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Whistle-Stop Shopping

The Grand Canyon Railway depot store offers eclectic merchandise

The depot is a “one-stop shop” for railroad souvenirs and Arizona art, making it a popular destination for anyone who enjoys trains and the Old West.

In survey after survey, people around the world place one travel experience above many others: shopping.

The difference between shopping at home and shopping while on vacation is the inclination to break the links with chain stores and discover something new. In that, the Grand Canyon Railway depot hits the mark. As unique as the Grand Canyon Railway itself, the depot store is definitely not part of a chain. It’s a link to the past.

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A Store with History

Railroads and shopping have a longstanding partnership. From the 1800s on, railroad stations have been a convenient place for passengers to pick up newspapers, snacks, local souvenirs, and other staples. Occasionally passengers had the added satisfaction of enjoying a meal at the “beanery” — the slang term for a casual, open lunchroom where railroad workers, locals, and travelers gathered for hot meals.

Considering the Grand Canyon Railway is nothing if not reflective of the history of rail travel, it comes as no surprise these same traditions continue at the historic depot in the town of Williams, Ariz. (pop. 3,100, elev. 6,766), 65 miles south of Grand Canyon. The station’s authenticity is palpable. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s Arizona’s second oldest poured-concrete structure, built in 1908 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.

Over the years it has seen millions of travelers roll in on a track that roughly paralleled famed Route 66 all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles. And what visitors experienced here at the turn of the 20th century is something passengers enjoy today. Now, as then, they relax at an up-to-date hotel (today’s Grand Canyon Railway Hotel), walk to the restaurant for a casual meal with fellow travelers, and pick up souvenirs and mementoes for family and friends at the well-stocked gift shop just steps from the lodge.

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The Best of Shopportunities

The depot is a “one-stop shop” for railroad souvenirs and Arizona art, making it a popular destination for anyone who enjoys trains and the Old West. And since both Grand Canyon and the Grand Canyon Railway attract visitors of all ages, the store’s inventory appeals to all of them. Books range from train-themed primers rich with illustrations to well-researched histories of railroads, Grand Canyon, Native Americans, and the Old West (illustrations optional).

For parents, this is must-stop shopping since most children are, by nature, fascinated by trains. From a hollow wooden-block train whistle (less than $5) to picture books, the store is stocked with affordable gifts.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, skilled shoppers with an eye for elegance can find hand-crafted Navajo necklaces in many price ranges and styles. Here in the land of the Navajo, Native American items are well represented with a selection of artifacts, jewelry, and stunningly beautiful art pottery that can enhance any collection.

Considering Route 66 is only a few blocks away, memorabilia from the Mother Road are popular. Even more so are Grand Canyon souvenirs and mementoes, which create the centerpiece of the shop. On shelves, in racks, and in cabinets you’ll find a treasury of T-shirts and mugs featuring photos of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Without question Grand Canyon is one of the world’s most picturesque places, which makes photographs a very popular item. From post cards, posters, and framed prints to limited-edition signed images by renowned photographers, the range of views is just a taste of what you’ll see when you reach the canyon.

And if you’ve just disembarked after arriving via the Grand Canyon Railway, those very same items will remind you just how extraordinarily beautiful the journey was.

For more information on the Grand Canyon Railway, visit thetrain.com or call 800-THE-TRAIN (843-8724).

For travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.