This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

From passenger train service to highways in Phoenix, Arizona

I have never ridden on a train. To me, trains are only things that get in my way when I am driving around Glendale, or they are things in movies chased after by train robbers, or with Cary Grant ordering from the dining car in "North by Northwest". And while passenger train service was very important to the original growth of Phoenix, Arizona, it is such ancient history that it's difficult to untangle the facts. This is what I have found out so far.

The first train to actually reach Phoenix, Arizona was in 1887. This connection was called the Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad, as it connected the town of Maricopa (which had had train service since 1879) to Phoenix. Before 1887, if you wanted to get to the the train from Phoenix, you had to hire some type of transportation to go the additional forty miles to Maricopa. And before 1879, you were absolutely stranded, with no rail service any closer than Tucson.

Yes, Tucson was the major town then, and Phoenix was just one of those little towns way out in the desert. And the connection that the Southern Pacific Railroad made through Tucson was to San Diego. Nowadays Phoenix and Los Angeles are the more important commercial cities, but it wasn't true then.

W.J Murphy
But times change. And some people thought that Phoenix and Los Angeles would be the places that would grow commercially. And one of those people was W.J. Murphy. You know, the guy who built Grand Avenue in 1888. So these people wanted to connect Phoenix with the northern route, which was the Santa Fe, to Los Angeles. And this was accomplished in 1895, along, naturally enough, Grand Avenue. It was the Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix line. It went through Wickenburg and Prescott, and turned west towards Los Angeles along what is now I-40, or Route 66.

Of course, with the invention of the automobile, and especially the explosive growth of highways in Arizona (promoted by the new magazine Arizona Highways) after World War I, passenger train service started to fade away. Like any old technology, it held on for a long time, but the convenience of driving straight through on a modern highway, or freeway, from Phoenix to Los Angels spelled the end of passenger train service, which lasted, surprisingly enough, until 1996. And the romantic image of passenger trains is left, while we use our cars, leaving anytime we want to, stopping anytime we want to, and gliding along the safe, clean freeways of Arizona and California.

The first issue of Arizona Highways, April, 1925

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