The Santa Fe Route

Railroads of Arizona, Volume 4

by David F. Myrick

Full Text of Several Reviews:

Review from Trains magazine, Dec. 1998

"For some years now David Myrick has been chronicling the railroads of California, Nevada, and Arizona. This volume covers the Santa Fe main line across Arizona, from Lupton nearly 400 miles west to Topock, and from the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad to the Santa Fe of the mid-1990s.

"The line from Albuquerque, N.Mex., west to a connection with the Southern Pacific at Needles, Calif., was built by the Atlantic & Pacific, which was jointly owned by the Frisco and the Santa Fe (Santa Fe owned the Frisco in the early 1890s, and a century later they're back in the same family). The eastern part of Arizona posed few construction problems, other than the occasional deep canyon that had to be crossed. The western part of the line, from the Arizona Divide down to the Colorado River (for years one of the longest helper districts in the world), followed canyons, twisting and turning. In 1960 Santa Fe relocated 44 miles of line west from Williams to eliminate the slowest part of its original line.

"Myrick is characteristically thorough, covering not only the construction of the road but its operation, the people who built it, and the towns along the route. There's a chapter on the 1960 line change. The book is well illustrated with black-and-white photos (plus three pages of color) and maps. Santa Fe fans--they are legion--will want this book."

-- George H. Drury


Review from Vintage Rails magazine, May/June 1999

"Distinguished western rail historian David Myrick has produced the fourth in a planned six-volume series dealing with the railroads of Arizona. Volume 4 describes the building of the Santa Fe across northern Arizona in the 1880s, then examines operations throughout the steam era, the transition to the diesel and into the modern era, ending with the merger of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railroads in 1995. The book features 302 photographs and 22 maps, an extensive bibliography, and an index. There is a magnificent dust jacket painting by Rod R. Aszman of an eastbound passenger train led by Warbonnet F units meeting a westbound empty reefer drag with a 2-10-2 pusher.

"Earlier volumes of Railroads of Arizonawere published by Howell-North. As usual with Signature Press efforts, the quality of the layout and printing of Volume 4 is up to the standard set by the legendary Berkeley publishers in the 1960s. Photographs are clear and sharp, and well chosen to represent the chronologic range of the text, from initial construction to steam operations to early diesels to the present. In addition to the numerous views of trains, there are photographs of timetables, advertising brochures, and various lineside buildings. One chapter describes the building of the 1960 line change between Crookton and Williams Junction. In all, The Santa Fe Route: Railroads of Arizona, Vol. 4is a superb effort."

-- Brian Jennison


Review from The Journal of Arizona History, Summer 2000, p. 218

"In the fourth volume of his monumental history of Arizona's railroads, David Myrick focuses exclusively on the original transcontinental line that the Atlantic & Pacific constructed in the 1880s. After a series of mergers and bankruptcies, this route became part of the Santa Fe Railway's main line connecting Chicago and California. Although the Arizona section of this railroad, which generally followed the 35th parallel in crossing the northern part of the state, is little chronicled, its history features many notable events. The major towns of northern Arizona-Holbrook, Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams, Ash Fork, Seligman, and Kingman-owe their very existence to this railroad. In addition, along the route one found a half-dozen Harvey Houses, Indian country, the Painted Desert, Canyon Diablo bridge, the Continental Divide, and lots of spectacular scenery. Indeed, the Santa Fe became synonymous with the Southwest, dominating the economy, providing a large number of jobs, and using the area's native culture to promote its passenger business.

"In his familiar style, Myrick documents the corporate history of the A&P and the line's construction. Here we glimpse not only the financial maneuvering that led to the enterprise, we also meet a myriad of characters, both local and national, who were involved with the railroad during its heyday. Myrick, who devotes the most space to an early history of the rail line, also details the story of A&P land grants, gives a history of every railroad town, and looks at such engineering improvements as double-tracking and the 1960 line relocation between Williams and Crookton. Accompanying the text are a large number of rare photographs and several excellent maps. The author also includes a goodly number of colorful anecdotes that make the text even more fascinating and readable. Unlike the earlier volumes in this series, however, this study does not examine the various feeder lines (such as the logging railroads) that depended on the Santa Fe for their markets. The story of these railroads will appear in upcoming volumes.

"This book will stand for a long time as the definitive history of the Santa Fe line across Arizona. Well researched, it will serve as a reference book for anyone interested in the history of the state. Although the text is not footnoted, the author does include a bibliography that identifies some of the major sources used. There is little doubt that Volume 4 will quickly become a collector's item."

-- Robert A. Trennert, Arizona State University


Review from Railroad Model Craftsman magazine, April, 1999

"It is easy to forget how recently civilization came to the desert Southwest. There are people alive today who clearly remember Arizona's admission to the union as the 48th state in 1912. It was only 150 years ago that most of what is now Arizona became American territory. Before that, it belonged to Mexico and its population consisted of some scattered Native American tribes plus a few Hispanic missionaries and government administrators.

"Nothing looms larger in the brief history of this region than the coming of the railroads. Before steel rails were laid across the arid Arizona landscape, the only residents of European descent were a handful of adventurous "mountain men" and a small number of miners who hoped to strike it rich in some of the least hospitable terrain in North America. Potential rail traffic from the grazing lands and mineral resources of the Arizona territory wasn't enough to justify building a railroad across it. However, on the other side of the Colorado River were the riches of California and the docks where trans-Pacific cargoes and passengers landed, a bonanza that fired the imaginations of the railroad builders to lay track westward from Albuquerque towards the Golden State.

"As the slender rails of the Atlantic & Pacific railroad wended their way across Northern Arizona in the 1880s, settlements sprang up where there had previously been nothing but desert. Division points on the railroad like Holbrook, Winslow, Flagstaff, Seligman, and Kingman outgrew their precarious beginnings to become outposts of civilization in what was still largely a wilderness. It was the railroad, serving as both an economic and a cultural lifeline, that made possible the continued existence and growing prosperity of the towns along its route.

"This symbiotic relationship between the Atlantic & Pacific (and, later, the Santa Fe) and the communities that grew up along its right-of-way is the main theme of David Myrick's The Santa Fe Route. The building of the railroad and the growth of the towns can't be separated, and Myrick tells their story as an integrated whole. Corporate politics, the trials and tribulations of the surveyors and track layers, salient events in local history, and anecdotes both humorous and tragic, are all a part of the story. Myrick gives them all their due, and his book is as much a document in the history of the west as it is a chronicle of a major rail line.

"As a historian of Western railroads, Myrick is uniquely well endowed. He combines a scholarly temperament and a passionate interest in the not-so-old west with the knowledge and perspective of a career railroad executive. In addition, his experience in writing three previous books in the Railroads of Arizonaseries plus several other works on similar subjects serves him well here; as a guide to this kind of territory he never loses his way, and his prose is appealingly clear and unaffected.

"The Santa Fe Route emphasizes the early development of what is now the Santa Fe's mainline across Northern Arizona, and it gives a comprehensive view of the railroad in the first half of the twentieth century as well. In addition, an entire chapter is devoted to the 1960 line change which reduced grades and curves on many miles of the line west of the Arizona divide. Those interested in the more recent history of the Santa Fe will likely be disappointed, as the final chapter on the years from 1960 to the present is perfunctory at best. Recent times on the Santa Fe are well covered elsewhere, however, and Myrick's account of the earlier history is monumentally complete and thoroughly researched (as evidenced by his extensive and useful bibliography).

"It is also very well illustrated. By tirelessly sifting through the files of every small town newspaper and county historical society in the region, Myrick has assembled a remarkably extensive photographic record of late nineteenth and early twentieth century scenes and events. These photos are supplemented by numerous reproductions of flyers and timetables, as well as by an abundance of simple but informative maps. And there is also Rod Aszman's fine frontispiece painting, which is reproduced on the dust jacket.

"Signature Press, Myrick's new publisher, has done well by him. The Santa Fe Routeis a handsome, well designed book with first-rate photo reproduction and a highly readable user-friendly format. Those who have collected his earlier works on the railroads of Arizona will find Volume Four to be the best of the lot, and anyone who is interested in the history of the Santa Fe, or of western railroads in general, will find The Santa Fe Routea most welcome addition to their library."

-- Richard H. Hendrickson


Review from The Lexington Quarterly, June 2002

"The fourth volume of David Myrick's encyclopedic history of the Railroads of Arizona focuses on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway line from Isleta, New Mexico, across northern Arizona to Needles, California. Like the previous books in the series, this volume is a comprehensive look at railroad construction and operation as well as economic development. And, like the companion books, this one is clearly written and beautifully illustrated with historic and contemporary photographs and fine cartographic work, a Myrick hallmark. The narrative is filled with human interest stories about railroaders, builders, surveyors, miners, loggers, and townsfolk. Moving initially in a chronological fashion, Myrick describes the creation of The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad and the evolutionary process by which the Santa Fe and the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway united to use the A&P franchise to construct a railroad across a vast wilderness. In nine chapters Myrick relates the heroism of the laborers who pushed iron rails across deserts, forests, and canyons to reach the Colorado River at Needles. The absence of towns and water exacerbated the difficulties encountered. Equally challenging was the opposition led by the Southern Pacific's C. P. Huntington who was determined to keep the Santa Fe out of the Golden State. While the general history of these struggles is well known, Myrick's book contributes a wealth of detail about the construction and early operation of the line.

"After the Santa Fe gained absolute control of the A&P route, E. P. Ripley and other ATSF leaders committed millions of dollars to rebuilding and upgrading the line, a process that continues to the present. The final six chapters concern modem operations, dieselization, line improvements, and economic change. As towns appeared and grew, and as ranching and lumbering prospered, the route became more than a bridge line linking California to the East. With careful attention to detail, while always telling a good story, Myrick adds to the transportation and economic history of Arizona. This is a handsome book worthy of the three fine volumes that preceded it. Two additional books will conclude the series."

-- Keith L. Bryant, University of Akron, emeritus


Review from Model Railroad News

"For almost 40 years the name David Myrick has meant several things; one of those being expertly researched, concise, complete, fully illustrated, and easy-to-read railroad histories. Starting back in the early sixties with his epochal two-volume set titled Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California (originally from Howell-North, and reprinted in 1991 by the University of Nevada Press), his contributions to published railroad history have been constant.

"Beginning in 1975, he released Volume One of the Railroads of Arizonaseries, subtitled The Southern Roads; followed at regular intervals by Volumes Two (Phoenix and the Central Roads in 1980) and Three (Clifton, Morenci and Metcalf: Rails and Copper Mines in 1984). We have had to wait fourteen years for Volume Four, The Santa Fe Route, but it is well worth the wait. (As a side note, he indicates that this will be a six-volume set when completed). To give you an idea of his output, he has so far published over 2,400 pages in these two series alone!

"Those familiar with Myrick's work will know he usually covers a set geographic region, and that is certainly true to an extent with this book; but he has limited his scope this time to just the Santa Fe's mainline across northern Arizona; no other connecting roads are covered--those are for later books. He begins logically with the initial start of the Santa Fe in Arizona, the Atlantic & Pacific. He follows right through to today's modern heavy mainline, and everything else in between. The Atlantic & Pacific section was particularly fascinating for me, as there has been precious little coverage of this arcane predecessor line to date. The A & P was chartered in 1866, the expansive post Civil War era, and was designed to link a future line from San Francisco to Needles, California (eventually built by the Southern Pacific) with St. Louis, Missouri.

"The murky financial events surrounding the A & P are covered, as one would expect from Myrick. Suffice it to say, the fledgling Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe got involved early on, and eventually became the owner of the line in question. The final outcome was to effect the AT& SF, SP, and the A& P profoundly (the original A&P was by then reorganized as the St. Louis- San Francisco), making the Santa Fe a transcontinental railroad to be reckoned with, and a nationally recognized name to this day.

"From this beginning, Myrick then leads us through the grueling actual construction across what was then the inhospitable wastes of northern Arizona, with its extremes of brutal summer heat and winter cold. Starting in 1880, it took them three years to build a the 559 miles from Albuquerque to the California border, nearly as long as it took the e Central Pacific to build their more difficult 700-mile line back in 1869. The story reads like some ancient Herculean myth when it was actually completed just over 115 years ago.

"This book has another trait of Myrick's work: we are treated to numerous black and white photos taken concurrent with the actions described in the text. Photo coverage is simply outstanding. The photo reproduction is excellent, except in the usual areas where you would expect it--the photos of 120 years ago are just not as crisp as we would like them to be today. The photos cover all the important personalities, places, equipment, construction views--in other words, full photo coverage. There is a small color section in the back comprising three pages, which, in my opinion, has been done to death in the "all-color" books, so a lack of color coverage here is no great loss. Throughout the book are interspersed maps, advertising art, and also reproductions of a few company stocks.

"An interesting section was the chapter covering the 1960 relocation of 44 miles of the line from Williams to Crookton. Having driven Interstate 40 through the area a dozen or more times, I often wondered as to the nature of all the abandoned right-of-way visible in that area. The railroad made a 22-million-dollar commitment to lower the grade and ease curves in that region, by-passing the original route for a large portion of the way. To give an idea of the scope of the project, the cost was 150% of the railroad's annual improvement budget for the previous three years combined. This 44 miles took almost 17 months to complete, even with all the modern machinery we can muster today. One cut alone is two miles in length, reaching a depth of 115 feet

"Myrick also covers passenger and freight train operations. He uses his deft writing style to make day-to-day operating events seem equally important as the ground-breaking events. The passenger section has coverage of the Harvey System of Eating Houses, the push to promote the National Parks along the route, and of course, the famous 45-hour trip in 1905 from Los Angeles to Chicago by mining blowhard "Death Valley Scotty.'' Freight operations are somewhat more mundane, with the introduction of diesels being a major focus.

"Quality-wise, this book is well printed, expertly bound, and nicely produced. Page and photo layout is attractive with no overabundance of useless "white space." The dust jacket painting by Rod Aszman is very evocative, and nicely complements the overall feel of the book. Lastly, there is a full bibliography, index, and an appendix of station name changes over the years, and their milepost numbers--helpful if you are planning to railfan the line.

"I found this book to be everything I hoped for; but then, as a real fan of Myrick's work, I perhaps only found what I wanted to. The serious railroad historian or Santa Fe fan will immediately purchase this book, but I feel that even those only moderately interested in western railroads will benefit from a copy of this title being on their bookshelf. With the amount of photos alone, you won't be disappointed. I can almost guarantee that."

-- Jeff Saxton