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  • The Verde Canyon Railroad Story - How the Railroad Began

The Verde Canyon Railroad Story - How the Railroad Began

Verde Canyon Railroad train features beautifully painted engines and restored vintage cars.

The Verde Canyon Railroad is a heritage railroad running between Clarkdale and Perkinsville in north-central Arizona.  Passengers enjoy a fun-filled ride in vintage cars of an historic train that winds through the Verde River Canyon, one of the most beautiful wild canyons in the world, hugging the lush green banks of the Verde River all along the way. The train overlooks a stunning landscape rich with ancient geology and archaeology, Native American lore, and fascinating settler stories. Parts of the famous movie "How the West Was Won” was even filmed in the little town of Perkinsville on the route! Named "One of Arizona’a Treasures" by former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, the railroad has become a favorite Sedona-area tour with well over a million riders to date.

How It All Began

2011 marked 100 years since rails were first laid. The 38-mile, standard-guage railroad was operated by the Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix Railroad and was completed from Drake to Clarkdale. What cost 1.3 million to build at that time would cost over 40 million to build today.

Verde Canyon train rounds the corner close to the Verde River.

Railroad building began in the Verde Valley to accommodate the enormous shipments of copper coming out of Jerome, Arizona. Once one of the world's largest producing copper mines, the United Verde Copper Mine of Jerome was generating over a million dollars a month for owner Wiliam Clark—an astronomical amount in the late 1800s! During the first part of the 20th Century, the demand for refined copper was substantial, corresponding to the growth in the generation and distribution of electricity, which of course depended upon copper wire.

06 verde river banks cottonwoodsThe Verde Canyon Railroad follows the Verde River from Clarkdale all the way to Perkinsville, located about 25 miles from the headwaters of the Verde River.

The price of copper fell drastically following the Great Depression, but the train continued to transport copper ore. The last stack was blown from the old copper smelter in 1962, signaling the end of an era. In 1988, the Santa Fe Railroad-owned line was purchased by the Clarkdale Arizona Central Railroad. It continued to haul freight until the very first passenger excursions on Friday, November 23, 1990.

Next segment... ancient ruins and the original indigenous people.

 

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