The EP&N dated to 1896 chartered by Charles Eddy who had
purchased the charter of a defunct line that had hoped to do the same,
the Denver & El Paso Short Line Railroad. Under Eddy's control the
EP&N slowly trekked northward reach Alamogordo in June of 1898,
Carrizozo a year later, and Santa Rosa in 1902 via subsidiary El Paso
& Rock Island Railway. Here, the EP&N established an
interchange with the growing Rock Island system and soon after reached
Tucumcari via CRI&P trackage rights (it would later outright lease
this line from the Rock as of July 1, 1907). Interestingly, enough, the
growth did not stop there as the railroad had no more than opened its
latest extension when the newly established Dawson Railway was under
construction. This latest development would add 132 miles to the
EP&N's operations stretching northwest from Tucumcari and opened in
1903. Before Eddy could continue to expand his growing railroad it was
acquired by the EP&SW.
With a road that now stretched from eastern Arizona through most of New Mexico the EP&SW was split into Western and Eastern divisions with its base of operations being El Paso. Over the coming years some expansions continued, mostly in the way of additional branches from its through routes although the road did open a significant 66-mile extension west between Fairbank and Tuscon that began service on November 20, 1912. With this the EP&SW was mostly complete, boasting a route that covered more than 1,200 miles. Since the company's primary freight was ore it employed a fleet of fairly respectable steam locomotives including heavy 2-8-0 Consolidations, 2-8-2 Mikados, 2-10-0 Decapods, and 4-8-2 Mountains (other wheel arrangements included 2-6-2 Prairies, 2-6-0 Moguls, 4-6-0 ten-wheelers, and 0-6-0/0-8-0 switchers). Copper, however, was not its only source of freight as the EP&SW also hauled coal, agriculture, livestock, food products, merchandise, and various LCL (less-than-carload) traffic not to mention scheduled passenger trains.
The company's decline, unfortunately, began soon after it reached its peak size. Following World War I the price of copper plummeted forcing mines to close, which of course caused a loss of traffic and reduction in carload value. Ironically, however, the EP&SW saw an addition during this time when it took over the Arizona & New Mexico Railroad on January 1, 1922 which was sold by parent Arizona Copper Company feeling the affects of the metal's decline. The A&NM connected to the EP&SW at Hachita, New Mexico reaching as far north as Clifton. With sagging copper prices and the railroad's revenues cut by one-third officials at Phelps, Dodge elected to sell it to Southern Pacific during uncertain times with the deal completed on October 31, 1924 that included stock, bonds, and cash of $64 million. The transaction also required the Espee to construct a new line to serve Phoenix and provided Phelps, Dodge with terminal property back in Los Angeles. The SP also saw a benefit with The Southwestern Route as it was still a profitable road and also offered the western giant a connection to the Rock Island.
(Thanks to "The Strange Story Of The El Paso & Southwestern" by author David F. Myrick from the February, 1966 issue of Trains as a primary reference for this article.)
Through the early 1930s the SP's new
subsidiary lines continued to earn decent income, interestingly enough,
although the Great Depression
began to take its toll. The larger railroad also transferred much
heavier power to the property using former Boston & Maine 2-8-4
Berkshires and impressive, brand new 2-8-8-4 Yellowstones acquired from
Lima in 1939. Slowly branches and routes were cut back as copper and
coal mines played out, so much so that by the early 1960s the only
remaining sections of the EP&SW still in use was the main line
between El Paso and Tucumcari as well as a few branches in southern
Arizona and New Mexico.
Officially, SP merged the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad into its
network in 1961 ending one of the Southwest's largest if relatively
unknown Class I systems. Perhaps most interesting about The Southwestern Route
is at one point it actually was looking to takeover the Rock Island,
purchasing 10% ownership into the Midwest railroad in 1910 (enough to
give it a seat on the board). Ultimately, the holding company created
to oversee the stock failed ending any such possibilities.
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El Paso & Southwestern