This Christmas, Take A Copper Spike Train Excursion

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Named for the copper mining region served by the railway, the Copper Spike departs from the original two-story depot built in 1916 on historic Broad Street in Globe and travels to the Apache Gold Casino Resort. The 90-minute round-trip excursion takes you on the same route that once brought travelers to the “Land of the Apache,” nearly 100 years ago. At the time, Globe was once an optional transcontinental stop between New Orleans and Los Angeles. A rail-auto detour from the main line ran from 1916 to 1932 to show California-bound passengers Globe, the Tonto National Monument’s cliff dwellings, Roosevelt Dam and the Salt River Valley. Once called the Arizona National Reserve Route, it was renamed the “Apache Trail” and served as the name in heavy advertised campaigns during the 1920s in the golden age of rail travel. After World War II, passengers began to frequently use automobiles and the passenger train became used less and less. The train was renamed the Gila Tomahawk and converted from steam to diesel but continued operating losses. Finally, despite civic opposition, the last passenger journey was made on Dec. 31, 1953 — until now.

Aboard the Copper Spike passengers can choose seating in a 1950s-era dome car, which features a glass roof that provides views in all directions; coach cars or the restored Calumet Club car.

The depot is located in downtown historic Globe, within walking distance to shops, antique stores, restaurants and coffee shops and Cobre Valley Center for the Arts. Legend tells that the community of Globe was named for a sphere-shaped silver nugget said to resemble “the Globe.”

The charm of the community is that you can stand on a corner and be carried back in time. Many of the structures of the Golden Age are still standing. Highlights include the 1916 Arizona Eastern Railway Passenger Station, the 1906 Gila County Courthouse, now the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, and the 1910 Gila County Sheriff’s Office and Jail. These two county buildings are among the finest remaining from Territorial Arizona. The courthouse has amazing copper banisters and detailed stone craftsmanship. The jail is a unique Old West experience, with cell blocks pre-dating the structure itself, having come originally from the Yuma Territorial Prison.

The restoration of the historic railroad buildings began in 2005 with the help of the Historic Globe Main Street Program volunteers who put in countless hours recovering the lobby space. The freight office and lobby have won state preservation and economic restructuring awards. Make sure you come early to view the beautiful lobby.

Schedule: The train operates Nov. 1 through the first weekend in May, offering four departures daily, Thursdays through Sundays. Special theme trains are available throughout the season, including the North Pole Express, New Year’s on the Rails and Romance on the Rails. For the current schedule and fares, see the Web site copperspike.com. Contact info: Copper Spike Train, 230 S. Broad St., Globe, AZ 85501, 866-979-7245.

Upcoming specials include the North Pole Express, Dec. 18, 19, 20 and the New Year’s Eve Train, Dec. 31. Gift certificates are available for purchase.

Regular fares are: adults: $22; seniors (60 and older): $19; children (12 and under): $12.

History

Transporting ore in the region began with a train ... a mule train, that is. The Old Dominion mine site had already extracted 50 million pounds of copper between 1881 and 1891 ($176 million in 2007 dollars). However, there was no railroad for transport and the enormous challenge of hauling by wagon meant many losses incurred by overturned loads and flooding in the Gila Valley. The Gila Valley Globe & Northern Railroad (GVG&N) was created to assist in the endeavor, but was hard-won as it slowly was constructed in increments from southern Arizona to the border of the San Carlos Apache Nation — It took both Presidents Cleveland’s and McKinley’s involvement and many a negotiation to finally see the track make its way to Globe. The first train reached the Globe depot on Dec. 1, 1898 after five years of construction.

The GVG&N had a star locomotive, the Jupiter, which had previously been used for the historical Golden Spike ceremony in Promontory, Utah for the connecting of the transcontinental railroad. The Jupiter served here in Globe before being scrapped in 1909, its historical significance unappreciated at the time. The GVG&N suffered a rocky decade of initial service, still prone to wash-outs and derailments, even nicknamed the “Goes Slowly & Nervously Railroad.” In 1909, the Arizona Eastern Railway was born and remained independent until Southern Pacific absorbed the line in 1924.

The full-length dome cars were built in 1954 for the Santa Fe Railway and were used on luxury, long-distance trains. They feature seating for 66 passengers on the upper level, with a 22-seat dining area on the lower level. These cars are air-conditioned and restroom-equipped. Due to the dome stairs, they are not wheelchair-accessible. Seating is open.

The Calumet Club car was built as coach for Illinois Central Railroad in 1918, and later rebuilt into an observation-lounge car in 1947 and features art deco styling with luxury and comfort.

The coaches were built by Pullman in the mid-1950s for the Long Island Railroad and carried daily commuters into Manhattan. They are air-conditioned and restroom-equipped. Seating is open.

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