WILLIAMS, ARIZ.—The Iron Horse is back and healthier than ever thanks to a strict diet of oil used for cooking French fries and chicken wings. The oil comes from fast food joints and hotels in the region and Williams-area including the Grand Canyon Railway and & Hotel’s restaurants themselves. While such a diet might be hazardous to the health of humans, The Grand Canyon Railway (GCR) uses recycled waste vegetable oil as fuel for Locomotive No. 4960, a steam engine built in 1923, to keep it running and running green. Eight times from April through October, all are welcome aboard for a memorable ride behind the steam engine for a 65-mile journey from Williams, Ariz., to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
GCR is one of the few passenger railroads in the United States to use a restored steam engine for long trips and the very first in the United States to utilize waste vegetable oil to power it. But the memorable experience of riding an 18th-century invention in modern days almost did not happen. In 2008, the GCR put its stable of historic iron horses out to pasture due to environmental concerns about pollution while steaming into Grand Canyon National Park.
Inspired by the innovation of carmakers to run vehicles on waste vegetable oil, GCR General Manager Bob Baker, former Chief Mechanical Officer Sam Lanter, and Locomotive Manager Eric Hadder, decided to apply the sustainable measure to a steam engine. Not only did it work, but it worked so well that the 98-year-old steam engine gallops along carbon-neutral on the Grand Canyon Railway and thus releases fewer emissions than a diesel engine used today and is a green machine. The water used in the boilers is also earth-friendly; boilers contain reclaimed rain and snowmelt (when Mother Nature allows) collected during the winter and Northern Arizona’s rainy season for steam. GCR is the first tourist railway in the United States to receive ISO 14001 third-party certification of its environmental management system.
For more information about the Grand Canyon Railway, visit thetrain.com or call (800) 843-8724.