Who Knew? The Romance of the Rails is Back


Something remarkable is happening in the post-quarantine world out at the Grand Canyon Railway – everyday people are calling and chartering their own luxury private railroad cars, once the exclusive domain of Presidents, tycoons and the legendary stars of Hollywood.  As a matter of fact, people are asking if they can charter and run their own entire train.

“People want to control their environment,” says Samuel Langner at Xanterra Travel Collection who oversees and operates as the concierge for chartering these private railcars on the Grand Canyon Railway.   “They are asking to charter cars and trains for mostly family celebrations and reunions.”   It’s also Christmas in July, with requests already coming in from families and groups wanting to charter an entire Polar Express train that runs to the “North Pole” from mid-November through January 3, 2021.

These private railroad cars put the First Class sections of a plane or a suite in a resort to shame.  Depending on the car selected, features can include outdoor rear observation decks, skylight domes, kitchens, living rooms and lounges and even bedrooms.  And, yes, private bathrooms.  The trains come with private chefs, bartenders, entertainers, and staff. The cars feature fine fabrics, handcrafted teak and fine wood interiors, china and real silverware, TVs and satellite radio.

Built in the luxurious era in the late 1940s and 1950s the cars have names such as the rear open-aired observation car (The Kansas); a parlor/café and lounge car (The Utah); and a coveted vista dome/sleeper car (The California).  There is The Santa Fe a luxury parlor/lounge/café car that can be added to the daily train to the Grand Canyon. 

The Grand Canyon Railway is one of the rather rare privately operated railroads in the US and therefore it’s possible to charter railroad cars or an entire train.  It’s even possible to have one of the railroads historic steam engines fired up to pull the train.

The Grand Canyon Railway runs 65 miles from Williams, AZ on historic Route 66 to within steps of the South Rim of Grand Canyon and El Tovar, the Bright Angel Trailhead and Hopi House. It runs every day except on Christmas.