Mescal to Benson Junction

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This view is of the right-of-way near Whetstone. It is south and east of the junction of I-10 and Arizona Route 90. Much of the ballast remains, and the road is used to access ranch properties in the area. Photo by Mike Palmer, February 2002.

This abandoned railway line was originally constructed as part of the El Paso & South Western, as part of the route between Tucson and Douglas. The EP&SW was leased by the Southern Pacific in the 1920s, and over the years most of its lines that paralleled the SP were abandoned. This segment ran southeast from Mescal, bypassing Benson and passing through Whetstone and Boquillas to Benson Jct., where it joined a line that ran directly from Benson to Douglas. (Note: the railroad location "Whetstone" is several miles north of the highway location of the same name.)

The right-of-way is relatively intact in several places, except where highways cross over. North of I-10, the right of way is visible but passes through fenced property. In the Whetstone area, up until the mid-1990s, the grade was easily seen on both sides of Arizona Route 90 where it had crossed. In the late 1990s Route 90 was widened, and several businesses were constructed in the area for tourists visiting Karchner Caverns.

This photo is southeast of the route 90 crossing area, and the right-of-way can be traveled for a mile or so in this area.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
Docket Number: 20737 Date: 7/28/1959 Section: 1(18)
Appl. for auth. to abandon portions of (l) the South Line in the Tucson and Rio Grande Divisions between M.P. 1022.480 at or near Mescal, Ariz., and M.P. 1046.390 at Benson Junction, Ariz., a dist. of approx. 23.910 miles in Cochise County, Ariz, and (2) the South Line in the Rio Grande Division between M.P. 1108.941, at or near Douglas, Ariz. and M.P. 1317.817 at or near Anapra, N. Mex., at dist. of approx. 208.876 miles in Cochise County, Ariz. & Hidalgo, Grant, Luna and Dona Ana Counties, N. Mex., together with all sidings, spur tracks, facilities and appurtenances.
Length: 232.786 miles Citation: 312 ICC 685—696  
Also under this filing: The "South Line"   

Here is a link to the 1963 court case resolving this abandonment.

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=5420202002182559971&q=ICC+20737+UNITED+OR+STATES&hl=en&as_sdt=2003

Doug Schneider
Tucson, AZ
8/19/2010

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I'm looking for anything pertaining to the Miramonte siding or stop which was part of the Mescal to Benson line. Miramonte was a little settlement which existed from about 1913-1920 but I understand that there was a siding referred to as "Miramonte stop" in 1911. (I'm not sure "siding" is the correct term for the stop)

It was part of the El Paso & SW RR and about half way SE between Mescal and where the EP&SW crossed over the current Highway 80. It is my understanding that part of the old ties are still visible today. But in looking at another map, it was the Southern Pacific RR that went from Mescal to Benson - so Miramonte would be from Mescal to the Whetstones.

I'm compiling a book on the history of Miramonte which was homesteaded mainly by Mormons fleeing Mexico due to the Mexican Revolution. It was about 9 miles west of Benson and was in the area of what is now the J-Six area and south areas.

I've been trying to locate any reference and pictures of the Miramonte Stop but have not found anything other than just references in personal histories of some of the families that lived there during that time period.

Can anybody help?

Marti Roe
Redding, CA
11/22/2010

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I have a copy of a SP Rio Grande Div. Timetable No. 28 dated March 8, 1942. It shows Miramonte at MP 1024.5, between Mescal MP 1022.3 and Whetstone MP 1028.6. Mescal was a Train Order (TO) station with a north and south siding, a Wye, phone, register station, etc. It shows Miramonte with a siding that holds 74 cars and a dispatcher's phone. My SP Timetable No. 53, Sept. 27, 1959 shows Mescal, San Juan MP1035.5, Fairbank MP1048.2. So, by 1959, Miramonte, as a station, had been removed. Remember, to the railroad, a station is only " a place designated in the timetable by name," NOT A BUILDING, or siding. You would need to find some older Rio Grande Div. timetables to get more info..very rare material to locate. Contact the Southern Pacific Historical & Tech. Society.

Paul McGuffin
Green Valley, Arizona, AZ
12/31/2010

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Well, upon a closer look at my 1959 Timetable; I see that Miramonte is listed under "Additional Stations" at MP 1024.5 now a spur track, entry from the west, holding 17 cars. The station number is 7537.

Paul McGuffin
Green Valley, Arizona, AZ
12/31/2010

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"But in looking at another map, it was the Southern Pacific RR that went from Mescal to Benson - so Miramonte would be from Mescal to the Whetstones."

Marti"

No Marti, MIramonte was on the old El Paso & Southwestern line, the SP South Line. It was Mescal to Benson Junction, not Benson, the town. Mescal to Benson was, and still is, the SP Railroad,' back then, the North Line.

Paul McGuffin
Green Valley, Arizona, AZ
12/31/2010

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Paul, thanks for the additional information and correction on the Miramonte siding. Greatly appreciated.

I have a 1919 photocopy of Rand-McNally Indexed Pocket Map and Shippers' Guide of Arizona - pg. 22-23 that has the following: "Miramonte, Cochise, N-18 (Ry44)"

Would that pertain to the post office or railroad - and if railroad what does N-18 (Ry44) mean?

thanks

Marti Roe
Redding, CA
12/31/2010

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Boy..you've got me on that one Marti.

I went to google earth today, and I think I have located just about where Miramonte is located. Going from where the EP&SW crossed over the SP North line, It should be almost exactly 2 miles east to the old Miramonte location. I did find it on an old 1923 SP Railroad map. I will copy that also. Nothing in the book, "Railroads Of Arizona Vol. 1 the southern roads" by David F Myrick. If anyone would know the history, it would be Myrick.

Paul McGuffin
Green Valley, Arizona, AZ
12/31/2010

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I have some vivid personal memories of the Douglas line that I would like to share. Something about this line has always intrigued me. When I was a child we lived in Tucson from 1958 to 1962. Mom & Dad had some friends down in the Bisbee area that we visited on a number of occasions. I can distinctly remember an overpass on what was then known as U.S. 80 (later I-10) that went up and over the Mescal – Benson Jct. stretch of the line. I can recall looking down at the well-manicured track with its rails brightly glistening in the Arizona sunshine. I can remember seeing a set of those classic lower-quadrant semaphore block signals standing vigilantly at guard over the line. There was also a "tell tale" at some distance east and west of the overpass if I remember right.

In the summer of 1962 we moved back east again for three years but we found ourselves back in the Tucson area again in the fall of 1965. Not too long after that we made another trip down to Bisbee for "old time sake". When we drove over the overpass over the Douglas line on U.S. 80 / I-10, I tried to look down expecting to see those shiny rails and semaphores again. But to my horror I only saw an abandoned roadbed. The track was gone!! I thought that it just can't be. Surely there must be some kind of a horrible mistake!

In December of 1965 Mom and I rode trains 1 and 2 to Houston and back. On the way home, I was sitting in the club car B.S.ing with the conductor as we sped westward through Anapra. I remember him pointing out to me, "Look! That's where the south line to Douglas branched off". At that time the rails had only been gone for a little over three years and the roadbed was still plainly evident.

You know, there is something about this whole deal that I have always felt was a crying shame. While the Silverbell, Tombstone and Patagonia branches were probably all expendable, I have always wondered if the Douglas "south line" didn't have some real long-term, future potential that went unrecognized in the early 1960's when they pulled the rails up.

Since the 1990's the SP and then later the UP have been spending some huge megabucks into upgrading and double-tracking the north line. One cannot help but wonder if some of that expense could have been avoided had they kept the south line. Perhaps the UP could have even implemented directional running like they did back in Missouri, Arkansas and Texas on the Cotton Belt / Mopac lines. A major, added bonus would have been the preservation of service to this part of the state. With the rail gone, the Douglas-Lowell-Bisbee area has no hope of ever attracting any kind of job-creating industry that needs rail to ship/receive bulk products. They will just locate somewhere else, that's all.

It is my sincerest hope that some day they will put the tracks back in but I doubt it. The UP would not want to spend that kind of money and our government is broke. Maybe, if there has been a lesson learned in this, it will have been worth it. Hopefully the UP will not make the same mistake with the Phoenix – Welton Jct. line. Once a track structure has been completely removed, it can only be restored again at a very huge cost.

Fred M. Cain
Topeka, IN
1/12/2012

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