Thunder From the Wild West

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The history of the Grand Canyon National Park explored from a railroad perspective.

Like the wild wild west of the 1880’s, the human story unfolds with the beautiful Arizona high desert setting the stage.
Here is just a taste of what you’ll get to see.

NOTE: All the following photos are scenes taken directly from the films.
(Copyright Golden Rail Video. All rights reserved.)

Imagine in one short year how a lonely cattle ranch on the Colorado Plateau explodes into a wild west-style Las Vegas? Suddenly there are saloons, …gambling, …supplies for the trail, …and fortunes won and lost on a draw of a card. That’s what happened to Williams, Arizona in 1881-’82.

Cowboys, prospectors, loggers, ranchers, workers, and fortune-seekers suddenly ride in from all over the high desert and beyond to forge a town where the rules are being made up as they go along.

What was the thunder-clap that started this “stampede”?

It was the Santa Fe Pacific Railway.

In 1881, the Santa Fe carved the first mainline across the state of Arizona…and nothing would ever be the same.


More scenes from the films. Settlers arrive in Williams, Arizona. Many stayed there to work for the railroad.


Can you believe it?

Back then, the Grand Canyon was considered nothing more than a “big hole” inside a forest preserve. Good for mining…and maybe “spittin’ into”. Prospectors were about the only ones really interested in it.

Yet in just a few years, the Santa Fe Railway would jubilantly proclaim itself to be “The Grand Canyon Line”?

Well, that’s just part of the little-known history of the world’s most famous National Park. …the history that comes alive for you in Thunder From the Wild West.

Thunder From the Wild West brings to life the often-ignored railroad history of the Park and the historic spur-track heading north off the Santa Fe main known as The Grand Canyon Railway. …how it got started…how it grew…and how it changed the lives of the people of the high desert Canyonlands.


Visiting the site of historic cattle ranches along the line gives you a glimpse of life in the high desert before and after the arrival of the Santa Fe Railway.

And then half a century later, you’ll see why the Grand Canyon Railroad operation whithered and was abandoned by the Santa Fe. You learn how it was all nearly torn up …and yet how it miraculously came back to life.

Massive comeback effort

In the last decade of the 20th Century, a new Grand Canyon Railway sprang to life with a race against time to bring their first steamer (#18) back to life from a 35-year slumber…while the whole world watched!

The new railroad was privately owned. And the owner wanted it to be an all-steam operation. Their steam fleet grew along with their reputation. We’ll tour the locomotive shop where legendary steam locomotive #4960 was carefully restored…costing over one and a half million dollars!

First generation diesels from the 1950’s are now almost as rare as steam locomotives. The new Grand Canyon Railway acquired some of those, too.It was an elegant fleet of ALCO passenger diesels. (Have you ever seen the engine-room of these old beasts? In Thunder from the Wild West you will.)

See moments frozen in time… with snowy winter railroading with steam, first generation diesel equipment, and vintage Pullman passenger cars.. Exclusive, historic footage enriches Thunder From the Wild West into a film of mythic proportions.

Engine #29 challenges a winter blizzard
(extremely rare footage from the railway’s early years is featured in both Thunder From the Wild West and Thunder in the Canyons).

Grand Canyon Rwy Engine #29 in a winter blizzard

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