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.
Curtiss to Paul Spur, AZ
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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'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's update is most appreciated - if you have pictures please send them too - the more information - and correct - the better!
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.
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?
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.
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.
The line discussed on this page ran from Benson (abandoned past Curtiss) to Douglas (abandoned up to Paul Spur), originally named the Arizona and South Eastern. It was built from the connection with the NM&A at Fairbank to Bisbee in 1888-9, and then extended from Fairbank to Benson in 1894. Another part was built from Bisbee (Corta) to Douglas in early 1901 through the Mule Mountains to deliver the new smelter parts.
On June 25, 1901, the name was changed to EP&SW, which was extended to Hatchita NM and connected to the line from Deming in February 1902. In 1903 a new line was built from Fairbank to Naco and Bisbee Junction, and then on to Paul Spur in 1904, making the entire old section obsolete. In 1912, a new line was built from Tucson to Benson and then Fairbank, retiring the rest of this line.
The description of the abandonment above intimates that an isolated section was left active, from Fairbank to Lewis Spring, but that seems ridiculous, as there was nothing but a few ranches between those two points. The EP&SW by 1904 had a better route to the west and south, which bypassed Bisbee, but there were branches into that town.
This last weekend, we drove and walked a good deal of the grade from Corta to Paul Spur, partly to see if there was a tunnel, as stated in the penultimate red balloon. There is not. At that point is a high fill and a (missing) trestle across a very deep aroyo. I believe the error stems from a mine adit (or tunnel) about a quarter mile west, which is labeled on the USGS 7.5' quad as "Tunnel".
Chris, yours is the wrong railroad. That is the 1904 EP&SW line from Bisbee Junction to Paul Spur, which replaced the A&SE-cum-EP&SW line from Corta to Paul Spurm the one this page is about. The Point of Interest second from the right (east) on the map above is three miles almost due north of Crook Tunnel. But it is right next to a mine shaft labeled 'Tunnel'.
Aahh..So you were following the original route that went through the mountains past Glance towards Douglas before 1904 when the line changed to it's "present" location closer to the border? True, there wouldn't have been any tunnels on that grade.
I'm the current and one of two who resides in the only structure still standing at Forrest AZ. The Forrest Siding Station and Depot. In the few years we have lived here we have heard many stories about the station. If this place could talk. One such story consists of a family that was murderd here. After 115 years there's hardly a thing that dosent need some work, but a very interesting place. The front of the building has two front doors. One side is for railroad business, with a ticket and waiting room. The other front door ,is to the station masters home. We heat wing a railroad potbelly stove that's also 115 years old. We are still pumping water from a well that supplied the entire town with water. The railroad used it to power there steam engine locomotives in the early days of
I was "Googling" extensively for any news on the possible future of the West Phoenix Line (or, "Wellton Branch" in UP's lingo) when I stumbled upon a most intriguing piece of trivia.
The UP purchased the entire abandoned right of way from Benson to Douglas a few years ago. I have absolutely no idea why. I tried asking on some railfan forums and no one else seems to know, either. Indeed, we can only speculate on this.
Will rails ever return to the former SP "south line"? Probably not but then again, why would the UP buy it? Once again, no one knows. Or, more accurately, no one outside the UP knows.
Fred M. Cain
You are absolutely correct Fred. As of 2017 the Union Pacific Railroad has possession of the right-of-way. The group "Friends of the San Pedro River" was trying to turn it into a Rails-to Trails project but in working with the BLM was informed by the Union Pacific that it is off limits. I'm not sure either why they would want to keep the grade. I suppose that if mining would ever resume in Bisbee, Freeport MacMoRan would need to ship the ore out to the smelter in Miami, AZ. It's all sulfide type mineralization so they can't SX EW on site.
I think that theory is probably as good as any. Another possible idea I had was the potential for cross-border traffic and connection with the lines in Mexico. I think there was once a connection near Naco, if I'm not mistaken.
But with existing connections at Mexicali, Nogales and El Paso, to name a few, why would they need Naco, too?
I wonder if the UP has rights to the Douglas-Anapra portion of the right of way. I don't think so, I would assume not, but I don't really know.