Verde Canyon Railway

A while back I was in Sedona and took the Verde Canyon Railroad. This railroad was for mining but now is a popular tourist attraction. Here is a link to their web site. From the site:

The railroads of north central Arizona were all built to support Arizona’s richest copper mine located in Jerome, in the Mingus Mountains above Clarkdale. The Verde Canyon Railroad (formerly the Verde Valley Railroad, operated by the Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix Railroad,) was financed by Senator William A. Clark for $1.3 million dollars in 1911. Built miraculously in only one year, the 38-mile, standard gauge line from Clarkdale to Drake, AZ was constructed by 250 men using 200 mules, picks and shovels and lots of DuPont black powder explosives. Today, the same railroad would cost in excess of $40 million to build.

As always, I marvel at how fast these types of operations used to be built, in the days before government and lawyers strangled the life out of everything. I also doubt their “$40 million” figure, because you probably can’t build much of anything and get the permits to do so within our lifetime (the train line runs near a bald Eagle nest, which probably makes it impossible to construct anything).

If you have kids I really recommend this trip. It is not quite as good as the railway in Skagway, Alaska that I reviewed here but it still is a great trip (and a lot more accessible than Alaska). The trip is also fun because it is a bit of a “booze cruise” and they serve (OK) food but have a variety of alcoholic beverages and decent beers and local wines to choose from. Due to this on the way back (it is about 4 hours round trip) most of our rail car was snoozing. We also went in a first class car which I’d recommend – it was a bit more but the food / drink was better and it was roomier. You can also rent the caboose if you have a small party which sounds cool, too.

At this link you can see 2 videos from the trip:

1) in the tunnel – be sure to keep your hands in the car! It is fun in the darkness because there are no lights in the tunnel
2) changing of the engines – at Perkinsville they change the engine so that they move from the rear of the train to the front, it is cool because you can see them up close as they chug by

Cross posted at LITGM

4 thoughts on “Verde Canyon Railway”

  1. Thanks for that and the links. I love that 2-cycle GM locomotive sound. A bit different,but fantastic are two narrow gauge steam railways- Cumbres & Toltec and The Durango Silverton,which run in NM and CO. As for beauty, nothing matches the country between the eastern Rockies and the Great Basin.

    Great undertakings are near impossible-we still have big hole in the ground where the World Trade Center was.The Empire State Building was built in 18 months. Where there are too many lawyers in power you get less rule of law. It might be better if lawyers were disqualified from top appeals courts-they have been a disaster. We have allowed the monkeys to run the zoo.

  2. Nice article, I’ll try the ride next month, if they run in March. Your comments on time to built – so true. Not only the Empire State Building, but the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam and the most telling of all the Alcan Highway – legislation passed in February, useable by November, 1,300 miles! Today we can’t build anything owing to Lawyers, Rules and Government -it’s why we are in a depression. We became the leading economic, most creative society for three simple reasons 1) Fredom 2) Property, 3) Predictable Rule of Law – not anymore, all gone – it’s what the Tea Party’s are about!

  3. Not that I want to start a “my Dad can beat up your Dad” argument but the D&H Canal was built in 4 years, cover 108 miles and was done in 1828 … mostly by hand … they build a stone canal for the entire length and at one point built a bridge to cross the Delaware … yep, they built a bridge to carry the canal above the Delaware river in Lackawaxen …

    “In 1823 the legislatures of both Pennsylvania and New York gave approval to the separate companies that would undertake the building of this waterway in their respective states. By 1825 these corporations had merged to form the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, and enough capital had been raised to begin construction under the supervision of two former Erie Canal engineers, Benjamin Wright and John B. Jervis. The Delaware and Hudson Canal was completed in 1828, and it was 108 miles in length. It utilized 109 locks to overcome the 972-foot elevation difference between the Hudson River at Kingston, New York, and its western terminus at Honesdale, Pennsylvania.”

    Very few sections are still intact but you can see alot of old stone in the roadside ditches along the old canal …

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