by Otto Vondrak
Ridership loss, rising fuel prices drove GCR to cancel steam program
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September 11, 2008
WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Fires have been permanently dropped from Grand Canyon Railway's steam locomotives, owner Xanterra Parks & Resorts has announced. The company said it is permanently canceling the steam program owing to its impact on the environment, and has laid off 20 employees as a result. An industry source with specific knowledge of the situation, however, paints the action as a business decision driven by fewer riders and costlier fuel.
Grand Canyon's steam locomotives will be placed on static display, and Xanterra spokesperson Judi Lages said the company has no plans to sell them.
GCR operates one daily steam trip between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The trains are powered by one of the railroad's three steam locomotives: a 2-8-0 and two 2-8-2s.
Xanterra bought GCR early last year. The company operates parks and resorts in several national parks including Death Valley, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon. Denver businessman Phil Anschutz, known to the rail industry as the longtime owner of Denver & Rio Grande Western and Southern Pacific, announced plans this summer to buy Xanterra; the deal is expected occur this fall.
Lages said Xanterra had not factored the money to be saved by canceling the steam program into its decision. "We didn't analyze the cost savings. It was driven by the environmental impact," she said.