'Ride the rails' during talk at museum
"Historic Railroads of Central Arizona" is the subject of a slide talk by Norm Tessman, senior curator at the Sharlot Hall Museum, beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the museum center.
Prescott's history is thick with mining, military, and ranching. Though Whiskey Row and Prescott's Frontier Days Rodeo – the oldest in the nation – are renowned, many folks don't realize that Prescott was also a railroad town.
In 1910, three sibling railroads headquartered here.
Passenger and freight depots, a roundhouse and other railroad buildings covered a six-block triangle between today's 6th Street, Sheldon Street, and the Montezuma to Whipple connector.
Today, all that remains of Prescott's railroad are the 1906 Santa Fe Depot, exhibits at Sharlot Hall Museum and the Peavine hiking trail along the old roadbed. (See Tessman's story of the Peavine in the January 2002 issue of Arizona Highways magazine.)
Although the Peavine trail was dedicated in June 1999, its name and route date back over a century.
After 1893, it was the main (and only) north to south rail route through Central Arizona. Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railway trains delivered mail, medicine, manufactured goods, mail-order merchandise and coal. Outgoing cattle and ore trains fueled the region's economy, and passengers rode both ways.
The railroad was affectionately named "the Peavine" for its twisting route through canyons to the north.
Other railroads that came through Prescott were the Prescott and Arizona Central, the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railway, the Prescott and Eastern Railway, and two branches of the Bradshaw Mountain Railway.
Central Arizona's life-style revolved around the rails. Certainly, no 1900 Prescottonian dreamed they would be gone a century later. But after World War I, metal prices plummeted, mines closed, and the rails retreated.
The Bradshaw Mountain Railway gave up between 1926 and 1932; the Prescott and Eastern followed in 1949. After World War II, automobiles replaced passenger trains, and semi-trucks captured commercial shipping.
In 1960, a new Santa Fe by-pass left Prescott high and dry. The last passenger train left town in 1962.
For another 20 years, freight trains rumbled into town over a 28-mile branch line, but in 1984, the tracks were abandoned and sold for scrap.
The program is open free of charge, but donations are always appreciated. For more information, call 445-3122.