About Verde Canyon Railroad
THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT DID. VERDE CANYON RAILROAD.
It all started in the tiny town of Jerome, Arizona that clings to a steep-angled mountainside two thousand feet above the valley floor. There is nothing easy or accessible about Jerome, yet during its heyday, over 15,000 residents called this vertical burg their home. They were here for the mines, which through the decades, churned out a billion dollars worth of gaudy ore. It was the wealth of the mines that lured them but it was the railroad that brought them.
The railroads were the arteries that conquered the unforgiving landscape and fed the communities of the Verde Valley. While the mines have been closed over half a century, the Railroad continues to be an economic engine for the region.
In 1895, the first track laid directly into Jerome was the United Verde & Pacific Railway, which originated from Jerome Junction near Chino Valley. With 186 curves on the short 26-mile narrow gauge stretch, the Railroad became known as the crookedest line in the world. The builder, William Andrews Clark, also owned United Verde Copper Company and would continue to leave his indelible imprint on the area, including a town with his namesake.
The shift from underground to open-pit mining led to a complete restructuring of Jerome and the surrounding area. Construction of a new smelter began on the valley floor, changing the bucolic landscape, choking out farms and orchards but creating an entirely new town. Clarkdale named after William Andrews Clark was Arizonas first company town, designed with precision planning and technological advancements far from the norm in the early 1900s. The community of sturdy brick homes included modern conveniences such as electricity, sewer and copper piping.
In 1911 Clark financed construction of the Verde Valley Railway, a 38-mile standard gauge line from Clarkdale to Drake. It took 700 men using picks, shovels and dynamite one year to complete the task. It was an astonishing feat considering that the line included a 734-foot tunnel carved through a mountain and a trestle spanning a 175-foot gorge aptly named S.O.B. Canyon. Completed in 1912, the Verde Mix, as it was nicknamed, proved to be a workhorse, continuing to haul passengers and freight even after the mines closed.