The Historic Grand Canyon Train
Back when the West was Wild

Williams, AZ

April 15, 2001

The little town of Williams, AZ's only claim to fame is in having the only passenger train that runs to and from the Grand Canyon National Park. Of course there are other ways to get to the park, notably by vehicle, car or tour bus. One of which is Marvelous Marv's Tour Bus that will pick you up from the campsite and deliver you back for a reasonable fee. However, these were not the methods we had chosen. Our adventure was going to be on a fabulous old time train that putted through the countryside at 40 miles an hour taking over two hours to meander to the Canyon rim. Making one trip a day the train leaves from the center of town, within easy walking distance of the two trailer parks available. Our first stop was to contact Jerry Thull, the public relations manager. We soon had all the necessary permissions and understandings and were told that there would be someone at the station on Easter Sunday to give us an interview. Although the train doesn't leave till 10:00 AM, it was suggested that we arrive between 8:30 and 9:00. Doing so, I presented myself at the ticket counter and asked if there was a package for me. I was quickly met by the station manager who advised us that the train Marshal would be here in a moment to talk to us. When I inquired as to what he might look like, she just smiled and said "Oh, you'll know him when you see him." A few minutes later my attention was drawn to a small crowd gathering outside. In the middle, standing well over 6 feet, was a long, lanky cowboy dressed all in black except his spotless white shirt. His large caliber six-gun hung from a floppy cross draw holster on his left side. Marshal John B. Goodmore (John Moore) patiently answered questions and posed for snapshots as he entertained the group. When he had finished, we introduced ourselves and received a great smile and a hardy handshake as he stated that he had been looking for us. We gave him a quick overview of our desires as we walked toward the end of the train. It was decided that we would try to cover all the different packages offered by the train, and would move around as freely as needed to do so. After setting up visual recognition with as many of the train porters and hosts as were available, we went by the Marshal's office for an interview. The office looked much like I would have pictured a Marshal's office, a hundred years ago, except for the large number of pictures and awards along the walls. It would seem that the Marshal was quite well known in these parts. Settling down in his swivel chair and stretching out his long frame until he could put his boots on the end of the desk, John began to tell a story not often heard anymore. It would seem that John comes by his Marshal's role quite easily having served in law enforcement for some 27 years, ending with a 6 year appointment as Marshal of the town of Williams. As he looked off into the distance he seemed to be half lecturing and half reminiscing as he explained that after the Grand Canyon was discovered, it was an arduous overland journey to get there. On September 17, 1901, the first passengers made the trip on the new Grand Canyon Railway Line completed by the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. For years after that, the town was a bustling happy place where visitors crowded together for the famous train ride to the Canyon rim from one of those wonderful towns along the much acclaimed Route 66. It was a great time for the small town of Williams. Then America's love of the auto, and the final moving of traffic from route 66 to Interstate 40, brought an end to the beloved train. In 1968, the 65 mile line from Williams to the Grand Canyon was finally closed, to remain dormant until the "Incident at Williams". John Moore was acting Marshal of Williams in the Fall 1988, when the town manager came running up to John, "They're tearing up the railway!", he shouted, "You have to do something. If they remove those tracks we'll never get the train back!" As events unwound, it seems that a consortium of investors had bought the railroad with intention of restoring the famous service, but when hard times fell on them, they decided to cut their losses and sell off the tracks as scrap metal to cover a portion of their debt. The Marshal quickly checked for the necessary work and demolition permits, and upon finding them lacking, drafted a motion for a "cease and desist" order which he got from the court. On that cold and rainy morning, armed with his court order, Marshal Moore parked his cruiser near a crossing and began the 100 or so yard walk down the track to where a burley foreman was directing the work. "He was a big man," John said, "Bigger than me, he had to go at least 6 foot 5 in." John remembered. Oblivious to the weather and the fact that he was being followed by a lone woman who, although staying in the background, worked her way up close enough to hear the confrontation, John set his stance in the middle of the track. Un-intimidated by his advisory, John delivered his court order and stated his intention to confiscate all equipment and arrest the participants. The Foreman looked around at his men, then back at the Marshal then laughed. In 1988 in the town of Williams, backup was unheard of, as the two men stood in the middle of the track, neither giving ground. It was fast becoming a do or die situation. Crisis management is what separates good lawmen from the rest of the flock. Without giving ground, the Marshal began exploring ways to "get the job done" without breaking bones, especially his. He quickly learned that the point of contention was that the foreman was driving his own truck which he didn't want confiscated. By allowing the foreman to drive his truck back to the Marshal's office, a battle was averted. Marshal Moore issued the required citations and sent those involved on their way. "You know, I didn't see it as much of anything special, I was just doing what was needed to be done", John commented in his matter of fact way. The mysterious witness (a local reporter) who had followed John down the track was quickly identified as her story hit the Associated Press and was flashed all over the US. Within days there were camera crews and interviews and autographs requested from the "Man who saved the railroad". Williams was back on the map. But it didn't stop there. With renewed interest, a financial backer was found and the railroad rebuilt, and in 1989, the 65 mile track to the Canyon was re-opened and has remained in service ever since. When we left the office, I walked beside John as we made our way toward the rear of the train where 4 desperados waited for the morning gunfight that would signal the beginning of the entertainment for the travelers. After 12 years of playing the train Marshal, he still had the look and walk I recognized, as he stared into the faces of each person he passed, looking for that furtive signal that all lawmen learn to recognize. Already I had more material than I could use and the day had just started. It was going to be a day of some very well planned entertainment. Little did I know that some thirty miles down the track, fate was weaving its way into our lives, as a young Jamaican realized he was lost on a dirt road destined to cross these very tracks.
At the end of the train John invited us to join the crowd and watch the activities. Before an answer could be offered, John was gone and we were left to witness the spectacle. From my vantage point, I watched the development on the rustic stage area in front of a mockup 1800s town street, with jail, hotel, and saloon. Four cowboys, all gunslingers, paraded around while engaged in a loud conversation about the lack of money which they all seemed to share. As the crowd settled down and the cameras began to roll, these four desperados hatched a plan to sucker a member of the audience into a card game and swindle all his money. Soon a 35 year old victim, dressed in a sweat shirt and Bermudas, with appropriate camera dangling from a strap around his neck, was dragged forth reluctantly and handed a fist full of very large cards. Within seconds one desperado darted away from the group proclaiming that he had 5 aces. Each of the others, minus the plant, all counted on their fingers to 4 and then added the other as they all turned to look at the newly proclaimed winner. Without warning, 3 shots rang out and the newly proclaimed winner became a newly departed soul as he toppled in a heap, his cards falling
by the wayside. The remaining three shook their head and again counted their fingers up to four. All eyes darted to the left as Marshall John Goodmore strode onto the stage. There is something about a 6 ft. 5 in. man, dressed all in black except for a spotless what shirt, armed with a colt .45 buntline special that stops the show. With slow, measured steps he moved to the center and demanded to know the goings on resulting in the demise of a town citizen, his right hand carefully placed on a resting place over his belt buckle. The three desperados slowly backed away, their hands dropping by their guns, One made light of the arrangements as the tension rose. Marshall Goodmore slowly turned his left shoulder toward the group as his left hand came up to meet his right.

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