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Apache Railway - the Southwest Railfan

Apache, Apache Railway, APA, Abitibi, Abitibi Consolidated, Holbrook, Snowflake, Arizona, 
Stone Container Corporation, 
shortlines, shortline, short line, short lines, shortline railroad, trains, Carr, Wes Carr the Southwest Railfan

Apache Railway

  Please choose one of the
following photo pages:

Apache Railway - October 2004

Apache Railway - October, 2004

(16 images)

Apache Railway - October 2000

Apache Railway - October, 2000

(8 images)

One of the select few all-Alco-powered railroads remaining in the United States is Arizona's Apache Railway, a 38-mile line stemming from a connection with BNSF's ex-ATSF Gallup Subdivision at Holbrook, south 27 miles to Snowflake and west 11 or so additional miles to the Abitibi paper manufacturing facility.

Canada-based Abitibi Consolidated owns not only the Snowflake paper mill, but also the Apache Railway itself, having acquired both from the Stone Container Corporation in 1999.

Operations are based out of a small yard located near the Abitibi paper mill which is actually several miles west of the town of Snowflake near the intersection of state highways 277 and 377; watch for the sign off highway 277 which indicates the location of the yard. The yard and shops areas are generally off-limits for photography; however, an inquiry at the office may yield an idea of the day's operational plan.

The railroad is accessible from paved highways in the Snowflake and Holbrook areas, and from a number of unpaved roads between Snowflake and the paper mill. Between Snowflake and Holbrook, however, I have found the line to be extremely difficult to access until the tracks cross state highway 377 about four miles south of Holbrook. My DeLorme atlas showed several unpaved roads leading toward the tracks from state highway 77, but I was unsuccessful at negotiating them; the roads seemed to reach dead-ends short of the tracks at most locations.

During my first visit to the Apache in October, 2000, Apache trains were operating on an as-needed basis, usually making four weekday round trips between Snowflake and Holbrook. During a typical work week, Apache was running trains to Holbrook on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, with the entire day of Wednesday spent switching the paper mill west of Snowflake. Crews were called on duty around 1000, but often spent several hours switching and building their train before departing the yard.

When I visited the Apache for the second time -- in October, 2004 -- a tie gang spent the morning working on the main line east of the yard. The track machines cleared up around noon and the train to Holbrook left shortly afterward, stopping to switch a couple of customers in Snowflake before continuing on to Holbrook.

Interchange with the BNSF in Holbrook can be a lengthy process, depending on inbound and outbound traffic. Don't expect an Apache train to immediately leave upon its arrival in town; if switching must be performed, the interchange may take a couple of hours.

In addition to paper and related products, another commodity moving on the Apache line is coal. Delivered from BNSF at Holbrook in unit trains of the trademark "blue looper" hopper cars, the coal is destined to the paper mill, where it helps to provide power for the facility.

I am always interested in receiving updated operational information on the Apache; if you have visited the Apache recently and can share any information on days and times of operation, please send me an e-mail.

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