The Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad

West Chandler to Maricopa, AZ

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.

This view faces generally north where the right-of-way once ran,...
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.
Facing west at Maricopa, the southern connection of the M&P with...
Facing west at Maricopa, the southern connection of the M&P with the UP (former SP) Sunset main line. An eastbound UP double-stack freight is just approaching an old water tower. Photo by Mike Palmer, February 2009.
The active tracks extend under the AZ Route 202 highway overpass...
The active tracks extend under the AZ Route 202 highway overpass in the far distance, then curve to the east where they end. The abandoned line continued in a straight line. This view is generally southwards. Photo by Mike Palmer, February 2009.
The last active part of the M&P lies adjacent to this customer. ...
The last active part of the M&P lies adjacent to this customer. The white building seen in this image is believed to be the southernmost lineside customer, which is closely north of West Frye Road (near South 56th Street) and somewhat farther north of the Route 202 Loop. Photo by Nelson Lawry, April 2012.
The last active portion of the M&P lies adjacent to this industr...
The last active portion of the M&P lies adjacent to this industrial spur. This facility is believed to be the southernmost lineside customer, which is closely north of West Frye Road (near South 56th Street) and somewhat farther north of the Route 202 Loop, seen in the distance. Photo by Nelson Lawry, April 2012.

—  ICC Abandonment Filings  —

Southern Pacific Railroad
Docket: 10678 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 173 Citation: 202 ICC 701

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