CATS: Grand Canyon Railway a ‘Lean, Clean and Green’ machine

Number 14 in the Clean Air Technologies Series.

Grand Canyon Railway steam loco and company
Grand Canyon Railway steam loco and company

If I mention the National Park Service (NPS) what draws to mind? Conjured up images of environmental sustainability? How about awards presentation? Probably neither, correct?

First order of business here is the subject of environmental stewardship.

I ask: is it not the preservation of open spaces, scenic vistas and the environment that no doubt led to the creation of America’s national parks in the first place? More than likely, it is.

Second order of business here has to do with the NPS being in the business of presenting awards. Really?! Really! Truth be told, the NPS does, in fact, do this. As a matter of fact, one such award known as the National Park Service’s Environmental Achievement Award (NPSEAA) recognizes outstanding achievement surrounding the advancement of good environmental stewardship practices in and around national parks. One category under the NPSEAA umbrella is the “Lean, Clean and Green Award.”

In an NPS “Grand Canyon News Release” dated Feb. 21, 2012, emphasized is “The Lean, Clean and Green Award recognizes NPS teams or partners for outstanding achievements in building or fleet energy efficiency, or renewable energy development and deployment.” I chose to focus on this particular news release because the recipient of that award then, you might agree, might not be thought of first as far as earning such awards go – the award itself going to the Grand Canyon Railway (GCR).

At first blush, you may be thinking: “Wait. … a railway receiving an accolade for environmental stewardship? Did I hear correctly?”

You did.

According to information presented in the news release, the received GCR honor was in recognition of a program to convert a 90-year-old steam locomotive that once was powered by coal to run on a renewable fuel – waste vegetable oil (WVO). The first thing I’m thinking is: “Remarkable! Truly remarkable!”

“This renewable energy source is a waste product generated, in part, by Xanterra and GCR food-service facilities,” the NPS stated. Xanterra Parks and Resorts is GCR’s parent company.

The NPS further stated, “Use of the locomotive significantly reduces GCR’s environmental footprint. Each round-trip journey to the park uses approximately 1,320 gallons of WVO which not only prevents the oil from entering the waste stream, but reduces GCR’s diesel fuel consumption by about 1,100 gallons per trip. Because WVO burns much more cleanly than diesel, the WVO locomotive assists the Grand Canyon community in reaching their Climate Friendly Park Goal of reducing green house gas emissions.”

Who would have thought an entire mountain community in Arizona or anywhere else for that matter would be so green conscious?! Good for them that they are. And kudos to them, the National Park Service and to the Grand Canyon Railway especially for being granted the award and for also leading by example!

– Alan Kandel