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Mon, Oct. 21

History of local railroads at Sharlot Hall Museum

Prescott Depot
Courtesy/Sharlot Hall Museum

Prescott Depot


Railroad engine

Discover the history, heritage, greed and glory of multiple railroad enterprises around Prescott beginning in the 1870s and waning in the 1960s at Sharlot Hall Museum’s current exhibit, “Meeting the 4 o’clock Train.”

Featured in the exhibit is a 20-by-12-foot HO-scale model train layout of early Prescott circa 1920-30 created by the Central Arizona Model Railroad Club. With a push of the button, the locomotive and attached cars begin their trip at the Depot on Sheldon Street, travel across the trestle at Granite Creek, run past the old roundhouse, and take their passengers through Granite Dells.

Even before visitors walk through the Museum’s main gates, they will see a Porter Mine engine at the entrance.

“This is the same locomotive that pulled ore out of the Congress Mine,” said Fred Veil, executive director of Sharlot Hall Museum.

Mines in Congress, Yarnell, Humboldt and Mayer needed the railway to ship their ore. And passengers and freight needed a connection to the Atlantic and Pacific Railway that crossed the Arizona Territory to the north.

Two companies, the Central Arizona Railway Company and the Arizona Central Railway competed for funds and support to build a line from Seligman to Prescott. The two finally consolidated in 1885, and the connection was completed by the end of 1886.

But there were problems with this line, including the fact that trains had no place to turn around and had to back all the way from Prescott to Seligman.

The Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railway, also known as the Peavine, incorporated in 1891. The new line required engineering feats involving long timber trestles and blasting through rock along the connection to Ash Fork via Chino Valley.

Large photos of train wrecks and washed-out tracks are hung on the Museum’s walls alongside railroad artifacts that will appeal to young and old.

A display of more than a dozen railroad lanterns inside a case to the left of the entrance explains the evolution from oil to kerosene to battery-operated light sources used to communicate in the dark.

A few activities for children are sprinkled around the exhibit and include a hand-cranked model to explain how diesel engines work, a signal switch, and a device to guess the length of time it took to ride the train from Prescott to Phoenix as compared to how long it took in a horse and buggy.

A video plays with the history of the people that worked and inhabited Prescott, how the railroad came about, and the changes it made to the town.

Come see what the Peavine Rails to Trails really looked like as a working railroad when trains brought passengers and freight to the Prescott Depot arriving sometime in the late afternoon.

Sharlot Hall is located at 415 W. Gurley St. Prescott. For information, visit or call 928-445-3122.

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