Douglas, AZ to Anapra, NM

The "South Line"

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This view is of the abandoned Southern Pacific (formerly El Paso & Southwestern) right of way facing northeast, just outside of Douglas, adjacent to Arizona Route 80. Photo by Mike Palmer, December 1974.

This abandoned railway line was originally constructed as part of the El Paso & South Western, in 1901-1902, as the route from Douglas, through New Mexico to El Paso, Texas. (Arizona and New Mexico were still territories when the line was first built.) The EP&SW built a smelter in Douglas since there was not enough room in the narrow canyon around Bisbee where the mines were located.

The EP&SW was leased by the Southern Pacific in the 1920s, and this route became a second main line ("South Line") for SP between Tucson and El Paso. (SP's line between Tucson and El Paso via Lordsburg and Deming, NM is known as the "North Line.") In its heyday, the South Line line hosted through freights and intercity passenger trains like the Golden State Limited.

This segment of track passed through sparsely populated ranch land and small towns, not far from the border with Mexico, but there were no major sources of freight traffic in the area. The SP abandoned this route around 1961 and removed the rails a year or so later.

Heading east from Douglas, the line passed through these stations/towns:

  • Acacia, AZ
  • Lee, AZ
  • Tufa, AZ
  • Cazador, AZ
  • Bernardino, AZ
  • Chirichua, AZ
  • Apache, AZ
  • Mora, AZ
  • Rodeo, NM
  • Pratt, NM
  • Animas, NM
  • Playas, NM
  • Pot Hook, NM
  • Vista, NM
  • Minero, NM
  • Hachita, NM
  • Continental, NM
  • Victorio, NM
  • Hermanas, NM
  • Mimbres, NM
  • Columbus, NM
  • Arena, NM
  • Malpais, NM
  • Monument, NM
  • Mount Riley, NM
  • Potrillo, NM
  • Noria, NM
  • Mastodon, NM
  • Pelea, NM
  • Anapra, NM

The short segment from Anapra, NM to El Paso, TX remains in service today. The western end of the line, between Douglas and the Arizona/New Mexico state line, was well ballasted and easy to observe parallel to AZ Route 80. In New Mexico, there are primitive roads along the right of way. As with most western abandoned lines, the pile trestles over creeks and washes were removed.

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: Mescal to Benson Junction   

Great shots of the line in New Mexico, especially the "office window" views from the cab.

Unfortunately, I believe the remaining segment of the line (between Douglas and Benson, AZ) failed to find a buyer and was abandoned around 2006.

Mike Palmer
Torrance, CA
11/30/2008

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Yes, you're correct. The line from Benson to Douglas has been removed. I just drove over to Tombstone last week (Nov. 2008) and took a look, where the highway crosses at old Fairbanks. The old ballast is still fresh.

Paul McGuffin
Green Valley, AZ
12/8/2008

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The shots from the cab were taken in August 2003, the others were 2006. I retired from SP/UP in 2004. I am now a "live performing artist." No more waiting around for the phone to ring.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBTz_rU4K6Q

Paul McGuffin
Green Valley, Arizona
3/21/2010

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In response to Mike Palmer's comment, my sources did not reveal any STB Abandonment Filings between 2000 and 2010 for any portion of the South Line. I would be curious to learn whether the abandonment in question took place prior to this time and the rails were more recently removed, or what the exact date of abandoment is.

Kevin M. Smith
Cicero, NY
4/29/2010

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In New Mexico, the abandoned grade roughly follows the alignment of State Road #9 between Columbus, NM and Rodeo, NM (near the Arizona state line).

Columbus, NM was the site of the raid by Pancho Villa and his militia in 1916 and General "Black Jack" Pershing pursued Villa and his men into Mexico on a punitive expedition; the old railroad depot in Columbus now serves as a museum.

Dr. James H. Olsen, Jr., PE
Albuquerque, NM
8/2/2010

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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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If I may submitt a question, Im doing some exploring in Hachita area and wonder if monument 14 was a railroad marker or some other type of marking our maping spot?? Thankyou really was glad to find your site!

Willy Jones
Columbus N.M., NM
7/24/2011

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I have some photos of the depot in Columbus and one of Palomas, Mexico. We were in the vicinity in 1962 to ride the mixed train to Clifton, AZ. I can't remember if we left from Deming or Lordsburg. After we returned from the ride, we drove to Columbus and spent the night in some fleabag motel. The next morning, we grabbed breakfast in Palomas, then headed back to Albuquerque, where we were from at the time. I also have some photos from that mixed train ride. They have aged poorly and are locationless.

Tom Otoski
Albequerque, NM
3/10/2012

[Thanks for the pictures, Tom!  —Greg Harrison]

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I use to work the "Old Southline" area between Anapra and Columbus, NM. I started work in the area with US Customs in 1974. Now that the road is paved its dificulty for me to locate some of the old sites, except for Noria crossing and Guzman lookout. Easy traveling now but not as exciting as it was 35 years ago.

Jim Hughes
Brady, TX
3/20/2013

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I am glad to see that there is some interest in the abandoned South Line. My dad worked as a track laborer and relief foreman on this line for 29 years, and I was a telegraph operator for 2 1/2 years, working the South Line stations from Fairbank, Naco Jct, Bisbee Jct, Douglas, Rodeo (my hometown), Anjmas, Hachita, Columbus, and most stations all the way to Tucumcari. The North Line ran from Lordsburg to Anapra. Several of my family members also worked here, and my Grandpa worked on the road bed when it was just started, probably around Lee.

The little mixed train that ran through before they quit running altogether was known as the "Flying Tortilla". And yes, it quit running about 1961, and the rails, ties and all ws gone by 1965.

I created an HO scale model of Rodeo, of the time when we had a lot of train traffic. It is set up at the museum in Lordsburg, NM.

I also wrote a book of Rodeo and my experiences growing up there. In it I have several pictures of the Old Town.

M. E. Gomez
Rodeo, NM
11/24/2013

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Mr. Gomez of Rodeo... if you know of any photos of the South Line please contact the SP Historical Society in Los Angeles. John Signor is trying to do a book on the line and he says photos are not to be had. I guess railfans didn't see fit to drive so far south in the 1940's and 50's.

Paul McGuffin, Green Valley, AZ

Paul McGuffin
Green Valley, AZ, AZ
12/24/2013

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M.E. Gomez from Rodeo - I would love to see the pictures you have of Rodeo and maybe get copies of them. I grew up there too.

David Stoehner
Deming, NM
1/17/2014

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Do you have any information on the Rogers stop? I have been looking everywhere for information on that stop and can not find anything. I know it was around El Paso. Thanks!

Sara
El Paso, TX
3/24/2014

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This site is great! I really enjoy reading about the history of the area. I am working on a project along NM-9 outside of El Paso, and I was wondering if anyone knew what happened to the old rail bed between when the tracks were removed and when it was converted in NM-9 (aka County Road A003 in Dona Ana county)? I've heard that it was a dirt road, but would appreciate any additional information. I'm also trying to track down a specific time that NM-9 was paved, if anyone remembers that. Thanks!

Kevin Floyd
El Paso, TX
4/19/2014

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Smelters need coal to operate, so the El Paso and Southwestern was built to tap coal mines near Dawson, NM, several hundred miles north of El Paso, crossing the Santa Fe mainline at French. (Santa Fe acquired EP&SW rails north of French to reach York Canyon coal mines, which fired Kaiser's Fontana CA steel mill.) EP&SW's mainline from El Paso to Tucumcari is still very much in service!

Tim Repp
Gig Harbor, WA
4/11/2015

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Belated answer to Sara's request of 3/24/2014: I hope I'm not telling you something you already know--I think we may be acquainted--I volunteer at IHSF. Anyhow, Rogers siding was in NM, just over the Rio Grande bridge from El Paso, where the spur used to run up from the brickworks. I understand it was where the train stopped in the days of segregated travel so that blacks could be put in, or allowed out of, the rear cars. Perhaps cars were spotted there for that purpose. The location is listed on old timetables,

Godfrey Crane
Las Cruces , NM
10/29/2015

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P.S. Rogers siding was not on the South Line, but on the North.

Godfrey Crane
las Cruces , NM
10/29/2015

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