Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Mapping the Santa Fe through Prescott

So just where did the railroad go, back in the day when Prescott was served by the Santa Fe? Before I moved, I managed to snag the 1947 15-minute USGS Prescott quad topo, which shows a much smaller town, including the railroad tracks. Scanned and magnified, the topo does a nice job of showing the route. BTW, the tracks are designated by a solid line with periodic cross hatching.

East of the depot down on Sheldon at the foot of Cortez, the tracks headed northeast up through the Whipple Military Reservation -- now the Ft. Whipple VA, then along Granite Creek toward the Dells where the old right of way is now a popular hiking trail.

Here's a snippet of a map I found at the Sharlot Hall web site, a close-up of the area surrounding the station. A couple of fascinating details: two round houses, one for oil tankers ... and the little dam on Butte Creek (right center) which held one of the early city water impoundments. (It's still there, though hard to find as it is completely silted up.)

Less well known is the course of the tracks through the city west of the depot. Basically, it followed Miller Creek briefly, crossed Miller Valley Road at Rodeo Drive to serve the fairgrounds, then headed northwest to Iron Springs Road, which it followed out of town. More or less the same route as Gail Gardner Way, incidentally.

Look behind the espresso shack on Miller Valley Road; you will see that there's a fence on an extreme diagonal which heads southeast behind the Mexican restaurant and the old stone building.

A short distance further south, you will note a little stub of a street on the east, opposite to the road heading to J&G Sales on the west side of Miller Valley. The stub leads to an unnamed bit of street that follows the old railroad course; there was at one time a spur track all the way to J&G's present building (it shows on the map if you look carefully.) As a matter of fact, the iron rails of the spur were still there, embedded in the road surface when we first came to Prescott at the beginning of the '80s.

And the Santa Fe was still stopping in Prescott three days a week at that time. However, the western half of the route had been dropped in the 60s; the trains came and left via the Dells. Reason: railroads had switched to long piggy-back flat-bed rolling stock which could never have negotiated the old winding tracks between Skull Valley and Iron Springs. Drive all the way out to Ramsgate on the Dosie Pit Road and you'll understand!


Cathy said...

I have a fun jigsaw of an old topo that covers much the same region as the first picture. I am guessing it's from the 70S?? It shows the RR and the Whipple Barracks Target Range.

del said...

Very interesting! It's fun to see how despite all the change you can still see the remnants of the old days everywhere. All you have to do is look.

Up here in Flagstaff there are many old railroad grades out in the woods south and east of town. Early loggers used them to transport logs from the forest to the mills. They are clearly seen on the old topo maps but if you go out into the woods all that's left are the old rotting wood ties or some oddly level areas. The Arizona Trail near Mormon Lake parallels one section of the tracks in several places.

GrannyJ said...

cathy -- what a cool treasure!

del -- my grandparents had a summer cottage up at Mormon Lake in the early 30s -- I remember some of those old railroad tracks. As a small kid, I thought it very weird to have RR tracks in the middle of a pine forest.

Kathleen said...

Very cool post! I love old maps and the train routes are fascinating. The train still runs out here in Paulden - goes through Drake, but I never thought to see where it came from or how far it went. *laughs* you have made me curious! lol! guess I will go searching online a bit and see what I can find =)

Anonymous said...

Love trains.

Love the history lesson, too, Professor GJ!

~Anon in AV.

Jarart said...

Interesting post! My husband worked for the RR for several years. His last ride was in 1958. He has many tales to tell from those days. We have some pictures somewhere of a train going through Alto and one of the rodeo stock running down Fair Street heading for the rodeo grounds after being unloaded from the train in the
1940's. I'll try to find them and make a post. Thanks for sharing this!

GrannyJ said...

frame -- there are even a couple of books about the old railroad...

anon av -- I love trains, too. It's just too dang bad we don't have any coming into Prescott anymore.

jarart -- I was privileged to ride the train up from Phoenix through Prescott to Williams once upon a time. A great ride! I'm waiting for your pictures.

Kathleen said...

Wow - I found quite a bit about the train through the Del Rio Ranch up to Seligman and the Harvey House in Seligman (Havasu), but nothing on the currently running train. Very fun read, though - and I remember a movie with Judy Garland about the Harvey Girls. I think it was filmed at the Del Rio Ranch? Anyone remember that? hehe - off to fiddle on the internet and see if I can find out! lol!

Ross said...

My wife and I passed through Prescott (on a Greyhound bus) in 1973 on our honeymoon. I recall seeing a trestle bridge on the right as the bus pulled into town. Didn't get a chance to photograph it, regretfully. Still remember that to this day. I wasn't aware the railway was still active at the time. A very attractive little town as I recall.
Would love to revisit some time.

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