Denver-based Xanterra Parks & Resorts has taken the first step towards purchasing Grand Canyon Railway, the current owner/operator of the popular train that transports scores of visitors annually from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of Grand Canyon.
By submitting a letter of intent for an undisclosed amount, Xanterra hopes to expand its holdings in Grand Canyon National Park. Currently the for-profit venture operates all the in-park lodging, a number of restaurants, curio shops, the historic mule rides, bus tours and other tourism-related services.
The first train arrived in Grand Canyon Village in 1901, finally giving visitors a relatively easy way to travel to the future national park. The train slowly lost appeal with the advent of the family automobile, and was ultimately discontinued in 1969. Max and Thelma Biegert of Paradise Valley, AZ, bought interest in the train in the 1980s, and daily service was resumed in 1989 ending the twenty-year hiatus.
After a shaky start the train has become one of the park’s most popular tourist attractions. More than 225,000 of the park’s 4.5 million yearly visitors travel the 65-mile line to the historic Grand Canyon depot, generating annual revenue of $38 million in 2005.