Santa Fe to Phoenix

Railroads of Arizona, Volume 6

by David F. Myrick

Full Text of Some Reviews:

Review from Trains magazine, Vol. 62, April, 2002, p. 80.

"Though significant contributions to railroad history have been made by many, David F Myrick is practically peerless, and more remarkable for the difficulty of his undertakings. Myrick's trademark is the comprehensive survey of every railroad in a state--so far, Nevada, New Mexico, and most recently Arizona. One searches in vain for histories of this caliber on railroads in most other states and provinces because they don't exist.

"Photo reproduction in this volume is disappointing, and once each line is built, coverage becomes thin. Regardless, a reader needs no interest in Myrick's subject matter to find his books deeply satisfying. Myrick is fun to read."

-- Mark W Hemphill

Review from The Lexington Quarterly, June, 2002, p. 14.

"With volume 5 of the series Railroads of Arizona, David Myrick continues his magisterial study of the rail routes of the Grand Canyon State. The primary focus is on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway's two routes into Phoenix. Myrick is concerned with the Santa Fe's branch from Ash Fork, on the transcontinental line, south through Prescott to the state capital, and the line west from Phoenix through Parker to Cadiz, California, again on the mainline. But the book also examines rival routes in central Arizona, and several shortlines in the area's mining districts. As in earlier volumes, Myrick provides highly detailed discussions of economic growth, line construction and relocations, operations, and abandonments.

"The book follows the paths of its predecessors: the prose is clear and engaging; the research is remarkable for its depth; the photographs, both historical and contemporary, are profuse and generally well reproduced; and the maps are numerous and thoughtfully drawn. Readers will discover a wealth of information about community formation, mining developments, and the boom and bust cycles of Arizona's economy.

"Rails did not reach the territorial capital at Prescott until 1887, although the Santa Fe's transcontinental route was only fifty-seven miles to the north. Indeed, the first carrier, the Prescott & Arizona Central, operating from Seligman on the ATSF south to Prescott failed after only six years. The Santa Fe's future subsidiary, the Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix, built south from Ash Fork, reaching Phoenix in 1895. While the focus is largely historical, particularly on the mining district carriers, Myrick brings his narrative to the present with discussions of shortline operations on routes previously part of the Santa Fe system. He includes the Palo Verde valley branch that extends south from the Phoenix-Cadiz line.

"Although not as lengthy as some of the earlier volumes, Santa Fe to Phoenix will provide fans of Arizona's railroads many hours of pleasurable reading."

-- Keith L. Bryant, Jr., University of Akron, Emeritus

Review written for Railroad Model Craftsman (unpublished)

"As a historian of western railroads, David F. Myrick has few peers and his output of works on this subject is truly prodigious, especially considering that he is not a professional scholar and spent his working life as an official of the Southern Pacific railroad. After chronicling the railroads of Nevada and Eastern California in two volumes and writing a historical survey of New Mexico railroads (as well as several other books), Myrick set out some years ago to cover the railroads of Arizona in great depth and detail. Four volumes in his Railroads of Arizona series have already been published; Santa Fe to Phoenix is volume 5, and additional volumes are in the works. All are characterized by patient and meticulous scholarship, including sifting through obscure sources such as small town museums and old newspaper files, to compile as complete a picture as possible of Arizona's railroads in their historical context.

"As the title indicates, the main subject of this volume is the evolution of the Santa Fe's "Peavine" route which connected Phoenix and Prescott with the east-west main line at Ash Fork. Also included is the Parker Cutoff, which provided a short cut from Phoenix to the west coast via Wickenburg and Cadiz, CA, crossing the Colorado River at Parker. In addition, there is a chapter on the Palos Verde Valley branch from Rice to Blythe and Ripley in California. Myrick thus fills a very large gap in the history of the Santa Fe, as these lines and the territory they served have received very little attention and have seldom been photographed.

"Myrick traces these routes from their earliest origins, including numerous rail lines that were proposed but never built, right down to the present day. He offers an extensive account of the political and economic influences, as well as the various, and often colorful, individuals who were involved in Arizona and southeastern California railroad building in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And since railroad construction was inseparable from population growth and settlement in this relatively desolate and remote region, there is also much information about the early development of the towns the rail lines served, especially the convoluted history of Prescott. Santa Fe to Phoenix is thus of considerable significance to western historians in general, as well as to railroad historians and modelers.

"There's much more to this book, however, than the history of the Santa Fe and its lineside communities, though the title doesn't even hint at it. The main source of rail traffic in the territory and later the state of Arizona was minerals, and Myrick charts in great detail the development of the many mines and smelters in central Arizona and the short line railroads that were built to serve them. The descriptions, maps, and period photos of mines, stamp mills, smelters, and the rough towns that grew up around them, as well as of the rail lines that were often hastily built through rugged terrain to bring in supplies and take out ore, will fascinate many model railroaders.

"The Crown King and Vulture mines, the Congress Gold Co., Big Bug Creek, Crazy Basin, Skull Valley, the Harqua Hala mountains--these were real places and names that would challenge the inventiveness of even the most fanciful free-lancers. The short lines that served these places--the Prescott & Eastern, the Bradshaw Mountain, the Hackberry--ran turn-of-the-century ten-wheelers, diminutive saddle-tank 0-4-0s, wood passenger cars with truss rods and open platforms, even a motor car converted from an early automobile. You want quaint? The mining railroads of Arizona were nothing if not quaint, and Santa Fe to Phoenix is a gold mine of prototype images and information for those who are interested in modeling such lines.

"Though Myrick may tell you more than you ever wanted to know about some subjects, his text is unfailingly readable. Photo reproduction is excellent, except in a few cases where the quality of the original image was obviously marginal, and captions are brief but informative. A fine John Winfield painting of a Santa Fe reefer train on the Hell Canyon bridge decorates the dust jacket. As is typical of Signature Press productions, the book itself is a handsome volume with attractive layout and high quality paper and printing. Not so typical of Signature Press, however, are an unusual number of minor textual errors such as missing prepositions and typographical glitches.

"In short, Santa Fe to Phoenix is another installment in a distinguished series, providing a vast amount of information this isn't available anywhere else. It's a "must have" book for devotees and modelers of the Santa Fe and of western railroads in general, as well as for those who are interested in steam-era mining shortlines."

-- Richard H. Hendrickson, Ashland, Oregon