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Tue, Nov. 12

'Speeders' take to the rails, head from Williams to Grand Canyon

During a layover at Grand Canyon, members of the North American Railcar Operators Association spent time hiking, sightseeing, dining and enjoying the sights of the Grand Canyon on the South Rim. (Veronica Tierney/WGCN)

During a layover at Grand Canyon, members of the North American Railcar Operators Association spent time hiking, sightseeing, dining and enjoying the sights of the Grand Canyon on the South Rim. (Veronica Tierney/WGCN)

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Dedicated to the preservation and safe legal operation of vintage railroad equipment, the North American Railcar Operators Association (NARCOA) made its annual debut to the Grand Canyon Village in late October.

Also known as “speeders”, the motorcars were once used by the railroads to inspect the many miles of track for defects and to handle track maintenance.

The group of 24 cars decorated the Grand Canyon Village with yellow and orange mini-trains that drew a curious eye.

“Our trip this year was 67.4 miles one way, “ said Joe Schnyder, Excursion Coordinator for NARCOA.

“We left on a Monday morning after the Grand Canyon Railway passenger train and arrived at the Grand Canyon Village depot about 2 p.m. for a two-night stay. Our group this year had 58 people.”

“We give them plenty of track time avoiding our trains,” said Ken Stephenson, trainmaster for the Grand Canyon Railway. “This way they can enjoy and not be rushed around on their trip. We also provide a Port-a-jon at halfway point for a breaks.”

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Joe Schnyder and his wife SuAnna wave goodbye from their open speeder. The couple also owns a closed car, too, for inclement weather. (Veronica Tierney/WGCN)

The group had cars from South Carolina, Illinois, Nebraska, Montana, Idaho, Las Vegas, Arizona and California.

Schnyder owns three cars and travels up to 1,000 or more miles.

“If you ever rode in a car and have seen the sight from this level you would understand why we do this,” Schnyder said. “Some of the places we visit are only seen by trains. Sometimes we stop at an areas and just sit and enjoy natures beauty knowing very few people get to see this.”

In September 2018, Schnyder and his group ran the Alaska Railroad; 525 miles between Seward and Fairbanks then back to Anchorage for a total of 1050 miles.

“It took 26 days and we stayed at 4 and 5 star resorts," he said. "We saw deer, elk, bear, moose, wolves, salmon swimming up river and hundreds of bald eagles walking on a glacier.”

The cars keep about 200 to 300 feet spacing between them when moving and travel between 20 to 25 mph. “We can reach speeds up to 45 mph but it’s not advisable and we like to have a safe and enjoyable ride enjoying the sights,” Schnyder claims.

Next year’s trip to the Grand Canyon is planned for Oct. 1821.

“They’re a great group to work with,” Stephenson said.

Members of NARCOA operate their own privately owned railroad motorcars on railroads throughout the United States and Canada. All excursions are approved by and coordinated with participating railroads. More information is available at www.narcoa.org

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