Seligman to Prescott

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  • States: Arizona   
  • Railroads: P&AC   

The Prescott and Arizona Central Railroad

Part of the Prescott & Arizona Central Railroad right-of-way can be seen here, heading northward through Willow Lake Park, northwest of Willow Creek Reservoir. Photo by Andy Odell, May 2013.

The Prescott and Arizona Central Railroad was the first railroad to reach Prescott, starting from Seligman to the north. This line only lasted several years due to a number of reasons, among them was the fact that is wasn't very well constructed. Proof of this can be seen when one tries to find remnants of the old ROW today....virtually no evidence of its existence can be found, save for the northern-most section in Railroad canyon just south of Seligman.

It serves as the first major abandonment in Arizona.

Thanks to James for contributing information about this route.

I may have discovered what might be some parts of the old ROW in Chino Valley, but there is no way to be sure...and even David Myrick's book "Santa Fe to Phoenix" notes that no accurate map of the P&AC has ever surfaced to date. The book does feature a "best guess" map assembled form various sources. Photographs show that near Prescott, the two competing lines ran very close to each other.

Strange that this significant line seems largely forgotten.

James
Chino Valley, AZ
1/11/2012

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I used to fly helicopters in the area and the old track bed can be seen in 5 or 6 places up to Seligman. You can see them on Google Earth, but I don't know how to trace a route then post it or I would. The timbers where laid directly on the ground to meet a deadline and washouts plagued the line continuously, eventually resulting in bankruptcy. The track and equipment was removed and used on the owners other railroad, the Sierra Railway Company. The PACR locomotive #3 (a 4-6-0 made by Rogers Locomotive Works specifically for PACR on March 26, 1893) was renamed the the Sierra #3, and is still in use today. Supposedly, it has been in more films and had its picture taken more times than any other locomotive in history.

Clay Morgan
De Kalb, TX
9/26/2012

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I found a section of the old grade about a quarter mile long, just northwest of Willow Creek Reservoir. It runs up from the north through the saddle at Willow Lake Park. If you turn off Willow Creek Road opposite Embry Riddle (thus into the Park), you will see a road cut to the right that it went through, and if you look to the left, you can see the old grade running north.

There are several broken rail bolts and a spike, but it is definitely not the SFP&P which was two miles east of this location. There is a fence to stop cars, but you can walk around that and down the grade to where some houses are located. The grade is now covered with wood chips, like an exercise path.

Andy
Flagstaff, AZ
5/19/2013

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My grandfather was the prime promoter of the Prescott & Arizona Central RW. There is a very interesting story here. I have copies of the 1886 Federal R/W grant maps; they fit well with USGS mapping. There are info files at the Charlotte Hall Museum in Prescott. I have built a file and will be giving a talk about my grandfathers life 9/11/14 at the main Library in Sonora, CA, 7PM

Thomas S Bullock II
Pollock Pines, CA
8/6/2014

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Sorry i missed this Thomas. Is this map file available anywhere?

James
Chino Valley, AZ
12/31/2014

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IF you know what your looking for and how to look for it, you can see the railway on Satellite Images. I've Added the Rail line to the Open Street Maps Database. I'd estimate that I added 20-30 miles worth of line, and added the tag to sections where roads have taken over the roadbed.

Ben S
Prescott, AZ
1/19/2015

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I saw the section Ben, but even using the historical images on GE, it seems there are too many routes to the north. One seems to go over and follow 89 near the airport intersection...which makes me wonder. North of rd3 heading out of Chino, there is a raised area right beside 89 to the west, which has always looked like a ROW to me. Could this be the old ROW? Inquiring minds want to know. I sure do wish they would find a map...

James
Chino Valley, AZ
1/20/2015

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Ben's route was for the Limestone Canyon section of the SFP&P; he's fixed the name. I have several maps, 1892, 1897, and Myrick's, all of which are about 6mi=1", and they disagree in detail. But taking what I can, I think the P&AC was on the west side of US89 between Road 1.5 S and Road 3.5 N in Chino. Thus, James, if you mean west of 89 north of Road 3 N, that seems possible (note there are four Road 3s).

But I also found something that looks like grade (with no metal found on it) two miles north of Road 5 N (in the southwest corner of Sec 22) on the west of Hwy 89, which is inconsistent with the above.

Andy
Flagstaff, AZ
1/21/2015

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Sorry Andy, i should have been more specific. Rd 3 N, just after you head through the light at McDonalds, if you look west there is a raised ROW looking area. Could it be?

The route i saw from Ben was next to willow creek road...if i was looking right.

Off topic,the limestone canyon section SFP&P is something im am quite familiar with. I off road up there often, and have hiked some of the old sections.I wish there was a message board to discuss these things.

James
Chino Valley, AZ
1/21/2015

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When my grandfather built the P&AC he followed his business model and the values of the time: use other peoples money and get yours up front. Fun stories here. My mapping of the P&AC came from the really helpful folks at the Pheonix office of the USGS. It must be kept in mind that nobody in Washington really knew what was there in Arizona; they took granddads word and gave very general R/W south from Seligman, down Chino Wash and through the Granit Dells to Prescott. There is good co-ordination with the USGS maps, but there is too much randomness to pin-point the on-site R/W with any real certanty. I have driven along most of where it was and have flown the line from Prescott airport; bits and pieces can be seen from the air but hard to see on site. I am glad you guys are still interested. Tom Bullock

Thomas S. Bullock
Pollock Pines, CA
1/21/2015

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I went out yesterday to get a bite to eat, and i drove north of the Rd3N intersection on hwy 89. Just after going through the light and heading north, the section I described will be on the left right after passing the Catholic church. It is literally just off the road in the other side of of some telephone poles. This seems to be in better shape than i would expect the P&AC ROW to be in, honestly. I know that 89 has been re-done at least once further north, so maybe that's the answer.

Off-topic but semi related: The limestone canyon SFP&P route eventually ends up at the current line near Ash Fork, and joins hwy 89. It has been a road since well before my time...probably right after the abandonment.

The name of this road on the north end? Bullock road!

I have wondered if it was just a coincidence, or if someone mistakenly thought this the old P&AC (which its not) and gave it a historical name.

James
Chino Valley, AZ
1/22/2015

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I agree with James: Bullock Road is not the r/w of the P&AC.

I have driven it and think it may include stretches of the

SFP&P.

Tom Bullock
Pollock Pines, CA
1/23/2015

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Tom:Bullock road ABSOLUTELY follows some sections of the ROW for SFP&P. This is especially apparent as you get near the south end where it becomes FS573.

I have submitted the Limestone Canyon route to the site, but it looks like the admin has taken a break for a while, so it may be some time before it gets put up (if ever). I also noticed that one of the tanks nearby is also called Bullock tank. Maybe there were just some Bullocks that lived nearby.

James
Chino Valley, AZ
1/26/2015

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Yes, you are correct about ATSFRR, and there's a separate page on this site dedicated to that route thru Prescott. http://a-r.us/ei1 is the page. If we can try and keep this on topic of P&ACRR.

Ben s
Prescott
1/26/2015

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Yes Ben, I realized we were getting off topic. That's why I submitted the Limestone canyon area so we could continue the discussion in its proper place, but the LC route should be separate from the Prescott district. The 2 abandonment's were separated by over 80 years, and LC is north of Abra, the start of the Prescott district cited here. In fact, very little of this line (to Phoenix) is in its original location.

James
Chino Valley, AZ
1/26/2015

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Hey guys, no need to worry about this; the P&AC was started from Seligman in 1887, going south to the OO ranch divide to Chino Wash and then south via the wash grade to the valley floor and then up to Prescott. The SFP&P went from Feonix to Ash Fork, with a branch to Prescott. The two rights of way were feet apart before the accent via the granite dells to Prescott

Tom Bullock
Pollock Pines, CA
1/27/2015

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Guess I'm not the only one with double-post issues..LOL!

Tom, I've always assumed that the small spur heading south off of the BNSF main in Seligman (used by BNSF to store cars) is the old P&AC line start. Do you know if that's true?

James
Chino Valley, AZ
1/27/2015

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Oh...and one other thing for the record Tom, the SFP&P originally ran through Prescott to Phoenix. Prescott didn't become a "branch" until the Abra-Skull valley line change was built in 1962.

James
Chino Valley, AZ
1/27/2015

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James ; I have driven the spur east of Seligman: I think this this not a "spur", but is the original connection from the P&AC to the Central Pacific. It is a turning wye, not a spur. When the original bonds were issued by the Territorial Legislature, they offered $3k per mile for a narrow gauge line and $4k per mile for standard gauge. Grandad took the 4k option and a transfer point was set at the point where the narrow gauge line delivered ore from Jerome. The only development that made sense was a turning wye at Seligman so the any cars from Prescott could go either east or west and also use the P&AC line as an end line for a turning wye

Tom Bullock
Pollock Pines, CA
2/14/2015

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Since my last comment I got out the Govt r/w map and discovered the r/w only went east at Seligman. The existing turning wye west leg was not included. A turning wye uses a bit a acrage; I can only assume one two things: 1) granddad simply put in both legs or 2) the A5P added the west element later. All just desert there; nobody would have noticed or cared. I lean toward choice #1; he just built what he needed. Information needed from you local: is the rail heavier on the west part of the wye? If so, it may mean the west part was added later. If the original light rail goes both east west it would mean granddad just built a turning wye as part of completing the line going in both directions. Need one of you local guys to walk the area and tell us what js there. Also note that Railroad Canyon trends from NE to WS a few miles south of Seligman: the r/w leaves Railroad Canyon directly south of Seligman and goes up a side wash due north to the A&P connection point. This lines up well with the existing turning wye.

Tom Bullock
Pollock Pines, CA
2/16/2015

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Actually, there was no need for a turning wye at Seligman (Prescott Junction), since there was no way to turn the engine at Prescott (according to John Sayre). They just backed up going north; this was not a very stable thing - the 4-4-0 wheel configuration used the front four wheels to hold the engine on-track around curves, but this would not be available backing up.

But I seriously doubt the rail currently in the wye is original; rail was typically replaced every decade, though less often on sidings. I do agree that the wye is the location of the P&AC. The original rail would have been 52 (or possibly 56) pounds per yard, fyi.

Andy
Flagstaff, AZ
2/16/2015

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This weekend, we found about three miles of the P&AC RR grade in Railroad Canyon south of Seligman AZ. The segment starts about 1000 ft north of Morman Peak Tank dam, where the grade is quite obvious in places, including a cut several feet deep. It runs perpendicular under that dam and out the south side. There are many spikes and other RR materials on the grade.

It runs south of the dam another 2000 ft and then southwest along Railroad Canyon for 6000 ft. It then turns south again, and goes through another un-named dam. The last evidence we found was a spike, a railbolt, and much broken railroad metal, including a coupler pin; evidently there was a wreck at this point.

Andy
Flagstaff, AZ
3/30/2015

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Good info Andy. Did you take any pics?

James
Chino Valley, AZ
3/30/2015

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Andy - Thanks for the good field work. Your info agrees completely with my map info for the line. BLM land, private property or ? I have driven the area, but not gotten off the road. I would love see the site, but this is not likely at age (83) Any pics?

Tom Bullock
Pollock Pines, CA
3/30/2015

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I submitted two pics, one of the cut and one of some of the material from the wreck site. I know the website owner is very busy, but hope they get posted soon. The land is checkerboard state and private, but there are no restrictions in this particular area.

I found the holy grail, by the way - a survey map from 1885 filed with the territorial secretary. There are two parts, one is the whole 73 miles at one inch per mile, the other is the first ten miles at one inch per 1000 feet (though it says on the map, per 100 feet). However, they are both wildly inaccurate, clearly wrong by four or five miles in places. The section where the route is shown crossing the Verde River now doesn't even have the Verde River in it. I'll try to make images of it available as I get some confidence in what can be trusted.

Tom, I have a couple 'souveniers' for you, will try to get in touch.

Andy
Flagstaff, AZ
3/31/2015

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Andy, would it be possible to post your photos elsewhere online in the meantime?

Michael T
Los Angeles, CA
4/12/2015

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This week my friend Jonna and I came down to Prescott and found another two miles of P&AC grade, just north of the Prescott airport. The first 0.6 mile is quite obvious with cuts and fills, but the rest is almost invisible; we used a metal detector and found 14 spikes and other rr metal. We started at N34d39'40.2" W112d25'25" (WGS84); you can get there by driving an un-named road about a block north of the airport entrance. To the north of the pavement is a dirt parking lot; you can park here and walk or drive a little further to a green gate which is easy to climb. This is obviously private property, but is not posted against trespass.

Climb the gate and bushwhack to those coordinates with a gps; the grade is obvious here, turn left and go up the hill. After six-tenths mile, at the top of the hill, there is a remnant of a stone building to the east. The grade disappears, but turns left and goes downhill to the north, NOT along the obvious road. After about a half mile, the grade becomes visible again, but is extremely faint.

At N34d40'50.5" W112d25'40.1" we found the largest item of metal, a 30-foot piece of rail. It is entirely buried, except the ~3 feet we left uncovered. It seems to be left exactly in place where it was laid in 1886. It's too deep to move or read anything on the side, but the railhead is 1.75" wide, which it smaller than 52 or 56 lb stock (which are about 2"), so is probably 40 pounds per yard. We also found a coupling link nearby. There is much more to explore further north, but a gps and metal detector are required.

We also found a map at Sharlot Hall Archives (Map 0406) which is an 1891 survey map at a scale of 1"=2000ft, running from Prescott north to Clearwater, just north of the Verde River. It is a recent photocopy of a much older map filed in the US Land Office on May 7, 1891. It exactly follows the route we hiked the day before, and can be used to trace the route even further north. This map shows the grade crossing Hwy 89 700 ft north of Road 3 North, at an azimuth of 343 degrees (17 degrees west of due north). This means, James, that what you saw in the vicinity is NOT the grade; it is in approximately the right place, but going the wrong direction. This map is available from Sharlot Hall Library as a scanned .tif file for $15.

There is another map in the State Library on the capital grounds in Phoenix, filed with the Territory in May 1885, Call number: G4331 .P3 1885 A5, but this was a year before construction began, and it is inaccurate by several miles in places. It is actually two sheets, one purportedly the first ten miles, at a scale of 1"=1000ft, and the other is the entire route at a scale of 1"=1mile. The first ten miles shows it arriving at Sullivan's Ranch, which is certainly the OO Ranch now, the actual distance of 16 miles (!). The full map shows the line adjacent to Granite Creek, even though the actual line never gets within two miles of it. You can view and photograph this map, but not copy it; I have photos of it I will try to post.

In fact, I am trying to make all the details of our work available, the tracks, waypoints, and photos, but various websites are not cooperating. As soon as I can get links to the information for the general public, I will post how to access them here.

Andy
Flagstaff, AZ
5/9/2015

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Can't wait to see this Andy!

James
Chino Valley, AZ
5/10/2015

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Shortened Link: http://a-r.us/6e7
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Do you have any pictures or information about The Prescott and Arizona Central Railroad? Please . You will get credit for anything you contribute.