Friday, September 15, 2017

Ghosts of Arizona Route 66 and the Santa Fe Transcon - Part 3

We are near the end of my travels on the Mother Road for now, but rest assured, I am not finished.  There is so much more to explore and experience and as time and money permit, I will be picking up where I left off.  With that said, in this post, I will briefly touch on the third piece of the Route 66 experience.

This trip started a little differently than the last two in that instead of working east from our previous end point, we started on the eastern end of the leg and worked west.  We drove to Williams, AZ and stayed our first night in the Canyon Motel and RV Park in an authentic Santa Fe caboose.  The caboose was set up to sleep 6, but accommodations were tight for sure, but at least the beds were comfortable.
Our motel room for our first night stay in Williams, AZ.
Room one.  Room two is underneath the cupola and has a queen bunk bed.
My dad, my aunt, and my son hanging out on the platform of the caboose.  There
is a wood deck the length of the car along the back side, part of which can
be seen here.
Day two began with breakfast at a lovely restaurant in downtown Williams, followed by a trip to the old Santa Fe depot.  The depot was transferred to the Grand Canyon Railway when the line was reopened to the South Rim and has been beautifully restored.  We had plenty of time to explore the depot before our train departed for the canyon.  The grounds are well kept and look much the same as they did in Santa Fe days.
Williams Depot
Saginaw and Manistee Lumber Company Shay displayed out in front of the
Williams Depot.
View of the west end of the depot.  The passenger car parked to the left is
painted for the famous Polar Express.
Outdoor waiting area at the center of the depot building itself.
One of a few unique benches around the grounds.
Grand Canyon Railway #539 on display at the Williams Depot.

The train ride to the South Rim was certainly well worth the price of admission.  Our car was clean and comfortable and our car attendant was friendly as can be.
Doug, our car attendant.
The train strolled at a leisurely pace for the two hour ride to the canyon, taking us through some very striking scenery that displayed the stark contrast that is Arizona.  We started in the tall pine forests that surround Williams which quickly gave way to groves of much smaller pinion pines.  Soon we were in sagebrush territory that characterizes the open expanses of the high desert only to return to the pine forests that surround Grand Canyon National Park.
The tall ponderosa pines surrounding Williams, AZ.
A view of our trains power as it rounds a curve one of the pinion pine forests
along the line.
Along the line there are a couple of ruins of old Santa Fe section houses.  The Grand Canyon Railway made them uninhabitable when they took over the line to avoid having to pay property taxes on the buildings.  Vandals have taken their toll on the ruins that remained.
One of a couple of old Santa Fe section houses that were still standing along
the line.  The railroad made them uninhabitable, but left the walls to preserve
a small piece of the lines Santa Fe heritage.
Near the end of the line, I saw more relics from the Santa Fe days of the line, such as this low wooden bridge over a dry stream bed.
Small wooden bridge set on concrete piers and abutments over an intermittent
stream.  There were many of these bridges constructed on the northern end of
the line to combat the flooding that happens in Northern Arizona's monsoon
Once at the canyon, we got off the train and immediately boarded a bus and headed for one of the lodges for a tasty buffet lunch.  We then got back on the bus for our tour of the canyon.  Our tour guide was a friendly gentleman by the name of Benjamin and kept the tour lively and entertaining.  The views of the canyon were breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
A quick photo from the bus of the steam locomotive that powered our train to
the South Rim.
The obligatory family photo with the canyon in the background.

We returned to the depot, which is the only log cabin depot in the country still in use as a depot, and waited to board our train back to Williams.
The former Santa Fe depot at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was built
around 1906 and serves passengers and tourist to the canyon to this very day.

The 1926 power plant built by the Santa Fe Railway to supply power to the park
and Grand Canyon Village.  It is no longer in use as a power plant, but retains
much of the original equipment inside.  It ceased operation in 1954 and the
smoke stack was demolished soon after.  Today, it houses storage and some
On the trip back, our train was 'robbed' by a rather comical pair of dunces.  The lawman chasing them didn't seem too worried as the would be crooks didn't realize that the would soon run out of!
Robbery in progress!
Help!  Somebody please help!

Our train for the return trip was powered by an ex-Amtrak FF40PH and a
historic Montreal Locomotive Works FPA-4.
The rest of the trip into Williams was uneventful, but the clouds that dominated much of the day finally started to clear.  We found our way to one of the local restaurants for a delicious dinner.  Afterwards, we checked into our motel and strolled through downtown Williams taking in the nightlife before we turned in for the night.
The El Rancho is the quintessential 1950s motel.
After a good night's rest, we checked out and headed west on what remained of Route 66 through Williams.  There were several old alignments of the highway west of town, but none are readily drivable as they all pass through National Forest land.  The portion that follows the current route of and subsequently replaced by Interstate 40, however, can still be driven.  Most of it was buried under portions of freeway, but there are stretches that were not used in the freeway construction and became frontage roads.  We drove to Ash Fork, Arizona where a portion of the old road survives as the main streets in town.  Here the road splits and the westbound lanes become Lewis Avenue and the eastbound lanes take the form of Park Avenue.  Something I discovered in my research of Route 66 is that the road actually had two alignments at the west end of town, which for such a small community is rather unusual.  The older alignment turned south at Pine Avenue and continued onto what are now the westbound lanes of Interstate 40.  The newer alignment continued west into a sweeping curve to the south and rejoined the previous alignment further west of town.  Continuing west, the original 1926 alignment turns to the southwest and drops down a hill before crossing Partridge Creek on a beautiful concrete bridge.
The 1926 Partridge Creek Bridge is still in use, but this portion of old Route
66 is now a local road to access a home on the hill at the other end of the
Since the only access to this part of the road is from the west, we turned around and returned to the Crookton exit.  This exit is the eastern end of the longest contiguous stretch of remaining Route 66 in the country.  Instead of getting on the interstate to return to Kingman, we stayed on Route 66 to share the experience with my aunt, who joined us for this trip to see the Grand Canyon.  Next stop on our way home was Seligman, which is where we ended in part 2 of this blog.  Of course, no visit to Seligman is complete without a stop at the Snow Cap Drive In.  After we ordered, we went out to the patio to find out table and were pleasantly surprised to find some live entertainment.  After discovering that one of the entertainers was Angel Delgadillo, one of the founders of the Arizona Route 66 Foundation, I just had to meet the guy.  I got him to sign a dollar bill that I had in my pocket and had my dad take a picture of me with him.
Angel Delgadillo, famously known as one of the two men
that got the Route 66 preservation movement started, is
pictured here in the center with his nephew, Paul Alvarado
on the left.
Since we were now retracing our steps from our previous trip, we knew that a top at the Hackberry General store was in order to see if we could find our dollar bill.  We did, and it was nice to see a number of others have been added since then.
Our dollar bill from the previous trip has been joined by a number of other
bills from around the country and the world.
We continued on our way and made Kingman in no time at all, where we had planned to spend the night before returning home.  We checked into the El Trovatore, another classic Route 66 motel that has quite the history.  One thing I like about this motel is that you don't have to leave the property to watch trains.  The canyon behind the motel just so happens to have the Transcon running through it.
This was the door to our room.
This was painted on the building towards the back of the property.  I love the
eagle above it as well.  To the left of the eagle is a large tower that has the name
of the motel spelled out in neon lights.  The pink Route 66 shield is a modern
The mentioned in the previous photo at night.

BNSF intermodal train hot-footing it to the port of Long Beach.  This train
happened to have some NS power, including the Barcode Unit (#1111).
After we got checked in, we went to dinner at Dambar Steakhouse.  If you are ever in Kingman, this restaurant is a must.  The food is great and the prices are reasonable.  In addition, the staff are very friendly.

Of course, being in Kingman, I had to stop by the restored Santa Fe depot as well as pay a visit to the locomotive across from the Power House Museum.
Kingman Depot.
This was on the fence that Kingman installed during the restoration of the old
Santa Fe depot.  It is refreshing to see Kingman recognizing the historical
significance of the depot and the railroad.
and its history.
Santa Fe 3759.
Santa Fe 999520
This concludes my story about the ghosts of Route 66 and the Santa Fe Transcon.  I hope that you enjoyed the trip as much as I did writing about it and encourage you to make a similar trip of your own.  It is an experience that you will cherish while creating memories to last a lifetime.

- Matt Liverani

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