Historical Timeline | Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel

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Historical Timeline

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1893 The Grand Canyon is first established as a forest preserve by presidential proclamation.

1901 On Sept. 17, the first passengers arrive at the Grand Canyon South Rim aboard the train from Williams, Ariz.

1908 A presidential proclamation establishes the Grand Canyon as a national monument.
On March 10, the historic Fray Marcos Hotel and Williams Depot were built and designed for use by the Santa Fe Railway. Designed by architect Francis W. Wilson of Santa Barbara, Calif., the historic hotel was built with 22 guestrooms and 10 employee quarters on the second floor. Both structures opened for service. The Williams downtown district, including the historic hotel and depot, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

1919 Grand Canyon National Park is established by an act of Congress on Feb. 26.

1920s A good road into Grand Canyon National Park is built, making travel to the rim easier than ever before.

1925 The Santa Fe Railway completes a two-story addition to the Fray Marcos Hotel of 21 rooms.

1927 First year that more Grand Canyon visitors enter the park by automobile than by train.

1940s Diesel locomotives begin traveling the Grand Canyon line.

1953 Last steam train travels the route to the Grand Canyon. The more economical diesel locomotives replace the classic steam locomotives.

1954 Retired by the Santa Fe in 1954, the Fray Marcos Hotel remained closed to the public although the depot continued to service the East-West mainline and Williams-Grand Canyon train traffic.

1964 The local Elks Club begins using parts of the Fray Marcos Hotel, such as the kitchen, dining and lobby/curio area for its meetings and events.

1968 In July, three passengers travel the last regularly scheduled train service to the Grand Canyon.

1969 Grand Canyon Depot closes nearly a year following the discontinuation of passenger service (May).

1975 United States Congress passes an act to expand the Grand Canyon National Park.

1984 On Dec. 30, Williams’ downtown business district achieves listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

1988 Santa Fe maintenance crews and the field engineer abandon the Williams train station facility for good.

1989 On Jan. 10, Max and Thelma Biegert announced redevelopment of the railway route to the Grand Canyon and the rehabilitation of the historic Fray Marcos Hotel and Williams Depot.
On Sept. 17, the Williams Depot re-opens under Max & Thelma Biegert’s ownership and the name Grand Canyon Railway.

1989-90 Reconditioning of two vintage 1906 and 1910 steam locomotives take place; each locomotive requires 8,000 to 10,000 hours to rebuild.

1990 The Grand Canyon Depot re-opens to welcome Grand Canyon Railway’s trains in July.

1993 Grand Canyon Railway carries more than 105,000 passengers per year, which reduces automobile traffic to the South Rim by approximately 40,000 cars.

1995 The modern-day Grand Canyon Railway Hotel (built to resemble the historic Fray Marcos Hotel) opens its doors.
The Railway begins daily passenger service and re-introduces vintage diesel locomotives to the Grand Canyon line.

1996 Steam locomotive No. 4960 makes its first run on the Grand Canyon line after being fully restored. The restoration required more than $1.5 million and 80,000 man-hours.

1997 Grand Canyon Railway proposes a light rail system as an answer for transportation congestion in the park.

1998 On Oct. 1, Reginald and Pat Barker become the millionth passengers to ride Grand Canyon Railway.

1999 Grand Canyon Railway placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Max & Thelma’s Restaurant opens to the public on March 4.
On Aug. 2, Amtrak service adds a stop at Williams Junction.

2000 Grand Canyon Railway completes a 107-room addition to the Hotel in February. Also added at this time are the pool and hot tub.

2001 Grand Canyon Railway begins running a special Polar Express train to the “North Pole” during the holidays.

2002 The Grand Canyon Depot restoration project is complete.

2004 In March, the third addition to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is complete. The addition adds 92 standard rooms and 10 luxury suites.
On July 21, Catherine Harris becomes the two-millionth passenger to ride Grand Canyon Railway.
Steam locomotive No. 29 rides the Grand Canyon Railway line after an extensive restoration involving $1 million and 26,000 man-hours.
Grand Canyon Railway carries more than 225,000 passengers per year, which reduces automobile traffic to the South Rim by 10 percent.

2005 Grand Canyon Railway is honored with three of the four top annual awards from AAA Travel, including Partner of the Year, Best in Service and Best in Marketing.

2006 Grand Canyon Railway introduces new train schedules and a new coach class of service – Budd Coach Class – and retires Pullman Coach Class to steam season only, to help ease the wear and tear on the cars built in 1923. Grand Canyon Railway opens its eagerly awaited 124-space RV Park and the Pet Resort.

2007 Grand Canyon Railway is purchased from Max and Thelma Biegert by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Xanterra is the nation’s largest park-management company with a proven history of park preservation and environmental commitment.

2008 Keeping in-line with its core beliefs, Xanterra Parks & Resorts discontinues the use of the steam locomotives on the Grand Canyon Railway. Instead, diesel locomotives are used year-round, resulting in a cleaner, more efficient means of train transportation to the Grand Canyon. This change is a direct reflection of Xanterra’s unyielding commitment to the environment. Steam locomotive No. 4960 is currently on display on the platform behind the Grand Depot Cafe.

2009 Grand Canyon Railway is awarded with the prestigious ISO 14001 for its environmental commitment and eco-friendly operations in Williams. Grand Canyon Railway reinstates steam locomotive operations by bringing back No. 4960, this time powered by waste vegetable oil (WVO).