Curtiss to Paul Spur

Point of Interest

This former mainline of the Arizona and South Eastern Railway was built in 1902 between Benson (and a connection with the Southern Pacific transcontinental mainline there) and the mining town of Bisbee, Arizona. The line was further extended to El Paso, TX, via Douglas, later that same year. The A&SE was a subsidiary of the El Paso and Southwestern Railway, itself leased to Southern Pacific in 1924, and purchased outright in 1955. Since the SP already had a line between Benson and Douglas, this line was considered redundant and thus a majority of the line between Curtiss and a lime plant at Paul Spur was abandoned soon after.

The El Paso & South Western line that ran from Douglas to Benson, Arizona, was sold a few years back by Southern Pacific to a shortline called the San Pedro Southwestern. The SPSW ran an excursion train until 1998, then let the tracks rust until about 2007, when they pulled up about 45 miles of rail from Curtiss to Paul Spur.

A&K tore out the rails, and are still slowly shipping out loads of rail and ties from Curtiss via the SPSW to UP. Freight still runs from Benson to Curtiss with an old GP16 and a an unknown SW-type switcher.

John DeLalla
Sierra Vista, AZ


John DeLalla's comments leave out a lot of history and he statement is incorrect as to what happened after the excursion train stopped.

On Dec. 16, 1997 the last train from the end of the line at Paul Spur (the lime plant)left for Benson. 12 empty coal hoppers and one tank car made up this train. At the time this was regarded as the last operation on the San Pedro and Southwestern.

But Tanya Cecil, the railroad's manager, saved the railroad.

After much negotiation an arrangement was made with FerroMex to truck copper anodes to Bisbee Junction. There the copper would be loaded onto box cars. On August 24, 1998 a Phoenix based railroad repair company began construction of a siding at Bisbee Junction, and reinstalled the Y there.

Later in 1998 carloads of coal resumed to Paul Spur, October 27 being the date of the first train. This continued until December 2001 when the lime plant shutdown.

The copper loading at Bisbee Junction ceased on May 1, 2002.

Prior to this, the UP had been storing a lot of empty boxcars at Paul Spur siding and at Bisbee Junction.

On May 16, 2002 an engine arrived at Bisbee Junction with two boxcars and a flatcar of lumber. 32 empty boxcars were hauled back to Benson that afternoon.

On May 29, 2002 I met the engine crew at Fairbank and road with them to Bisbee Junction. They picked up the two box cars and the flatcar and left at 1:36 PM. This the last train or so we thought.

In November 2003 the SP&SW was purchased by David L. Parkinson of Napa, CAlifornia. Many new ties were installed in a fragmentary upgrade of the line. November 3, 2003 coal trains to Paul Spur resumed.

I cannot find my records on when the last operations occurred, but by 2005 abandonment proceedings were in progress.

Rails began to be pulled up in January 2007 and by midyear the line was gone.

Arnold Menke
Bisbee, AZ


Arnold Menke's update is most appreciated - if you have pictures please send them too - the more information - and correct - the better!

John DeLalla
Sierra Vista, AZ


I worked many a trip over this line from Tucson to Douglas and back on the "Douglas Local". As a young man I worked with an old time Engineer who had seniority on that route back to a time frame before the SP took it over. I still remember where he pointed out to me the old rail bed and spur where the Chinese laborers had their living cars while they built the track. He also pointed out to me a location that he said was where the Clanton Ranch was located. There was also the location of where a major derailment of a passenger train had wrecked and cars went down into the river. Between Vail and Mescal on the old SP line within sight of the high bridge is the site of stage coach stop was burned to the ground. The original SP rails go right across the foundation stones which you can still see. This track is part of the main line still in use today. The story I was told that a stage coach between Mescal and this particular location was attacked by the Apaches who killed all aboard and stole the Army payroll of $20K in gold coin. Apparently, the Apaches did not attack the coach and it was in fact someone from the station who had killed everyone and taken the payroll. The Apaches knowing the truth attacked the station killed everyone there and burned it down. When cowboys from the Empire Ranch finally reached the station after seeing the smoke they found some of the gold pieces secreted in a hiding place in the fire place. Interesting stories. I have explored the old station site only to be quickly ordered off by a Sheriff's Deputy despite my having written permission form the SP to be on the right of way.

Richard Foley
Tucson, AZ


Does anyone know anything about the tunnel between Bisbee Junction and the lime plant? Were there really machine guns there protecting it from sabotage during WWII?

Barry Smith
Tempe, AZ


the entirety of this line has been removed now, even the stuff around Fairbank. they've left a very nice path in its place.

also there is some confusion on this one here, i see some people are talking about the newer SP line which was in use until mid-2000s, which runs/ran along the river. this line is the one that went farther east south of Fairbank through the hills and was abandoned a great deal earlier.

Tempe, AZ


Hank is speaking about the 1903 line change from Lewis Springs to Paul Spur. Prior to 1903 the El Paso and Southwestern line diverted from the San Pedro River at Lewis Springs and cut across the western flank of the Mule Mountains, cresting at a place called Deer Point, before continuing to the east to just south of Warren, AZ and through a pass near an old mining town called Glance. The old line then went east to Douglas and ultimately El Paso. The new line change,which was made to lower the grade over Deer Point, went farther south along the San Pedro before cutting east, skirting the Mexican border through Naco, AZ and through the Crook Tunnel to Paul Spur Siding and Douglas. The El Paso and Southwestern Railroad was a major railroad in the southwest from 1902-1924, stretching from Tucson in the west to El Paso in Texas and north to Dawson, NM, almost to Colorado.

Chris Poole
Tucson, AZ


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