Working for Grand Canyon Railway

WorkingGCRI spent 6 months or so working for the Grand Canyon Railway (GCR) based in Williams, AZ. This is not an employer like those in a National Park. They operate year-round and hire employees in permanent positions. There is no employee housing (as of 2008), however they do have spaces available for RVers on a limited basis.

The Railway is owned by Xanterra, one of the largest (if not the largest) concessionaire within the National Park system. During my time in Williams I worked with quite a few people that I had run into at the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. It was almost like old home week when I arrived. I am always mildly surprised when I run across people I know from other places I have worked.

There are many different types of positions available for anyone that would like to work at the railway. There is a hotel, retail shops, restaurant, and of course the train. The jobs range in nature from those you find in a typical National Park setting to more technical positions you would find at any railway (engineer, conductor, mechanic).

This is a fairly large operation and remains open year-round. The spring, summer, and fall are quite busy. You would think things slow down for the winter, but November and December are some of the busiest times when the Polar Express runs. The first two to three months out of the year are the times you will find yourself with idle time on your hands. IMGP1213The only problem is that this is Northern Arizona and it gets cold at 6800-7000 foot elevation. Great for skiers since there is a ski resort not far away, but a bit restricting for those of us who enjoy warmer temperatures.

Those of you that have not lived in Northern Arizona you may be surprised to know that it snows, and the temperatures will drop down below freezing quite often. Sometimes it stays there for several days. Williams, AZ sits in a kind of bowl, and the winds come down off the surrounding mountains with force.

Flagstaff is a short 30 minutes away and there is quite a bit to do there anytime of year. It’s a college town, so the activities are quite varied. Public transportation in this part of Arizona is almost non-existent, except in Flagstaff proper. There is ample shopping, restaurants, and entertainment–enough to keep you busy for several years. The cost of living, though, can be quite high. You will need to do some research in order to find inexpensive housing, but it is available down around the college (Northern Arizona University). This is one of my most favorite cities in the world. I enjoy spending time in the downtown area.

If you choose to work at Grand Canyon Railway be prepared to face the same kind of situations you would face at any business out on the open market. It is much different than working in a National Park where the length of the season is known, and everyone looks forward to moving on when the doors close. The doors never close at the railway.

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