April 13, 2016 – What a great trip this was! I had been to the Grand Canyon a couple of times since I started RVing in 2001, but riding there in style on the Grand Canyon Railway like this was a totally new and awesome experience for me!
You pick up your ticket at the Historic Train Depot where you can let your imagination run wild, picturing what it was like for early travelers when it was first built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in 1908 for Los Angeles to Chicago travelers. Besides being visibly pleasing, the building is a National Historic Landmark, significant as only one of three remaining operating depots using logs as the primary structure in construction.
By the depot there’s a short and funny Wild West show at 9:00 before the 65 mile train trip which departs promptly at 9:30. And of course I had to get my picture taken with some of the cute cowboys! The cowboy at the top on the left kinda reminded me of one of my favorite old boyfriends and I admit he particularly set my little heart aflutter. (More on that later… hey, I’m old but not dead yet!)
It was cool to be able to experience this with my friend, Linda, another solo woman fulltime RVer (on left). By the end of the trip, we had met and laughed quite a bit with the other folks and that was a lot of fun, too.
Not long after pulling away from the station, our great Personal Service Attendant, Carol, said for anybody thinking it’s too early for a Bloody Mary to remember we’re on vacation and we’ll never see these folks again anyway. Good advice that I had no trouble taking! When I posted this to Facebook, I had no trouble getting agreement from my friends, either, who reminded me it’s always 5:00 somewhere!
I was happily surprised when the marketing department upgraded me to this Luxury Class level. All I wanted was a chance to experience the train ride and share the info with my readers. I think I would have been happy with the Pullman car, but this was an extra special treat. And for anybody debating the differences in services and price, I recommend treating yourself like royalty whenever possible!
All classes have attendants to help and provide information about the Grand destination.
And singing cowboys stroll throughout the cars for fun songs and entertainment.
The Luxury class has access to the very rear observation deck. And I always enjoyed the glimpses I got of the long train in front of me.
Dining car where you can buy snacks and drinks, but all views are free.
Williams and the Grand Canyon sit at about 7,000 feet, but the train passes over the San Francisco Peaks, the highest point in Arizona at over 12,600 feet. It was interesting to see the diverse landscapes from the piney Ponderosa forest, then a drop in elevation revealing the wide open prairie, climbing again to the Pinion pine forests before getting to the main feature, the incomparable Grand Canyon.
This log depot, finished in 1910, welcomed train passengers to a growing village. Today the depot is carefully preserved and still welcomes passengers to the canyon. The depot is right across from the El Tovar Hotel.
We walked along the South Rim stopping to take bunches of pictures along the way to the Bright Angel Lodge, where we had a yummy lunch. You arrive at the Grand Canyon at 11:45 and they warn you that they depart promptly at 3:30 pm, without or without you. The only options if you miss the train aren’t cheap, so don’t get carried away and be late.
I was really happy to get back on the train, though, since my feet were aching at that point and these yummy treats and later champagne toast was definitely a wonderful “welcome back!”
But the fun was most definitely not over! If I’m giving away a secret, it’s not a well kept one because lots of people told me to watch out for the train robbers on the way back. It was announced that the notorious Cataract Creek Gang had been spotted in the area, but we were in no danger unless the train stopped. Remember Slim, the cute cowboy I had my picture taken with at the Wild West Show? When I saw it was him here on horseback, I was all for stopping that train!
Nobody else seemed to be too concerned about this robbery, either. Do they look a little puzzled about all the laughter?
And as soon as I saw Slim unmasked, I even shocked myself when I invited him right over to rob me! My hands are up, Slim!
He even blew me a kiss on the way out! Seriously, y’all – what a fun-filled, total blast of a day!
Malia’s Final Two Cents: The ultimate “leave the driving to us” trip. As a solo RVer, I love not having to watch the road or worry about getting lost! The entire staff goes out of their way to make you feel special and assure you have a wonderful trip with great memories to take home. One guy I talked to said he was a little disappointed because he had expected to see more of the Grand Canyon itself from the train. I knew beforehand that this was not the case, but thought I’d mention it here in case someone else had that mistaken impression. The scenery is not always spectacular on the way, but they still make the journey fun and the destination is awesome!
Here’s where I stayed and it sure is a nice full hookup RV park: Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. It’s adjacent to the depot, so super convenient.
A few of my pics from the glorious Grand Canyon!
Location/Contact: 233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd. — Williams, AZ 86046 — 800-843-8724
Videos – Several videos showing what’s available in Williams, the different types of train cars, the depot, the wild west show before boarding, the entertainment during (including the train robbery)!