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Arizona Short Line Railroads


Published: May 14, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Apache Railway

(reporting mark, APA):  The historic Apache Railway has been in service since 1917 connecting McNary to Holbrook, Arizona via Snowflake.  Since then the line has been cutback to Snowflake operating about 38 miles. 

Today it handles what remaining freight it can following the closure of a paper mill, its primary source of traffic.  The road is well-known for using a fleet of classic Alco road-switchers.

Arizona & California Railroad

(reporting mark, ARZC):  This short line has a history that dates back to the Arizona & California Railway, which first opened for service in 1907. 

It was acquired by the Santa Fe and operated as a branch for many years between Matthie, Arizona and Cadiz, California.  In 1991 it became an independent short line known as the Arizona & California Railroad. 

In 2002 it was acquired by RailAmerica, itself purchased by G&W in 2012  Today, the systems operates roughly 190 miles and handles about 12,000 carloads annually moving such freight as petroleum-based products, lumber, and steel.

Arizona Eastern Railway

(reporting mark, AZER):  The Arizona Eastern is a large operation utilizing more than 200 miles of trackage between Clifton and Miami, Arizona while it briefly enters New Mexico. 

For more many years the property was owned by Southern Pacific before spun-off to RA in 2001.  In 2004 it was sold to Permian Basin Railways, which subsequently sold it to G&W in 2011.  Traffic today includes copper, chemicals, agricultural, and forest products.

Clarkdale Arizona Central Railroad

(reporting mark, AZCR):  This short line is owned by the Western Group, which operates a small collection of short lines in the West. 

It currently operates about 38 miles of trackage between Drake and Clarkdale, formerly owned by the Santa Fe until 1989.  It handles primarily inbound coal and outbound cement.  The property also operates the popular excursion known as the Verde Canyon Railway.

Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad

(Defunct):  The BM&LP was a privately-owned railroad operated by the Peabody Coal Company to haul coal from the Kayenta Mine near Kayenta, Arizona to the Navajo Generating Station power plant at Page. 

It began service in 1973 and was about 78 miles in length.  Its trackage did not connect to the national rail network and was strictly operated to move coal from the mine to generating station.  The powerplant closed in 2019 leading to the railroad's discontinuance late that year.

Copper Basin Railway

(reporting mark CBRY):  This independent short line has been in service since 1986 when it acquired the SP's former branch running between Magma, just east of Phoenix, to Winkelman, Arizona.  The line is more than 70 miles in length and serves the local copper industry.

Kingman Terminal Railroad

(report mark, KGTR):  A Patriot Rail property, this terminal road maintains 3 miles in Kingman, Arizona to serve the Kingman Airport & Industrial Park.  It interchanges with BNSF in Kingman.

San Manuel Arizona Railroad

(reporting mark, SMA) (Closed):  This short line first began service in 1955 serving the local copper industry.  It closed in 1999 and efforts by Capstone Mining Corporation reactivated nearly 30 miles of property to continue serving copper interests in 2013.  However, the line has apparently again shut down.

San Pedro Southwestern Railroad

(reporting mark, SPSR):  This short line is independently owned running operating about 7 remaining miles between Benson and Curtiss, Arizona that was for many years a much more substantial line under the direction of El Paso & Southwestern (later SP). 


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