Xanterra buys GC Railroad

Xanterra Parks & Resorts has completed the purchase of the Grand Canyon Railway from owners Max and Thelma Biegert.

Effective immediately, Xan-terra assumes management of the Grand Canyon Railway's operations including the train trip from Williams to Grand Canyon Village, the 297-room Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, RV Park and Pet Resort, Max and Thelma's Restaurant and several real estate parcels in Williams.

According to Grand Canyon Railway President David Chambers, the details of the sale will not be disclosed.

He said that Xanterra will use 2007 to learn more about the business and plans no immediate changes.

"A train operation is pretty new to them," he said. "Once they're comfortable with what they can do, I'm sure there will be changes down the line."

The company's purchase marks a reunion of the railway with the Fred Harvey name. More than 100 years ago the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad laid tracks from Williams to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where restaurateur Harvey had proposed a hotel. Acting on that suggestion, the railroad built El Tovar which opened in 1905 after Harvey's death and is recognized as one of the great lodges of the national parks.

Xanterra, then called Amfac Parks & Resorts, purchased the Fred Harvey Company in 1968. That same year the Santa Fe discontinued train service from Williams to the Grand Canyon. The tracks lay dormant until 1989 when the Biegerts purchased the tracks and right of way and restored rail service.

"Trains have been an integral part of the growth and stability of tourism in the Grand Canyon area, so this is a fitting purchase for Xanterra," said Andrew N. Todd, president and CEO of Xanterra Parks & Resorts. "We are pleased to welcome the Grand Canyon Railway employee family to Xanterra Parks & Resorts."

Chambers said that eventually both companies should benefit from joint marketing efforts and the ability to provide a seamless visitor experience from Williams to Grand Canyon.

"We will be able to increase our room blocs and the opportunity for Xanterra to move their customer base to the train. The Park Service loves the idea because it helps keep cars out of the park," Chambers said.

Xanterra affiliate Xanterra South Rim, LLC employs approximately 1,200 people in Grand Canyon Village, and the Grand Canyon Railway employs approximately 500 people.

Today, the Grand Canyon Railway makes the journey from Williams to the Grand Canyon every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The trip includes a daily Wild West shootout prior to departure each morning and live entertainment aboard the train, including roaming Western singers.

The train travels through 65 miles of high desert plains, small arroyos and portions of the world's largest ponderosa pine forest. The Grand Canyon Railway offers five classes of service and a variety of trip options, including packages with overnight stays at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Approximately 238,000 people rode the train from Williams to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park last year.

For more information about the Grand Canyon Railway, visit www.thetrain.com

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