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Armchair Brakeman

By way of Los Angeles


Initially this trip was to be a standard trainless trip to Las Vegas with my wife, but after two days in the “Sin City” I was bored. I don’t gamble and I have been to Vegas so many times with my wife that I feel I have done everything I want to in and around Vegas.  I began thinking of going a little further afield from the city. I decided I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon by train.

Our first trip to Las Vegas (many years ago) was by train. It was a two day stopover on our way to California. Unfortunately Amtrak discontinued passenger service to Vegas a few years ago. That left me with a couple of choices: I could take a mini bus to a town called Needles, California and catch the train there, but I didn’t like the timing. I would have to catch the train at 12:56 AM at Needles and get off at Williams Junction, Arizona at 4:20 AM. I didn’t mind 4:20 in the morning at Williams Junction but did not like the late night 12:56 departure from Needles.  The second choice was to take a Greyhound bus from Vegas to Los Angeles. The bus would leave Vegas at 8:50 AM and arrive in Los Angles at 2:55 PM. The train would leave Los Angeles at 6:45 PM and arrive at Williams Junction at 4:20 AM. From Williams and the Grand Canyon Train Station, a train leaves daily for the Canyon

The following morning I was on my way. I don’t remember what route we took but about half way to Los Angeles I noticed the highway was a mess. It was mostly desert but there was trash all over. Small pieces of plastic bag everywhere.

I arrived in Los Angeles about 5 minutes late but there was still plenty of time to catch the 6:45 train. That also left ample time to eat and walk around the beautiful Los Angeles train station.

The train, the Southwest Chief, left on time and I settled down to an early sleep lulled by the gentle motions of the train. I arrived at Williams Junction at 4:20 and it turns out there is no station at Williams Junction. As myself and the only other two passengers were getting off the train, a nine passenger van pulls up which is our ride to Williams AZ.  The van takes us to the Grand Canyon Train Station (about 15 minutes) which has a hotel attached to it—the appropriately named Grand Canyon Hotel.

The town of Williams is only about two blocks from the train station and the restaurants opened at 6:00AM. After breakfast and a short walk around the town, the train to the canyon was ready to leave at 10:00 AM.

It is a 65 mile ride to the canyon and takes two hours and fifteen minutes each way.  The route has mile signposts to give you an indication how much farther the canyon is from where you are. Because the elevation changes during the trip (7,000 ft down to 5,500 then back up to 7,000 ft ) the ride is varied. Also lookout for various animals, elk, mountain lions, mule deer, and birds such as owls, ravens, condors.

The ride back to Williams was exciting. The train was robbed by masked gunmen. Horsemen rode up alongside and boarded the train and they put on a good show. All the kids were excited, even the big kids. After the robbery a showman dressed as a cowboy played a guitar with an attached mouth organ and that was also very enjoyable and made for a nice ride back.

We left the canyon at 4:00 PM and arrived at Williams at 6:15 PM. That left time enough to have dinner in town and be back for the 9:10 PM departure of the van that took us to our connection with Amtrak (in the middle of nowhere) at Williams Junction at 9:28 PM. Amtrak is on time and again I settle down to sleep. Arrive Los Angeles at 8:15 AM,  had breakfast and caught the Greyhound at 10:10 AM behind the train station. Arrived Los Vegas at 4:00 PM in time to have dinner with my wife, no longer bored.

Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon (2-ways)
Valid 3/15/08 TO 3/1/09                                                                                                                

                                                   ADULT                      CHILD

PULLMAN CLASS                           $65.00                       $35.00
BUDD COACH                               $65.00                      $35.00
FIRST CLASS                                $130.00                    $100.00          
OBSERVATION DOME                    $160.00                                  
LUXURY CLASS                             $170.00



Los Angeles Station

Los Angeles Station, interior

Grand Canyon Station

Grand Canyon engine

Grand Canyon Railroad