I joined the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) in 2002 when I learnt that year's convention was going to be held in Williams, Arizona. The Grand Canyon was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time and this would be my opportunity. Little did I know how influential or fantastic that convention and its activities would be.
The first event was a trip aboard the Verde Canyon Railway, which opened on November 23rd 1990. It's "Wilderess Route" excursion takes passengers across a scenic ribbon of rail running between stunning high-desert red-rock pinnacles and a rare riparian venue along the famous Verde River. Product first moved along this historic line, called the Verde Valley Railway, in 1912, with a direct correlation to Arizona shedding its territorial background and becoming the nation's 48th state. Verde Canyon Railroad's pedigree also harkens to the early days of train travel when iron horses were the newest and quickest mode of transportation to move goods, service and people across the country. Railroads like the Verde Valley Railway, financed by the United Verde Copper Company, connected Clarkdale, Arizona to the cross-country Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, bringing abundant copper harvests from Jerome to the world, and in turn, bringing the world to the remote towns of the Verde Valley.
After the mines closed in 1953, the Verde Valley Railway, nicknamed the "Verde Mix" because it hauled a diverse mixture of people and product, took on a new task of hauling cement and byproducts from the Phoenix Cement Plant in Clarkdale to the new Glen Canyon Dam which created Lake Powell. In 1988, Clarkdale Arizona Central Railroad, owned by Dave Durbano, purchased the railroad from the Santa Fe Railway, sight unseen, based on freight figures alone. After arriving in Clarkdale, Dave was so inspired by the Verde Canyon's magnificent scenery and the Verde Valley's mild four-season climate that he and wife Linda were convinced others would want to see this route's incredible beauty from the comfort of a train. The notion of an excursion train finally had roots.
With just a handful of mid-century passenger cars and flatcars, fashioned into open-air viewing cars, the train pulled out of the station in 1990 with every seat full for three straight days. The Durbanos felt that they would move about 15,000 people per year into the canyon via the rails, but to their amazement, 44,000 passengers rode the very first year with only word-of-mouth as their megaphone. The railroad has added and upgraded cars over the past thirty years, and the length of the train has expanded considerably. Car maintenance and improvements are always at the forefront, as passenger comfort is a signature of Verde Canyon Railroad. The depot complex also has seen its share of upgrades over thirty years, from its modest beginning in a caboose and a boxcar to the 1997 creation of the southwestern-style depot, Copper Spike Cafe, Boxcar Gift Store and John Bell Museum.My Trip
I flew to Phoenix on August 18th and spent a couple of days with Bob in Scottsdale before he drove me up to Williams for the five-day event. He would return in a couple of days for the weekend activities.
On August 21st, I joined the other attendees taking the buses from Williams to Clarkdale,
the home of the Verde Canyon Railroad.
The emblem of the 2002 NRHS Convention.
My ticket for today's excursion. The consist was FP7 1510, FP7 1512, generator car, first class coach "Scottsdale", first class coach "Santa Fe Bill", open car "Prescott", first class coach "Wickenburg", coach "Flagstaff", "open car "Camp Verde", coach "Sedona", open car "Miami", coach "Phoenix", open car "Jerome", coach "Cottonwood", open car "Clarkdale" and coach "Tucson". We left on time and I was off on my first NRHS excursion.
These two photographs are from my collection and were taken in March 1994.
MP 36 where the smokestack marks the original TAPCO power plant location which used to generate electricity not only for Clarksdale and Verde Valley, but also for Phoenix.
The Verde River was muddy this day as it had rained the night before.
Scenery of the Verde Valley.
The front of the train has just crossed one of the trestle bridges along the route.
Our convention train crossing the trestle bridge that spans S.O.B. Canyon 150 feet below.
I spent most of the trip in the open car which afforded views like this.
Fantastic scenery along the route.
The rear of the Verde Canyon Railroad train and a trestle that we crossed.
The cliffs where eagles nest. Unfortunately, I did not see any eagles (or wildlife of any sort) this day.
Verde Valley scenery.
Our train rounds a curve through the unique north-central Arizona countryside.
Crossing another trestle bridge.
Looking back along the large curve on which we had just travelled.
Sycamore siding, the only siding in the Verde Canyon, is at MP 28.
Scenery approaching Perkinsville, the end of the line.
The rear of the train at Perkinsville at MP 18.5
The Perkinsville station sign.
Verde Canyon Railroad FP7 1512 (ex. Mountain Diesel 1512, nee Alaska Railroad 1512) as it switches to the other end of the train for the return trip.
After a layover for lunch, the train departed and this is a rear view of Perkinsville station.
Another location where eagles nest.
Crossing the Perkinsville Trestle bridge at MP 19.
Rocky outcroppings along the route back to Clarkdale. After de-training, I took pictures of the equipment and purchased some souvenirs then boarded the bus for the return trip to Williams.
Verde Canyon Railroad FP7 1510 (ex. Wyoming Colorado 1510, exx. Mountain Diesel 1510, nee Alaska Railroad 1510. Built 1953 and painted for Alaska's bi-centennial in 1983. Mountain Diesel purchased and exhibited it at Portola Railroad Museum before leasing to WYCO in 1988. Until 1995, it pulled passenger cars from Laramie to Fox Park Moved to Clarkdale in November 1996.
Verde Canyon Railroad FP7 1512 (ex. Wyoming Colorado 1512, exx. Mountain Diesel 1512, nee Alaska Railroad 1512. Built 1953 and painted for Alaska's bi-centennial in 1983. Mountain Diesel purchased and exhibited it at Portola Railroad Museum before leasing to WYCO in 1988. Until 1995, it pulled passenger cars from Laramie to Fox Park Moved to Clarkdale in November 1996.
Verde Canyon coach "Scottsdale" (ex. Metro North, nee New York Central). Built 1946.
Verde Canyon coach "Santa Fe Bell" (nee ATSF 1935 "Santa Fe"). Built 1946. Verde Canyon added "Bell" to honour deceased employee.
Wyoming-Colorado coach 3199 "Albany". Operated on Cimarron Valley Scenic Railroad in Hugo, OK prior to 1991.
Wyoming-Colorado coach "Saratoga", nee ATSF. Operated on Cimarron Valley Senic Railroad in Hugo, OK before being purchaed by Verde Canyon.
Wyoming-Colorado coach "Laramie", nee ATSF. Operated on Cimarron Valley Senic Railroad in Hugo, OK before being purchaed by Verde Canyon.
Wyoming-Colorado coach 3493 "Emmett Kelly", nee ATSF. Built 1939. Operated on Cimarron Valley Senic Railroad in Hugo, OK. Leased by WYCO in 1991 and named Emmett Kelly probably after the circus performer, whose private car this was.
ATSF caboose 999373 at the Verde Canyon Railroad.
These last three photos are not from the convention, but July 6th, 2003 and show the afternoon Arizona Central coal train approaching Clarkdale station.
Arizona Central GP9 3493 and GP7 2279 lead a coal train past the waiting Verde Canyon Railroad excursion train.
This had been a wonderful trip aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad and I am always ready to ride trains like this again.
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