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McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, Scottsdale, Arizona Visits 2002 to 2012

by Elizabeth Guenzler

My first visit to this unique park was in February 2002 when my friend Bob Alkire took me there. He volunteered there in the mid-1970's for several years, running the Paradise and Pacific Railroad steam trains on the weekends and being involved with their annual Railfair events, among other things.

Park History

In 1967, the Fowler McCormick's donated 100 acres of McCormick Ranch to the City of Scottsdale, stipulating that it be used as a park for all to enjoy. At that time the land value was $1 million. Their hope was that the gift would encourage others to give as well as to make Scottsdale a better place to live for succeeding generations. The original location of the park was to be on 50 acres on the west side of Scottsdale Road. Complaints arose from the town of Paradise Valley so, to avoid difficulty, it was agreed to move across the street, wholly within, Scottsdale city limits. The land size of the park was cut from 50 to 30 acres.

In 1971 Guy Stillman chartered the Scottsdale Railroad & Mechanical Society as part of the agreement with the city of Scottsdale to establish a Railroad Park on the donated land. The original purpose of the Society was to provide technical expertise to the McCormick Railroad Park. Later that year, Guy began to move his Paradise & Pacific steam railroad to the park land, donating two narrow gauge 5/12 scale locomotives.

Residents celebrated the grand opening of the City of Scottsdale's McCormick Railroad Park on Saturday, October 4th, 1975 with free train rides, games, music and a Wild West Shootout. The facilities were a "bare minimum" and the one mile of track had been supplied by donations and laid by volunteers. The highlight of the event was a ride on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad. At the time of opening, approximately $1.25 million had been invested in the park and its facilities. Over the last 40 years the park has evolved into one of the most popular attractions in Scottsdale, with approximately 1 million visitors a year.

Attractions here are the Paradise & Pacific Railroad, the Railroad Museum, and Charro Carousel (my favourites) as well as two playgrounds, several ramadas, shaded picnic areas and a statue of Bil Keane who was the creator of the comic strip 'The Family Circus.' It has changed over the years but still remains a "must do" on my list whenever visiting Maricopa County and Scottsdale.

Magma Arizona 2-6-0 6 on display at the entrance to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. It hauled copper ore from Superior to Magma, Arizona for thirty-eight years. Built in October 1907, it served the mining railroads of Arizona for fifty-four years before being retired in January 1960. Engine No. 6 was purchased by the Scottsdale Railroad and Mechanical Society in 1977 and is the only Arizona & New Mexico engine remaining in Arizona.

The Roald Amundsen, donated to the Scottsdale Railroad and Mechanical Society by Mr. and Mrs. Franz Talley. It is one of six cars built by the Pullman Company in 1928. It was constructed at a cost of $205,000 and used by Presidents Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. President Eisenhower used the car exclusively during the whistle-stop campaign in 1952. It was on this car on August 18th, 1940, that President Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister W.L. McKenzie King met and mutually agreed to the Ogdensberg Declaration, a declaration that provided for the joint defense of North America in the event of foreign invasion. That was the beginning of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. It was donated to the park in 1971.

A 1980's scene as Paradise and Pacific 11 makes its way around the park.

Part of Railfair 1986 at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Photograph by Jim Booth on October 12 th of that year.

Former VIA Tempo coach 344 (ex. PPCX 800435) which used to be on Denver Ski Train. Acquired by the Park in late 2002 and pictured on February 2nd, 2003.

Former VIA Tempo coach 340 (ex PPCX 800430) which used to be on Denver Ski Train. Acquired by the Park in late 2002 and pictured on February 2nd, 2003.

What a difference three-and-a-half years makes! Here are those coaches painted, restored and lettered for Paradise and Pacific.

Train emblems on the sidewalk leading to the party pavilion, where the above coaches are located. Photograph by Bob Alkire on November 28th, 2008.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is the home of Arizona's Merci Car. These informational signs tell of its history and contents.

Inside the former hobby shop Rails West are several displays. This is a Paradise and Pacific streetcar that used to be on the operating railway at the park. I photographed this on November 22 nd, 2009.

One of the main excellent railway displays inside the former hobby shop here.

Some of the fallen flag signs on the walls of the museum.

Small artifact displays at the railroad museum here.

Sign for the Gabe Brooks Museum, a machine shop built in the 1930's.

Details on Walter Lee "Gabe" Brooks.

The roof of the machine shop at the Gabe Brooks Museum.

Interior views of the machine shop at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park on November 22nd, 2009.

Interior of the Santa Fe baggage car which is a museum at this park.

Bob Alkire and docent Bob Adler look at some of the artifacts and displays housed in the Santa Fe baggage car on November 22nd, 2009.

The Maricopa depot history sign and its current location.

Paradise and Pacific 11 rounds the curve near the station as I eagerly await my turn to ride.

Two gauges and the entrance to Scottsdale Live Steamers.

The train on its way back to the station to pick up the next load of passengers.

Views from on board the train as Bob and I ride it on Thanksgiving weekend 2009.

From small to miniature! The half-inch gauge Scottsdale Live Steamers were operating this day and we rode this train as well.

Myself and Bob before our ride on the live steam train.

Going through the tunnel.

One of the fine steam engines of the Scottsdale Live Steamers.

Until 2012, I had not been to Scottsdale at Christmas. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park does a wonderful job of decorating the outdoor exhibits and part of the train route.

The three model railroad clubs that were housed in the old McCormick Ranch building had built a brand new building since the last visit in 2009.

They also have this unique steam engine bursting out of the wall.

There are several non-railway model displays in the windows of the McCormick Ranch, another attraction to this fantastic park. Being English, I had to take a picture of Buckingham Palace!

This is a fantastic place for the railfan, a family or anyone. I have always enjoyed my visits and look forward to returning to this special place.