Williams, Ariz. – The train rolled in well past sunset as a couple of shuttle drivers waited at a dimly lit platform for passengers headed to the Grand Canyon.
After loading the shuttles, the last driver turned off the lights, closing down the Williams Junction station as the Amtrak train faded into the distance.
The routine had become one of passengers’ most treasured experiences in the American West, but it ended with the new year. The company that runs the shuttle service between the train stop and the small city of Williams 3 miles away said it was becoming too much of a burden, effectively closing the station.
“I’m very sad to see it close because the whole history of this area — Williams and the Grand Canyon — is based on the trains bringing people out this way,” said Jim Sigmon, a Prescott resident who traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, with his wife over the holidays via Williams Junction.
Amtrak’s twice-daily trains between Los Angeles and Chicago have stopped at the station since at least 1999, when a company that runs a nearby hotel built it to serve passengers on its own rail line to the Grand Canyon.
Xanterra Parks and Resorts bought the Grand Canyon Railway in 2007 and decided last year to stop the free shuttle service at Williams Junction. As of Monday, passengers are picked up and dropped off in the Northern Arizona city of Flagstaff, about 30 miles away.
Railway spokesman Bruce Brossman said the train schedules were inconsistent, and passengers who arrived late at night or before dawn lingered in the hotel lobby — sleeping on couches, with nowhere else to go, and making guests and staff uncomfortable.
“We really think that it’s going to be a better experience for the train passengers to go to a real train depot in Flagstaff,” Brossman said.
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