Cochise to Douglas

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  • States: Arizona   
  • Railroads: A&C, SP   

The Cochise-Douglas Branch

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This branch line was built in 1908 by the Arizona and Colorado Railroad (a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railroad) for two purposes:

  • To access the lucrative copper mines in and around Courtland (which competitor El Paso & South Western was intending with their Courtland Branch at the same time)
  • On a bigger scale, to reach Mexico further south

Construction on the line started in Cochise, on the Southern Pacific's transcontinental line, and headed south, first to Courtland initially with prospects to build further south to Douglas then eventually into Mexico.

The line reached a connection with the EP&SW's Courtland Branch at a junction named "Kelton", just east of Courtland and 25 miles south of Cochise. Instead of building into Courtland proper though (which the EP&SW had already accomplished), the A&C built the Gleeson Branch that ran from Kelton to just south of Courtland and into Gleeson.

Construction continued southward to Douglas in 1909, but before reaching there, the president of the Southern Pacific, E. H. Harriman, died. Progress on building the line came to a halt, a mere mile shy of Douglas. By the time SP re-evaluated the prospect of completing the line, the mines at Courtland were in recession, and with it revenues generated along the portion of the line between Cochise and Kelton. The SP decided to leave the line as-is: a dead-end line in the middle of the southern Arizona desert.

Production of copper at the Courtland mines began declining in the late 1920s, and were depleted by 1931. The SP filed for abandonment of the line soon after.

Courtland, prosperous during the mining boom, is now a ghost town. Interestingly enough, while the northern half of this line between Cochise and Kelton/Gleeson was profitable, the southern half of the line, between Kelton and its abrupt ending in the middle of nowhere, never saw a train.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
Docket Number: 9114 Date: 1/13/1932 Section: 1
App. of Arizona Eastern RR. Co., El Paso & Southwestern RR. Co. and Southern Pacific Co., their lessee, for certificate to abandon: 1) the Cochise-Douglas Branch, extending from Cochise to Douglas, a distance of 59.1 miles; 2) the Gleeson Branch, extending from Kelton to Gleeson, a distance of 6.4 miles; 3) the Courtland Branch, extending from Kelton to Courtland, a distance of 4.6 miles; and 4) the Commonwealth Branch, extending from Pearce to Commonwealth Mill, a distance of 1.2 miles; all in Cochise County, Arizona.
Length: 71.3 miles Citation: 193 ICC 8  
Also under this filing: The Gleeson Branch, The Courtland Branch, The Commonwealth Branch   

very interesting. my mother was born in 1921, and lived about 5 miles south of davis and frontier roads when she was growing up and she said their was a railroad in the valley near elfrieda. she said it was abandoned then. guess she was right. thanks for the info

steve soles
bisbee, AZ
2/21/2014

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Another interesting aspect of this branch is the fact that the goal of the railroad south of Kelton was the border town of Naco where the Southern Pacific of Mexico had a line south of the border. This railroad ran from Cananea, Mexico through Naco and then on to Nogales, Mexico.

In 1910, the Southern Pacific completed a direct line from Tucson straight to Nogales, and thus to the Southern Pacific of Mexico. At that point there would have been three routes from the Southern Pacific Mainline to Nogales (the old New Mexico, and Arizona Railroad from Benson, AZ would be the third). This effectively made the branch south of Kelton unnecessary.

Chris Poole
Tucson, AZ
8/8/2014

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