Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Trains in Prescott 1887-1962

This Santa Fe train depot was built c.1893 with the advent of the Santa Fe Prescott and Phoenix Railroad.

Prescott's first railroad, The Prescott and Central Arizona Railroad was built by Thomas Seaman Bullock who pledged to lay the rails by January 1, 1887. The project was plagued by various troubles and Bullock barely fulfilled his contract, driving the last spike just before midnight on the eve of the big day. With a great deal of fanfare, the first train steamed into the station on the appointed date. The line ran from Prescott Junction (Seligman) and since there was no turntable in Prescott, the hissing engines had to push the cars backward on the return trip.

This trestle spans Canyon Diablo Northeast of Superior.
Although, it was not taken in the Prescott area, I love this shot. The thought of the engineering and back breaking work that went in to building these deceptively fragile looking trestles across wide canyons, in isolated and rugged terrain, never ceases to fill me with awe.
Here, a train steams over a similar trestle across Johnson Canyon on the Santa Fe line Northwest of Williams Arizona. Awhile back, I posted this picture on my other blog, and received a comment saying the tunnel was still in good repair but the trestle no longer exists.

The Santa Fe Prescott and Phoenix Railroad officially arrived in Prescott April 26, 1893. Bullock's Railroad failed soon after and was sold for taxes.

The Santa Fe Depot was sold to private enterprise after the Santa Fe Railroad ceased servicing Prescott in 1962 Many Yavapai County residents made the trip from Wickenburg, Hillside, or Skull Valley on the last train to Prescott as it chugged up from Phoenix.
A friend drove my family to Wickenburg where we heard the "all aboards" for one last time, and were able to give our children a little taste of train travel that included lunch in the dining car.

The little wooden Depot that had served the Prescott and Arizona Central Railroad was converted to a residence that later burned to the ground. I can't help wondering if it was the building just glimpsed in the right hand side of the first picture.


  1. These are great old pictures. We love the depot and were sad to see the old car removed from the bridge. It looks so sad sitting in the city yard now. I hope the bridge will stay.

  2. I was lucky enough to ride the Santa Fe from Phoenix up to Williams in June of 1947. It left in the afternoon, so that it was dark by the time we reached Prescott (I had so looked forward to seeing the Dells from the train!) However, the ride along the Hassayampa into Wickenburg and through the Kirkland Creek Canyon was quite grand. Incidentally, didn't the ATSF offer freight-only service into the early 80s & quiting after that hurricane tailend wiped out a piece of the tracks?

  3. Jarat, I felt bad that no resturant succeeded there and then the fire! It was a great idea. I hope the bridge will stay too...

    GJ, I know that ATSF trucked freight into Prescott at rail rates. I don't know when they stopped doing that. I wasn't aware of trains running after '62, but I could be wrong.
    If anyone knows, I hope you'll fill us in.

  4. Granny is a Lucky Lady to have been on that Train. Prescott didn't have a turntable, but Williams did. I have a old b/w that I took in 1977, Lord knows were it is now!

  5. Paul, that train ride must have been a treat, especially for Granny J. who always sees more than the average person.
    I wish I'd asked her if she remembers stopping at Iron Springs!

    Hope you find that photo of the Williams turntable! It would be fun to see it..

  6. The trains also ran for a time about 1967. The last week the trains actually ran, the kids from the Skull Valley School along with some of us parents, were transported on the school bus,by driver Edna Ballew,to Hillside. We rode the train back to Skull Valley. It was a memorable trip. I wish I had photos, but I was busy getting one of the girls out of the locked bathroom. My kids used to stand on the fence at the ranch where we worked, and wave at the Engineer and Conductor as the 4 PM freight train went by. They loved it when the train crew waved back and blew the train horn. What memories of a simpler time.

  7. azleydey, thanks for sharing! I couldn't remember how long the trains ran or even if they did run after 1962. I've always loved Skull Valley and whenever I drive through, I imagine living there. It must have been great raising your children there in, as you say, a simpler time:)

  8. I was born in 1977 and distinctively remember the trains coming into prescott until the early 1980's... i believe the last freight train in prescott was september 1983...

    they pulled the tracks in the early 90's

  9. Can someone please send me info,about the western part of the ATSF ROW west of the Bridge?

    I am trying to Trace the ROW i know it was bypassed for a better route threw paulden,at Skull valley. If anyone can shed some light, Id be greatful Thanks

    Eric Rodriguez