West Chandler to Maricopa

The Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad

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This view faces generally north where the right-of-way once ran, near the corner of Maricopa Road and Queen Creek Road, in the Gila River Indian Reservation. Photo by Mike Palmer, February 2009.

In the late 1800s, the townspeople of Phoenix were seeking a connection with the Southern Pacific's Sunset Route, which passed about 25 miles south of them. Once receiving authorization from Congress to build a railroad line through the Gila River Indian Reservation, the Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad commenced construction with mainly Mexican immigrants in 1886, completing the line in 1887. The line connected with the SP at a point called "Phoenix Junction", which is now the current town of Maricopa. The line contributed greatly to the growth of Phoenix in its early years.

This railroad was most likely abandoned in the early 1940s (at least before 1948, as a dated railroad map does not show this line). By the time it was abandoned, it was under control of the Arizona Eastern Railroad (itself a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific), and was known as the Maricopa Branch.

The exact routing of the M&P is not known; however it is believed that most of AZ Route 347 lies atop the former railbed. The unknown routing has also caused some dispute about the northern terminus of the M&P: while "Phoenix" forms part of the name of the railroad, and while most historians agree that the railroad did not reach as far north as Phoenix, there is disagreement on whether or not the railroad reached as far as Tempe, or if it terminated in West Chandler. One suspect in this debate is the Tempe to West Chandler spur of the Union Pacific (former SP). Its routing seems to align with where the M&P would have traveled, and so it is believed that this UP spur was once part of the M&P, meaning the northern terminus of the M&P was at Tempe. More evidence that suggests the northern terminus was in Tempe are some of the names that the railroad company went through during its history, namely the Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa Railway, and the Maricopa and Phoenix and Salt River Valley Railway. Detractors to this argument state that these names only indicate the intention of the railroad to reach those towns/areas, and not the actual destinations themselves.

So where exactly did the M&P lay its tracks? We may never know for sure.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
Docket Number: 10678 Date: 11/16/1934 Section: 1
App. of Arizona Eastern RR. Co. and Southern Pacific Co., its lessee, for certificate to abandon that part of the Maricopa Branch, owned by the former and operated by the latter, extending from a point one mile south of West Chandler to Maricopa, a distance of 16.598 miles, all in Maricopa and Pinal Counties, Arizona.
Length: 16.598 miles Citation: 202 ICC 701  

The one thing that's interesting here is that there were TWO railroad bridges built across the Salt River at Tempe around the turn of the 20th century. To the East was the "Phoenix & Eastern" bridge, which completely washed out during a huge flood - I believe in the early 20s. The P&E was originally an ATSF subsidiary, originally started as a shortcut to El Paso. They gave up on it and it soon became a part of AERR.

The other bridge - in the exact location as the current UP bridge - was the Maricopa & Phoenix bridge. That doesn't definitively prove anything - but SPV's map also shows that the M&P had a railbed paralleling the P&E into Phoenix after the crossing of the Salt River.

Greg R
Tempe, AZ
3/31/2010

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I'm trying to find the exact location of 1) the abandoned West Chandler (formerly "Kyrene"?) depot near Warner and Kyrene Roads in Chandler, AZ, and 2) the Kyrene-Hansen Spur of the Maricopa-Tempe line. I have read in a Clay Thompson AZ Republic article that the depot was once a busy cattle and hay depot and in a Gilbert Comm. Coll. article on Chandler Roads History that it served the K-H Spur, and the spur was torn out in 1905. Anybody?

Patrick Schiffer
Phoenix, AZ
4/17/2010

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Corrected post--My research shows that the Kyrene-Hansen spur of the Maricopa and Salt River Valley Railroad was torn out in approx. 1935, not 1905. I'm looking for a map or other description of the exact location of the K-H spur and the West Candler RR depot (and/or "Kyrene Depot"), near Warner and Kyren roads in Chandler, AZ. Thanks for your patience.

Patrick Schiffer
Phoenix, AZ
4/17/2010

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Hey Patrick - you didn't give your email address, so I have to hope you'll be back here.

The Hansen Spur has its own entry here, and I've found an online resource that has aerial maps showing the spur. I'll send an update to Greg (the moderator) in the next few days, after I finish this one.

Greg R
Tempe, AZ
5/11/2010

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Not only have I confirmed (via aerial photography from 1930 and 1937) that the old Maricopa & Phoenix did indeed follow the route of AZ Hwy 347, I have confirmed (at least in MY mind) that the M&P terminated in Tempe, as there is a smallish-sized yard, turntable, and locomotive facilities on the West side of the ROW at the former Mesa Jct.

This would only be in existence so close to the engine facilities of Phoenix for a railroad that ended at this point.

Greg Rose
Tempe, AZ
5/19/2010

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Patricia Brock book detailing the history of Maricopa, Maricopaville, and Maricopa Wells back in the late 1800's states that the line ran from present day Maricopa all the way to Tempe. I am actually researching or attempting to find out as much as I can on the Diesel Electric one car train that was used on this daily run. Would like to know what happened to it.I know the ownership of that rail line has changed hands several times.

My research shows it was the Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad 1885-1895, the Maricopa and Phoenix and Salt River Valley Railroad 1895-1907, then back to the Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad 1907-1910, then sold to Arizona Eastern Railroad and lastly to Southern Pacific Company.

Any info anybody can share on what they know about this train during all periods of operation please e-mail me at sfrank7773@aol.com and put train in the heading so I know its not spam. Thanks.

Steve
City of Maricopa, AZ
6/27/2011

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This thread is a highly interesting one, all the more so because some of the much desired answers are still being sought (the fun of the mystery). That said, I would like to offer some critical (but friendly) comments and questions as a yet outsider to Arizona railroads. Certain aspects of the descriptions as now written are like a manual provided to put together some item that comes disassembled: you have to know how to assemble the thing already in order to understand the assembly manual (a bit of Catch 22). Which is to say I'm having heavy going with some of these branches built by historic railroads, when neither the railroad nor the branch is any longer in existence. IMO it would be helpful (and necessary) to frame these lines against existing ones, particularly in instances of congruency, i.e., where a current line runs--or is thought to run--in large part over the same route as the historic one. A good example is in the suggestion that the present UP Tempe-West Chandler Spur (now an industrial stub), extending south from Tempe Junction, runs over much of the old Maricopa & Phoenix RR. Okay, makes sense, but missing in this hypothesis are the answers to these questions:

1. WHEN did the Southern Pacific build or acquire this branch line?

2. IF acquired, then from whom? [Just maybe from the successor to the M&P?]

3. Has this line, specifically in SP hands, been CONFIRMED to have gone all the way south to Maricopa?

Marc Pearsall's excellent "Railroads of Arizona (2002)" map, at

http://www.azrymuseum.org/Information/Arizona_Railroad_Map_2002.pdf

shows this line extending from Tempe Junction to some undetermined point south as a UP branch, with the portion continuing to Maricopa indicated as abandoned SP trackage. Is this known for a fact, or has that been extrapolated simply in the belief it was the M&P route? You can see where I'm going here: IF the SP purchased this line from an earlier railroad, and it's confirmed that the Espee's branch did once interchange at Maricopa with its Sunset Route, it would seem a fairly easy task to follow that ownership provenance back, just maybe to the M&P. That has to be some ready way to make this putative M&P-SP connection, IF they both ran to the main line at Maricopa, and thus to make the connection to some sizable portion of the current UP industrial stub.

On the basis of 1930s aerial photographs (good sleuthing!), Greg Rose contends that the M&P ended in a small yard south of the Salt River. But more than one contributor to this website has made reference to the Maricopa & Phoenix bridge spanning said river. I know of some instances where a railroad did not have the wherewithal to build a bridge and thus halted at the river, but if such a bridge WAS built over the Salt River, it stands to reason the M&P ran all the way into Phoenix, yes? This seems to be a clear case where historical reality can't have it both ways, and thus some further resolution of the known but seemingly conflicting facts must be sought.

I've enjoyed Mike Palmer's photos, many shot three years ago. After perusing the map of the UP Tempe-West Chandler Spur in satellite mode, I'm led to agree with him that no traffic appears to be going south of the Route 202 Loop. I was on the ground there yesterday, and I didn't see anything, but my search south of 202 was not exhaustive. I want to comment on Mike's first and northernmost photo, its caption beginning, "This is possibly the last active segment of the M&P as far south as West Chandler." If he means "segment" in the sense of that portion generally NORTH of Route 202, yes, I think that's so. The customer indicated by the pushpin a bit south of West Chandler Boulevard is not quite the final one south, however, as there is another just beyond, for which I'm sending two photos to the webmaster. The large two-toned (beige over white) building just south of the customer Mike shows is about the same distance north of the one I photoed, closer to West Frye Road as it approaches South 56th Street. Once the line runs under Route 202, it goes south, east, and south again, finally petering out south of West Germann Road.

Also yesterday I visited the Arizona Railroad Museum in Chandler, adjacent to the UP (ex-SP) branch line that once ran south then southeast to Coolidge. What is this line's current designation and the name of the junction to the north where it comes off the UP Secondary Main? And if you have it, some brief history of it, s.v.p. Thanks!

Nelson

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
4/15/2012

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Okay, I'm in agreement that ferreting out the answer to a true mystery is a lotta fun and very satisfying when the truth is revealed, but I need to ask, where is the mystery here? David F. Myrick's excellent series, "Railroads of Arizona"--specifically Volume II, published in 1980--has all the answers and I'm left scratching my head at the hypothesizing and theorizing in this thread about the reach of the Maricopa & Phoenix Railroad. Myrick's chapter on the M&P RR takes up pages 495 to 512, with additional snippets elsewhere. In page order:

p. 497 includes a map of the Maricopa & Phoenix RR, showing its origin at Phoenix Junction (now Maricopa) and then running essentially NNE to Tempe, with way stations at Sacaton and Kyrene. At Tempe, the railroad all too clearly crossed the Salt River, as has been previously affirmed in this thread, and then hung a left to enter Phoenix.

p. 502 has a photo of M&P's Salt River bridge, completed June 18, 1887, with the first scheduled train arriving in Phoenix on July 4, 1887 (125 years ago this very day....and Happy Fourth everyone!). In the following month, the M&P's Phoenix station was completed, along with a turntable, and with a roundhouse still under construction. Now the early timetable fails to show through service from Phoenix Jct to Phoenix, but rather trains from there to Tempe, with the necessity to switch at Tempe and continue into Phoenix by connecting train.

p. 505 provides a photo of the Phoenix depot, a handsome two-story building, topped by a tower of one additional story. This may have been its second station in town (and I did write MAY).

pp. 507-511: Somewhere around 1890, the M&P began offering through service from Phoenix Jct into Phoenix. In February of that year, the M&P's timber bridge spanning the Salt River washed out; a year later, the same kind of snow-melt-originating flood took out its three-span iron successor (still with a timber approach trestle). More of the same difficulties with the annual spring floods are chronicled in the remainder of these pages.

p. 512 declares that the M&P built a new machine shop in Phoenix in 1894 to better service its locomotives. The railroad became part of the Maricopa & Phoenix & Salt River Valley RR at the end of 1895. In the meantime, the Phoenix & Eastern RR (under the thumb of the SP even before its acquisition by the larger road in 1907) had begun to make inroads on the M&P--a battle the M&P was clearly losing as the 20th century arrived. [This same page mentions that the old M&P track between 20th and 44th Streets in Phoenix was taken up in 1972.]

p. 523 includes a map showing the M&P&SRV RR running into Phoenix in the 1895-1908 interval, so no radical change in terminal stations or in extent of service.

p. 528 has a photo of the new M&P&SRV station opening in Phoenix in 1904, which stood eight blocks west of its predecessor terminal.

p. 529 answers Patrick's question posed 27 months ago: the original Kyrene depot lay 8.39 miles south of the Tempe station, and 0.5 mile north of Hansen Junction.

p. 538: The Maricopa & Phoenix Railroad formally ended operation on February 1, 1910, when it merged with the Arizona Eastern Railroad. Whatever changes in service and facilities that occurred thereafter--e.g., as evidenced in various aerial photos--they were not done as part of the original M&P RR.

Okay, guys, I may be a Yankee Doodle (I'm posting this from New Hampshire), and I concede that David Myrick's Volume II was a more difficult find than his Volume I--the earlier volume is owned by various branch libraries of both the Phoenix and Maricopa County systems, whereas I had to go down to Burton Barr Central Library in the city to find the subsequent one--but that author laid all of this out more than three decades ago. Where is the mystery needing a solution? What am I missing here?

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
7/4/2012

[Thanks for the clarifications, Nelson.  —Greg Harrison]

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You're welcome, Greg. Truth told, I would wager 65ยข that active customers are now restricted to the north of the state Route 202 overpass, in line with Greg Rose's observation on the Hansen Branch, viz., "The south end of the [Hansen Junction] wye became the end of the Maricopa line once it was cut back. It does appear that the wye survived for a while after...the Hansen Branch was abandoned in 1933." We can also do the math: what is currently designated as UP's Tempe Industrial Lead is officially 9.5 miles in length, while back in the day, Kyrene Station was 8.39 miles south of the Tempe Depot, and Hansen Junction was another half-mile south of Kyrene. Thus kinda iffy whether the presently active line now ends close to the north side of Route 202 or close to the south side.

From what I can see in satellite imagery and what I did see on the ground back in the spring of 2012, the track, in fine condition both north and south of Route 202, proceeds south and still in good shape crosses West Morelos Place, which has a fully protected grade Xing. The track bed roughly parallels South Maricopa Road as they curve eastward, but where the track turns back south again, it has become much deteriorated. Where it once crossed West Allison Road, there is a track barrier in place, and neither this grade Xing nor those farther south are protected any longer. I did not see cars of any kind set off on the sidings of the numerous facilities south of Route 202. But who was it that said, "No amount of not finding something proves a negative"? There could, after all, be an occasional customer or two to the south, not foo far from the overpass. So, I'd like to know definitively IF, for any reason, UP motive power ever sticks its nose south of the 202 Loop.

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
7/10/2012

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Two additional points:

1. In the second paragraph of my just previous posting, I'm guilty of an ambiguity, viz., "Where it once crossed West Allison Road....", the "it" being the track of the hitherto long industrial spur coming south from Tempe Junction. In actuality, the track STILL CROSSES West Allison Road, although there appears to be a track barrier on the north side of the road, and this grade Xing and the remainder of such crossings to the south are no longer protected ones, if satellite imagery is any indication. The track is much deteriorated at that point and eventually peters out well south of West Germann Road.

2. Of interest, in the Google map above, note the lazy ess or chicane in state Route 347 NNE of Maricopa, not far north of where Casa Blanca Road comes in from the east. That same configuration is shown in the map of the 19th century Maricopa & Phoenix Railroad appearing on page 497 of David Myrick's "Railroads of Arizona", Volume II. The motor road and track both shift(ed) from running NNE to almost due north, and then resuming the NNE course, very likely to get around some natural obstacles and ensure the grade being as level as possible. In the case of the M&P, the double turn was near Sacaton way station. Just maybe additional evidence that state Route 347 (a.k.a. South Maricopa Road/North John Wayne Parkway) was laid on the trackbed of a certain abandoned railroad?? [I did write MAYBE.]

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
7/12/2012

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In the absence of empirical evidence that service on UP's Tempe Industrial Lead (ex-SP Tempe and West Chandler Branch; ex-Maricopa & Phoenix RR) currently extends south of state Route 202, I think it would be helpful to look at the math a little more closely. The official length of the present industrial spur is 9.5 miles, which I assume originates from the turnout at Tempe Junction just north of West 13th Street. A much older figure lays out the distance from Tempe Depot to the way station at Kyrene (8.39 miles) and then on to Hansen Junction a bit farther south (0.5 mile), a total of 8.89 miles between the main station and that junction. Although not strictly speaking a matter of apples and oranges, we're dealing with two northern points of origin, a mile apart--give or take--on a north-south axis. Just to define the various points a little more:

1. IF I have things right in reading the Creamery Branch map on this website, there were at least two Tempe Stations on the M&P main: the original, which stood between the prongs of the Mesa Junction wye, and the subsequent one, shifted to the end of the north prong of the wye, after the M&P was merged into the Arizona Eastern RR in 1910. Both Tempe depot sites are not far south of the Salt River RR bridge, with the original M&P station between present-day West 3rd and 2nd Streets, and the AERR station a bit farther north, between today's West 2nd and 1st Streets. Do I have all of that right? If not, please correct me. Thus the distance between the Tempe depot and the Kyrene way station was measured from one of these main station sites, very likely the later one--again, about a mile north of Tempe Junction. In defining the distance between Tempe Station and the Hansen Junction wye (middle of? north prong? south prong?), that northern point of origin must be kept in mind. Whatever, at 8.89 miles, the southern terminal point of that axis stands well shy of the present-day Route 202 overpass.

2. Keeping that distance in mind, the active portion of the current Tempe Industrial Lead originating from Tempe Junction to 9.5 miles south officially extends rather south of the Route 202 overpass, a reality underscored by the condition of the track proceeding south of the highway overpass and the fully protected and well maintained grade Xing at West Morelos Place. In fact, 9.5 miles from Tempe Junction on this industrial spur reaches to the point just where the line curves east behind a large factory building seen in satellite imagery.

3. I selected the point just north of Route 202 where the last active customer may stand (and in fact I provided two photos of this facility, with a couple of LPG tankers on the siding). In measuring from the two northern points under discussion to this customer, there is a curious reversal of numbers: 9.5 miles from the later Tempe Station site and 8.87 or 8.88 miles from Tempe Junction to this customer. Weird! [And please allow for imprecision with the tools at my disposal and the map scale I selected.]

Of course the question remains, is there regular or even irregular/infrequent service south of the Route 202 overpass? Does UP maintain that stretch of track against the day when things may pick up down there? Does it use that track for secondary purposes? Has anyone seen cars of any kind set off on sidings south of Route 202 in recent weeks or months, or even in the last year or two?

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
7/14/2012

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Question for Mike Palmer:

I live in Sun City and though I haven't always lived here, I haven't been back in Maricopa for ages (years). I recognize in your photo the place where Maricopa Road (Rte. 347) crosses the Union Pacific tracks, including that large rusty water tank from bygone days standing on the north side of the track or tracks. That indeed is the essence of my question. Your photo is nearly 3 1/2 years old and plainly shows a switch west of the crossing onto a westward leading passing siding or runner track paralleling the single main line. When one goes to the satellite image in the Google map accompanying this site, however, there is full double track at this crossing, extending well to the northwest and southeast, and no switch is evident near the Maricopa crossing. So, which actually exists there now? Otherwise asked, is your photo or the satellite image newer, and thus shows the change in the UP's main line through Maricopa?

I think the person who posted before me has raised some good questions, but has received no answers, so I hope Mike or someone else is reading this one and will give me an answer.

Thanks,

Wynn Shugarts

Wynn Shugarts
Sun City, AZ
7/22/2012

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Follow-up observation: The MapQuest satellite version shows the Maricopa Road grade crossing exactly as Mike's February 2009 photo: with the westerly passing siding originating nearly opposite the old water tower, and thus a single track continuing southeast and crossing the road. Both the Google and MapQuest satellite images are dated 2012, so that's really helpful!

Wynn Shugarts

Wynn Shugarts
Sun City, AZ
7/22/2012

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Nelson: The answer to your question about UP trains venturing south of Route 202 is yes. The concrete plant down there near Sundust Rd gets cars routinely, and there is an industry at the bend in the tracks (where they go from south to east) just south of Pecos Rd that gets boxcars parked along its north side. Those boxcars are visible from Route 202, and were there as recently as two days ago.

I don't know what days the Local goes all the way down there, but I was delayed by train at Allison Rd at 1pm a few months ago. This past winter I was caught one at Morelos St at around 11am.

So there is still active service down there. I thought I had a picture somewhere. If I find one I will send it to you.

Dan
Phx, AZ
8/24/2012

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In the first minute of the 1938 or 1939 movie Water Rustlers, you see a trestle in the background. The IMDB states that it was filmed at the Salt River and Salt River Valley. Could this trestle have been the Maricopa and Phoenix RR trestle? I think it was in another movie, but I will have to go thru my notes to try to find it. I am a Texan living in Iowa, so I thought the local Arizona railfans, would know more.

Michael Lowe
Iowa
6/16/2013

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Dan: Thanks for the corrections. I haven't been on this website for ages (more than a year and a half), thus my belated acknowledgment. Am back in sunny Arizona until May, so I'll grab my camera and my wife's grandson—-in whichever order—-and scoot over to the Route 202 Loop for a look-see. If I get some photos, I hope Greg will post them and correct the figure captions for my shots of the stretch of track where I thought (wrongly) the last customer south is located.

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
3/14/2014

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Dan: Me again. I note the satellite image has changed since my last visit to this site awhile back. I did wonder about that long building just south of West Pecos Road, but its siding that leads back west from the main industrial spur looks to be in poor shape (though tough to tell, because it lies mostly in shadow). I'm not at all sure there is present rail service as far south as West Sundust Road, because little appears to be going on there (not far south of West Willis Road is a tree growing in the middle of one easterly siding). But not far north of West Willis Road—between West Willis and West Allison on the east side—there is what I think to be an old sprawling concrete plant (the one you have in mind?), on whose siding in the current satellite image is parked a closed hopper car. There does remain a long siding on the west side of the industrial spur south of West Willis Road, however, and I've certainly been wrong before.

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
3/15/2014

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Update on UP's Tempe Industrial Lead (much of which is likely on the former Maricopa & Phoenix RR). The industrial lead follows that 19th century railroad only as far as a very little bit beyond (south of) West Frye Road. Once the track turns directly south and passes under Route 202, its bed is no longer congruent with that of the Maricopa & Phoenix, the latter of which diverges farther and farther west as it approaches Maricopa on the Union Pacific main line.

The industrial facility (Nexeo Solutions) identified on my two photos as the last trackside customer on the old Maricopa & Phoenix, is precisely that, because it stands north of West Frye Road. I concede, however, that that ID is a bit ambiguous, because at least one customer survives south of Route 202 on the Tempe Industrial Lead in West Chandler. It is thus essential to keep in mind which part of the industrial line is on the former route of the Maricopa & Phoenix, and which is not. I am, however, going to ask Greg to alter the descriptions of my two photos in order to clarify what they represent.

South of Route 202, where the line runs south, east, and south again, my grandson and I traversed the four eastbound and deadend roads off South 56th Street with all of those old industrial plants: West Allison, West Willis, West Sundust, and West Germann Roads. The main industrial lead is in pretty good shape all the way to its end south of West Germann Road, but its numerous sidings are a great deal less so. Indeed, it is doubtful that the vast majority of these sidings are still in use. One is definitely active, and perhaps another.

On August 24, 2012, Dan wrote:

"....there is an industry at the bend in the tracks (where they go from south to east) just south of Pecos Rd that gets boxcars parked along its north side. Those boxcars are visible from Route 202, and were there as recently as two days ago."

Not any more: that long warehouse, with a faded sign identifying it as LP Lumber Products, is now vacant and "Available". It is fenced, with locked gates, no one there, and no automobiles parked on the premises during an early Wednesday afternoon. The lengthy siding along its north side is fenced off with a locked gate, and with much vegetation grown up. Another customer thus gone. No other customer in fact is visible in the vicinity of West Allison Road.

The only industrial plant with obvious rail service is Therm-O-Rock West (makes perlite and vermiculite, etc.), on the northeast corner of the grade Xing on West Willis Road. The siding turns out from the north and three covered hopper cars were set off there. This is the plant having a crazy maze of tanks and pipes seen above it, and is the only one to show such cars in satellite images. The Alcoa plant across the track (west side) also has a siding leading into it, but I could not see any cars (or in satellite photos). This is the only location where rail service could be corroborated, and I'm sending Greg a photo.

South of West Willis Road, there are almost certainly no more customers. There remains a parallel siding on the west side of the main from West Willis south to West Sundust, but it ends at the latter, with a couple of rail buffers in place. There are no loading/unloading facilities anywhere along that stretch—whether for box cars, tankers, or hoppers—the sidings are in poor shape, and no cars can be seen. South of West Sundust, there is an empty track bed where the parallel west siding used to be, with the cement plant to the west having a wide space between it and the main track, and with no loading facilities of any kind in place. The plant did not look very active on the day we were there. Straddling West Germann Road, to the east of the track, are the two large Yulex manufacturing buildings, which make non-allergenic latex products from guayule. Again, no evidence that Yulex has rail service.

I suspect but one manufactory, Therm-O-Rock West fronting on West Willis Road, is the last customer surviving south of the Route 202 Loop.

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
3/19/2014

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Dan and Nelson,

Likely all of us would agree that two years is a long time for railroad operations, with who is still getting service frequently changing. That said, however, the two of you disagree appreciably on what is happening on UP's Tempe Industrial Lead.

At the end of last week I was on my way to meet a friend at ASU, but with my curiosity piqued and with a little time to spare, I poked my car's nose into W. Willis Rd and W. Allison Rd. Yes, the hopper cars were still on Therm-O-Rock West's siding, and yes, the long warehouse on the north side of Allison Rd is very much vacant (and looks like it has been for some time). While passing over the grade crossing on Willis Rd, I looked south but didn't see any cars, including behind the cement plant down near W. Sundust Rd.

I could not find the sign for the lumber company Nelson saw, but the cloth sign attached to the chainlink security fence surrounding the warehouse on W. Allison identifies Matrix Nutrition as the contact for the would-be new tenant. Is the reality a series of owners and/or tenants there? Whatever, the place is not in use now.

A question for each of you.

Dan: Could it be that the string of box cars you saw on the north side of the warehouse in question in August 2012 were simply parked on the main track, awaiting a locomotive to pull them away? That is, not on the warehouse siding?

Nelson: Were you being too absolute in your conclusion that there remains but one customer south of Route 202? Shouldn't you have specified one regular customer, thus allowing one or more customers having irregular and/or infrequent service? Your time slice was after all part of a single day and thus a brief one.

Clearly the biggest difference in your perceptions regards the cement plant north of W. Sundust Rd. Does it get rail service or does it not? Is there even much going on at the plant? Whatever, this industrial track doesn't seem too active these days, with perhaps one siding regularly having cars set off.

Wynn Shugarts
Sun City, AZ
3/23/2014

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Wynn,

Thanks for your prompt and insightful response.

First of all, you're absolutely right to challenge my assumption that only a single customer south of the Route 202 Loop is currently getting rail service. When I wrote "I suspect", I thought that was sufficient, but clearly not. So, yes, I should have stipulated a single regular customer, making allowance for other customers having less regular or less frequent service on the southern end of the Tempe Industrial Lead.

Several of the trackside companies on the southern part of the industrial lead now have either a chain-link fence (some well overgrown with vegetation) or even a solid wall erected between them and the track, so no way they're still, if ever, getting rail service. Spoiler alert: I no longer believe there is a cement plant on this industrial line.

1. The long warehouse north of West Allison Road is entirely surrounded by a chain-link fence. Both the warehouse proper and the fenced-in siding on the north side of the building, with a healthy dose of vegetation growing there, are thoroughly locked (I walked almost all the way around the entirety). The long-faded sign reading "LP Lumber Products" is on the west end of the building, but it turns out my photos do show "Matrix Nutrition" on the sign on the front fence advertising its availability. I do think you're right: successive tenants in the past, and likely successive owners as well.

2. As both of us confirmed, those covered hoppers are or were still on Therm-O-Rock West's siding, being loaded or unloaded, probably the latter.

3. Other than the last one on a stub line, an operation requires a siding so that its cars do not foul the main track. There are many such sidings south of Route 202. The longest ones are on the west side of the industrial main, one each between West Allison and West Willis, and between West Willis and West Sundust (the latter siding ends there, with buffers in place). There is clearly a siding track BED south of Sundust Road, but no siding any longer for the facilities west of the main track to cozy up to. What looks like a cement plant from a distance south of Sundust Road is actually an animal feed production facility (Animal Nutrition, and see below). This plant west of the industrial lead has no loading or unloading facility in place; it has no siding track (thus with a wide space between it and the main track); but it does have a long uninterrupted chain-link fence between the plant and the track, which hardly looks new. So, how can it be getting rail service?

The only other candidate that I can see which can possibly be a rail customer is the Alcoa (Pimalco) plant just across the track from Therm-O-Rock West, both fronting on West Willis Road, but yet no proof for the aluminum company's rail service. Best I can figure.

Nelson

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
3/26/2014

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Dan:

I cannot find a cement plant in the entire Lone Butte industrial complex, thus a puzzler. I hope you will clarify in the near future, if only to be sure we're discussing the same production plant. See

http://www.lonebuttedevelopment.com/ParkPlan.htm

Click on "Park Plan" to download a .pdf map of the industrial park, which can be zoomed to get most of the details. Note particularly the plants directly adjacent to the UP industrial lead.

The Animal Nutrition & Dairy Nutrition plant west of the industrial line and south of West Sundust Road does not have a siding or loading facilities, but does have that chain-link fence betwixt it and the RR track.

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
3/26/2014

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I watched the Water Rustlers, noting the trestle and background cliffs, and I don't think this can be the M&P at the Salt River. Certainly there are Saguaro cacti in the film, which places it in south or central AZ, but if this were the M&P, it would have to be from the current site of the Tempe Center for the Arts. From there looking east, there is a clear view of Four Peaks and the Superstition Mountains, about 30 miles away. But in the movie, the cliffs hang right above the trestle.

Also the far bank of the river is quite steep in the movie, yet is almost at river level (Tempe Town Lake now) and not at all steep in Tempe. This leaves the question of just where the movie was made. If that really is a railroad trestle (and it looks like it is), there aren't many other options from 1938.

W. Corvi
Flagsaff, AZ
5/14/2014

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To: Michael Lowe and W. Corvi

Guys,

I've not seen the 1939 movie Water Rustlers, with the intrepid Shirley Martin (Dorothy Page) facing down the bad guys, but from what is described, at least by implication, the site has high rocky cliffs closely overlooking the river and a putative railroad trestle. Of course the possibilities are endless, but one has to start somewhere with a known variable, so let's say the Hollywood types knew for certain they were filming in southern Arizona, and in the approximate vicinity of Phoenix.

If the Salt River sites are essentially exhausted, how about the Gila River? There are at least four RR crossings between Yuma on the west and Kearny on the east, which I've looked at in satellite imagery.

From the west, the first three sites---(i) the former Southern Pacific secondary main trestle between Wellton and Roll; (ii) the long-gone narrow gauge RR trestle at spot-on-the-map Olberg (SSE of Tempe and ENE of Sacaton); and (iii) the long-standing trestle north of Coolidge, for the former SP and current UP secondary main into Phoenix---do not display rocky cliffs that overhang the river and RR right of way. Moreover, the Gila at all of these sites is a wide, dry river flat for most of the year.

(iv) But...maybe a Big But...on the current Copper Basin Railway, about halfway between its interchange with the UP at Magma on the west and the industrial town of Kearny on the east, the Gila makes a horseshoe loop to the south. On the SE arc of the loop is Donnelly Wash. Not far north of the wash, where the RR line emerges from a tunnel through a rocky prominence, it almost immediately crosses the Gila. Rocky cliffs, facing in a SW to NE plane, closely overhang the trestle at this wet river site. In 1938, when the movie was likely shot, the line was owned by the SP's non-operating subsidiary Phoenix & Eastern, but operated by the Arizona Eastern. The line was purchased by the AE in 1945, and itself became part of the SP ten years later. In 1986, it spun off as an industrial short line, the Copper Basin Railway, which it has remained through more than one owner. Go to the Florence Branch abandonment and pan east on the Google map, following the Gila in satellite mode.

This may not have been the place shown in the film, but it is a highly interesting and scenic site, and seems to fit the bill described by the movie watchers.

Nelson

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
5/16/2014

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(v) There is yet another railroad trestle spanning the Gila River. This one is about 3/5 of the distance between trestle (iv)---also the site of Tunnel No. 1 on the Copper Basin Railway---to the west, and Kearny, AZ, to the east. More specifically, trestle (v) is located east of Ripsey Wash on the Gila and west of Ray Junction on the CBRY. The trestle stands above wet river, although the satellite image shows a sandbar below the bridge. There is a rock face on the west side of the Gila, though perhaps not as dramatic as the vertical cliff at trestle (iv). Both trestles are in remote areas, not readily accessible to the would-be photographer or a Hollywood film crew, but at least trestle (v) is quite near where the Grand Enchantment Trail passes by. Get your hiking boots on.

Nelson Lawry
Rollinsford, NH
5/17/2014

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