Grand Canyon Railway made its first journey to the Grand Canyon on September 17, 1901. Notable passengers to ride the Grand Canyon Railway include Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Clark Gable, Jimmy Durante, Doris Day and John Muir.
The railroad was originally built to transport ore in the "Wild West" from the Anita mines, 45 miles north of Williams in the late 1800's. Prospectors flocked to Grand Canyon Country with dreams of riches. However, the area didn't supply enough ore to fulfill those dreams and the railroad went out of business in 1899.
The Atchinson Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company took over and completed the track to the Grand Canyon in 1901. The company could make a return on its investment through tourism. The $3.95 train ride would replace the expensive 8 hour stagecoach ride from Flagstaff, allowing visitors to gaze upon what Teddy Roosevelt said, "Every American should see." The 65 miles of track the iron horse faithfully traveled became the lifeline to the Grand Canyon.
Over the years, the Santa Fe organized and built the structures that now grace the South Rim, including the historic El Tovar Hotel in 1905. All supplies used in the constructi0n of Grand Canyon Village came from Northern Arizona aboard the train. The train also brought all water to the Grand Canyon until 1926.
Supplies were not the only things carried. Ranching and lumber were the primary industries of the early 1900's. Ranchers and lumberjacks contracted with the Grand Canyon Railway to transport their stock. The railway shared the countryside with its neighbors forming a unique bond. Cowboys, lumberjacks and shepherds alike felt a little better and closer to civilization just being able to hear the train or see its lights off in the distance.
Grand Canyon Railway stopped service to the Grand Canyon in 1968 after attendance declined due to the rise in popularity of automobile travel. The train had been a source of regional pride, a symbol of man's spirit of conquest and sense of harmony with nature. Interstate highways were built paralleling the railroad, and silently replaced virgin landscapes privileged only to the train with billboards and gas stations.
The Railway was reopened for passenger service on September 17, 1989 by owners Max and Thelma Biegert, continuing the legacy and heritage of American discovery and adventure. Looking to the future, the Railway is seen as a solution to the growing congestion problems at the Grand Canyon. Currently, more than 60,000 cars per year are kept out of the park due to the railway. The railway is also part of a light rail proposal which will help ease environmental concerns in the Grand Canyon National Park. Grand Canyon Railway is helping to continue the heritage of the Grand Canyon and is ready to take you to one of the Seven Wonders of the World.