A Railroad On The East Verde?

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Tim Ehrhardt photo

The Railroad Tunnel was started in the early 1880s as part of a railroad that was to connect Flagstaff to Globe. The railroad’s funding dried up and so the tunnel went nowhere. Today it remains as a favored spot for hikers. It can be reached either from a trail via Forest Road 300 on top of the Rim, or under the Rim at the Washington Park trailhead.

Today it is the home to a pipeline that has the potential to help supply Payson and the surrounding communities with the water they need from Blue Ridge Reservoir. But the Upper East Verde River near today’s Rim Trail subdivision was supposed to have been something far more: the spot where trains came out of the Mogollon Rim on their way to Globe from Flagstaff. It was supposed to be the Arizona Mineral Belt Railroad.

In the early 1880s a plan was created to build a railroad that would connect Flagstaff to Globe via Rim Country. Those proposing the railroad looked to capitalize on the region’s rich mineral and timber resources. At the time mines were booming west of today’s Payson and East Coast money flowed in via companies such as the Consolidated Excursion Mining Company, which had a variety of mines including the Excursion and the Gowan mine. Those from outside the area eyed the area’s vast ponderosa pine forest as a resource waiting to be exploited and they saw a railroad as a way to ship product far and wide.

Last, but not least, Globe was not happy with rates they were paying in the south — connecting to the railroad line going through Flagstaff was an attractive idea and one that quickly gained support.

During the 1880s much excitement was generated by this railroad, with this clip from a Jan. 22, 1881 Arizona Silver Belt article undoubtedly getting hopes all the higher.

“Arizona Mineral Belt R.R.

“The stockholders and projectors of this road met at the office of J.C. Hicks on Thursday evening of this week and completed their organization by electing the following Board of Directors and officers:

“DIRECTORS - John R. Porter, S. Klein, J.H. Eaton, J.H. Hise, A.F. Southerland, Globe, A.T.; Fred A. Wilder, San Francisco, Cal.; H.G. Angle, New York; Alex A. McDonell, Chicago, Ill.; Lewis Steward, Plane, Ill.; Chas L. Hoyt, J.W. Eddy, Aurora. Ill.

“OFFICERS - J.W. Eddy, Prest.; John R. Porter, Vice Prest.; A.F. Southerland, Treas.; J.C. Hicks, Sec.; Alex A. McDonell, Constructing Engineer.

“The object of the company as defined in their Articles of Association, is to build a railroad from Globe in a southerly direction to the most feasible crossing of the Gila river, thence over the most feasible route to the Southern Pacific railroad and the Mexican line, and from Globe down the Pinal valley to the most feasible crossing of the Salt river and thence northerly over the most feasible route to a connection with the proposed Atlantic and Pacific railroad, generally known as the 35th parallel railroad line.

“Our readers will recognize in the above the reorganization, enlarged and amended ‘Globe and Pinal Valley railroad’ as proposed by Mr. Eddy, when here last summer. The plan then was to improve the immense water power of Salt river at the foot of the Pinal valley, erect there mills for the treatment of ores and build thereto a cheap railway or tramway thus affording to Globe District what every mining district most needs, ample and cheap facilities for reducing ores. Upon further conference with Eastern capitalists who are now ready to engage in the building of railroads of merit, the project has been enlarged so as to include the entire mineral belt from Old Mexico north, but more especially that portion lying between the S.P.R.R. and the 35th parallel line of the A.T. & S.F.R.R. Nowhere else, we venture the assertion, on this continent is there so grand an opening for capitalists as the one here proposed. The entire line from Tombstone on the south to Tonto and beyond on the north, is but a succession of mineral camps whose richness and extent are not excelled on the Globe, while the valleys between insure cheap construction, and the Gila and Salt rivers will furnish an unlimited supply of the cheapest of all powers for reducing these ores to marketable bullion. The general lack of timber on the southern portion of this route and its abundance at the north is also an element of great strength to the enterprise. Certainly nature has dealt most bountifully with this section and the above project if carried out will develop its resources to their fullest extent. The character of the men whose names are given above is a sufficient guarantee of the good faith of the enterprise.”

Alexander G. Pendleton, a noted surveyor who lived in Globe, served as the railroad’s chief surveyor. Things made good progress initially with some track being built near Flagstaff and the start of a tunnel through the Rim near the East Verde River.

Entrepreneurs positioned themselves in anticipation of the railroad. Sam Haught came from Dallas, Texas where he had a store and was prepared to set up just outside of the tunnel being built under the Rim. Unfortunately though, the railroad was not to be — funding dried up after about 35 feet was dug into the mountain and Haught instead moved southward where he became a cattle baron in Tonto Basin.

Today the tunnel remains as a favored spot for hikers who reach it either from a trail via Forest Road 300 on top of the Rim, or under the Rim at the Washington Park trailhead. After plans for the railroad failed, it would be nearly 70 years before a mainline, quality road connected the region with the rest of the world; that connection being made when the Beeline Highway was completed in 1958 to connect Payson with Mesa.

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