Verde Canyon Railroad

Verde Canyon Railroad is a working Arizona short line from Drake to Clarksdale.  They also run a 4-hour scenic train between Clarksdale and Perkinsville.  The route runs through the Verde Canyon, which is a wilderness area limited to foot or rail access only.  The canyon is a premier Bald Eagle nesting area and several eagles will be seen in the canyon, though most migrate out during the summer.  This is desert country so most of the greenery and wildlife is located in the bottom of the canyon.  Fortunately the train runs just above the greenery, for the most part, giving you a nice view of the canyon.  Native American ruins are located in several areas higher on the canyon wall.

Clarksdale was home to a copper smelter that supported the mining town of Jerome until the mid 1950's when the mines shut down.  Today, there is a recovery effort underway to claim the copper out of the huge slag pile just outside of Clarksdale.  They estimate there is over $1.5 billion of copper that newer smelting techniques can recover.  The pile is so large the train goes through a deep canyon in the middle of it.  As the pile is blasted apart - its almost a solid metal mountain - the railroad hauls the pieces out to connect in Drake with BNSF. 

Jerome is just a few miles south of Clarksdale half way up the mountainside.  Jerome today is a tourist town catering more to the biker and Goth groups, though there are some very nice galleries and wine tasting rooms.  Worth the drive up the hill if you are in the area.

Perkinsville is the midpoint of the short line.  A steam locomotive servicing stop and section camp were built on the Perkins ranch.  Today the camp is abandoned.  The Perkins family still owns the ranch and a family member is living in the restored section house.   The engines perform a run around to pull the train back to Clarksdale.  Passengers cannot get off the train, though the observation cars are opened to smokers while the train is stopped, driving us non-smokers back inside.

Locomotive power is a pair of EMD FP-7s (1510 & 1512)  originally built for the Alaska Railroad in 1953.  They arrived in Clarkdale in 1996, after brief stops in a California museum and use by the Wyoming/Colorado Railroad in Laramie.  The railroad also has several road switchers, without the eagle paint scheme, that may be used if the FPs are down. 

Equipment is very clean and well kept.  Since there is a power car in the consist you don't have the constant drone of the on-board generator that is so prevalent on many scenic trains.


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