact on the environment!

please dont stop any more trains. i love trains ,and for some of us this the only way we well be able to see the sites of such beauty.

The only rail connection from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon is via Barstow, CA. So either you build new tracks (and buy the right of way necessary) or the 550 miles per direction make this a very long day trip.

Keep 'em rolling!

There is much we can learn (relearn) from western Europe where train travel is thriving. It's time to quit building endless highways and shift to far more efficient and sustainable transportation.

As a hiker and train lover.... I have enjoyed everything about the grand canyon. The train just makes it that much special. Two years ago my twin brother, dad , and uncle took the train which was a breath taking experience and then hiked down to phantom ranch and back up. The train ride let me see how the past use to be and allow new generations to still be able to enjoy the grand canyon.

Please keep the trains from Williams! They are fun, educational, and for many people with limited time, the only way to see the Canyon.
However the cost should me modified. For a family, they are really too expensive for just a day trip. Children and grandchildren should have
the opportunity to ride a train and experience a little of the old west.

The ticket price can't be made affordable to everyone unless there is some sort of subsidy. The system -- tracks, rolling stock, etc. -- is privately owned and very expensive to maintain.