Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

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PaleoRob
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Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

Post by PaleoRob » Oct 14 2008 7:31 am

From the William's News:
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Citing ‘green’ reasons, Grand Canyon Railway® opts to shut down popular historic engine

The familiar hooting of the steam engine in Williams is set to become a thing of the past, as officials with Xanterra Parks and Resorts recently announced their plans to eliminate the historic steam engine from The Grand Canyon Railway's fleet. Citing environmental concerns, Xanterra officials plan to keep the steam locomotive as a "living" display, while using diesel locomotives for the actual runs between Williams and the Grand Canyon.

Judi Lages, vice president of sales and marketing for Xanterra Parks and Resorts, said the decision to eliminate the steam engine from regular service is based on a number of factors. According to a Sept. 15 letter, becoming "greener" counted as one of the largest reasons behind the move. Officials hope to save 113,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year by eliminating the steam engine, as well as saving an estimated 151,200 gallons of water. Other environmental concerns associated with the use of the steam engine would also be eliminated, according to the letter, including the use of journal oil, steam oil and bearing oil, as well as over 25 different boiler chemicals. Greenhouse gases and other pollutants are also expected to diminish. Xanterra officials recently hired coordinator Morgan O'Connor to oversee environmental conditions at the Railway's maintenance yard. According to O'Connor, who spoke before the Williams Rotary Club July 15, environmental conditions at the maintenance yard were more "brown" than "green."

The decision to eliminate steam engine service has met with some opposition; however, as some believe the loss of the engine will cause the Railway to lose its historic appeal. A total of 20 jobs associated with the steam engine were also eliminated as a result of the engine's removal. The steam engine typically ran each year from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.





"There were 20 jobs that were affected. Some were part time and some were full time," Lages said. "Our boss is the National Park Service and it is just not in keeping with our environmental mission to continue to run the steam. We're a very, very green company."

Lages said Xanterra administrators have received a number of e-mails from individuals opposed to their decision.

"We've received maybe 20 emails from steam enthusiasts and we can understand their disappointment," Lages said. "We don't think that the majority of our riders are going to see a difference. We don't think it's a going to have an overall effect."

Other popular attractions, she said, such as the annual ride of the Polar Express, will continue normal operations.

"Polar express is going to continue as it always has," Lages said. "Our numbers are good this year."

Steam enthusiast Jeff Stafford called the elimination of the steam engine a "travesty" and said he hoped Xanterra would reconsider their decision.

"Grand Canyon steam engines are some of the cleanest steam engines around and put out less pollution than many diesel engines. In fact, both engines 29 and 4960 were recently overhauled so that they would be more fuel efficient," Stafford said. "The lost jobs, threats to summer tourism, and negative impacts to the town of Williams cannot be underestimated. Many visitors ride the railway in the summer specifically for the steam experience. Max and Thelma were concerned when they sold the railroad to any new owner that the history would be preserved and jobs would be left untouched. They must be disappointed to hear this news."

Meanwhile, a formal announcement on the pending sale of the Grand Canyon Railway to Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz has yet to be announced. Word of the sale first came to light in June of this year and a tentative closing date was set for this month. The sale would mark the second sale of the Grand Canyon Railway in almost as many years. Xanterra Parks and Resorts first bought the company from founding owners Max and Thelma Biegert in early 2007. Anschutz, listed in "Forbes" magazine as the 31st richest person in America, is involved in a number of entertainment ventures. According to Xanterra officials, Anschutz indicated he would retain staff at the management level and continue the company's environmental efforts at the Railway.

Xanterra officials would not comment on the sale and what impacts that sale might have had on the recent removal of the steam engine from regular service.
This is very disheartening to me. Please contact Xanterra if you are interested in saving steam service to the Grand Canyon and let them know your feelings.
"The only thing we did was wrong was staying in the wilderness to long...the only thing we did was right was the day we started to fight..."
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Re: Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

Post by Hoffmaster » Oct 14 2008 8:39 pm

This "global warming" hoax is going too far. Shutting down a steam engine is not going to save the world. Besides the world doesn't need saving. If anyone bothered to do real research on this subject, (Al Gore's movie doesn't count) they would find that we are in the midst of a cooling trend (quick! buy sweaters!). And hey, what do you know... the polar bear population is on the rise too.
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Re: Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

Post by big_load » Oct 14 2008 10:00 pm

That's too bad. There are few things as fascinating as a steam engine. I've ridden coal-burning steam trains in PA and in England, but never had a chance to ride to the GC.

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Re: Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

Post by hikeaz » Oct 15 2008 6:40 am

Anschutz closed on the whole of Xanterra (including the GCRW) last month.
If you look back through the history of privatization of the National Parks and the folks who initiated and pushed through the "Red Rock Pass" and all others of its type; and add to it the privatization of the campground reservation and management system, you will see that it has always been the entertainment businesses behind it all. They continue to have success in having Congress deed the parks and such to them and allowing them to rent portions of our parks back to us.
I fear that it will be a bit like the mines.... they won't protect what will be left behind, merely get what they can out of it while the 'gettin's good'. And when they've ridden the wave to exhaustion, they'll merely hand back the prostituted parks to us for US to deal with. Problem being that it's only wilderness ONCE.

As conjecture I would say that Xanterra/Anschutz figured that any lost revenue would be miniscule compared to the savings in parts, continued upkeep and labor costs associated with the steam engines. (it's not as if you can run down to Checker or Auto Zone for parts - they have to be MADE) After all, what's more green than wood and water, both renewable resources; especially when you compare it to burning fossil fuels and associated diesel exhaust? Like Stossel says "give me a break".
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Re: Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

Post by Hoffmaster » Oct 15 2008 10:41 am

hikeaz wrote:After all, what's more green than wood and water, both renewable resources; especially when you compare it to burning fossil fuels and associated diesel exhaust?
I was thinking about that. I don't know what all goes into running a steam engine, but steam, by it's very nature, is much more "green" than diesel. This whole thing makes no sense to me.
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Re: Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

Post by scorpion scus » Oct 15 2008 7:05 pm

its stupid
Last edited by scorpion scus on Jan 04 2010 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

Post by PaleoRob » Oct 15 2008 8:36 pm

I would just like to point out that as a scientist I think the evidence points towards global warming being real and also being caused, at least partially, by humans. Don't want to turn this into a political debate, however. I do think that mothballing two steam engines isn't going to really change much. These engines burn (according to my quick estimate) about 3.62 gallons per mile. Both locomotives weigh apx. 160,000lbs each, and the fully loaded train weighs apx. 1,360,000lbs. If you do the math (and I think I've done it correctly) that means that they can pull 2898lbs one mile on one gallon of gas. That's versus a car like mine, a 2003 Jetta, which can pull 1076lbs per mile per gallon. More efficient for the weight than our car - which gets 35mpg! So it seems like a better way to transport people to the already congested canyon than a bunch of cars emitting more greenhouse gas per ton.
Anyway, just my quick calculations and thoughts.
"The only thing we did was wrong was staying in the wilderness to long...the only thing we did was right was the day we started to fight..."
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Re: Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

Post by PaleoRob » Oct 15 2008 8:40 pm

Actually these engines burn oil (bunker oil, I think), which produces a hotter flame for its weight than wood - more efficient, so there is the burning of fossil fuel. I do think, however, that carbon-neutral fuels like fast-growing wood powering steam locomotives is a great idea - totally renewable fuels, like you said.
"The only thing we did was wrong was staying in the wilderness to long...the only thing we did was right was the day we started to fight..."
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Re: Sad Day - GCR axes steam trains!

Post by big_load » Oct 15 2008 9:12 pm

I agree that the "green" argument is a smoke-screen (oops) to cover their cost cutting. They're probably correct in judging that simply riding on any kind of train is now such a novelty for most people that having it be a steam train doesn't bring enough more people to justify the cost. That sucks for those of us with an interest in history and technology, but as hikeaz implies, that's what happens when profit becomes the sole measure of value.

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