Grand Canyon Railway
Grand Canyon Railway & Resort

Close Window

In early 2005 word started to emerge that Nigel was acting as consultant to more than one railway in the USA. The Grand Canyon Railway, operators of both steam and diesel locomotives on tourist services to the Grand Canyon, have embarked on a programme of work to improve their steam fleet. With that work now public knowledge the first stages, already completed, and the upcoming ones can be detailed here.

The railway's raison d'Ítre - The Grand Canyon. August 2005. © Nigel Day

The railway's raison d'être - The Grand Canyon. March 2005. © Nigel Day

For those unfamiliar with the Grand Canyon Railway the name is a big clue to the location and purpose of this commercially operated tourist railway service. The line runs from Williams, Arizona, 63.5 miles to a station built specifically to serve the Grand Canyon by the Sante Fe Railroad in 1901. After a gap in services of over 20 years the service was resurrected in 1989 and has proved to be very popular with visitors to the region.

Route map of the GCR. Courtesy of Arizona Rail Passenger Association.

The route of the line is a tough one. Click here to see the gradient list.

Two of the three steam locomotives owned by the company are back in service are extensive, and expensive, rebuilds. These two machines have since become the subject of some simple modifications which are already reaping great rewards for the line. The third locomotive is currently out of service for rebuilding following many years faithful service since 1989.

Grand Canyon locomotive No.18 - A SC-4 class locomotives built in 1910 by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in Pittsburgh, PA. Perhaps one day to return to service sporting similar modifications to the other GCR fleet? March 15 2005 © Nigel Day

Lempor Exhaust Ejectors

The locomotives modified by the GCR under Nigel's guidance are Baldwin 2-8-2 4960 and ALCO 2-8-0 29. Both locos have received Lempor exhausts systems, designed to fit within a more or less traditional look chimney. Now this work has proved itself in service the next stages can be embarked on. For more information and photos of 4960 and 29 please click on the relevant photos or links below:

Baldwin 2-8-2 4960 © Sam Lanter
ALCO 2-8-0 29 © Nigel Day

Whilst the numbers for this first season of modified loco operation have yet to be analysed results have been encouraging with reductions in water and fuel oil consumption noted. Additionally, and very importantly, the number of locomotive miles compared to total train miles has been reduced compared to the same period in 2004. It also should be noted that passenger numbers have increased during the same time. Heavier trains have traditionally been hauled by steam with diesel helper locos coupled behind with all under the control of the steam driver. As the haulage capacity of 4960 and 29 has been increased it has been found possible to reduce the amount of diesel assistance required. As will be obvious this reduction, in the region of 30%, makes an very worthwhile difference the the railway's operating costs. It is expected the redraughting will have paid for itself in a very short period.

GCR Chief Mechanical Officer Sam Lanter shows off the size of each Lempor nozzle. These are believed to be the biggest ever made. March 14 2005. © Nigel Day
GCR Chief Mechanical Officer Sam Lanter shows off the size of each Lempor nozzle. These are believed to be the biggest ever made. March 14 2005. © Nigel Day

Oil Firing
Stage 2 of the work is to substantially improve the combustion systems on the locomotives. Click here for details.
Stage 2 of the work is to substantially improve the combustion systems on the locomotives. Click here for details. NEW JAN 04

See this new item on the Grand Canyon Railway website which reports on the work undertaken and planned.

Also see The Ultimate Steam Page which includes a good number of different views of events.

The view forward from 4960. August 10 2005. © Nigel Day
The view forward from 4960. August 10 2005. © Nigel Day

4960 (left) and 29 at Grand Canyon depot. October 2005. © Grand Canyon Railway
4960 (left) and 29 at Grand Canyon depot. October 2005. © Grand Canyon Railway

The diesel fleet at GCR is fairly historic being made up of ALCO locos. I don't know (or care!) much about them as diesels aren't my thing but here is a nice photo to help give a more rounded view of GCR operations:Maybe with Nigel's guidance steam can consign the diesels to history!

March 2005 © Nigel Day

ALCOs March 2005 © Nigel Day

The American Orient Express

In addition to their own service GCR also plays host to visiting trains from time to time. One such train is the luxury American Orient Express.

Photos taken on June 09 2005. © Sam Lanter

The American Orient Express


A note of thanks: These pages would not have been possible without the friendly cooperation of both Nigel Day and Grand Canyon Chief Mechanical Officer Sam Lanter. My sincere thanks to them both - one day I shall get to the line myself to experience it all first hand!

Close Window