‘Travel back in the early 20th century’

Trains are always an interesting subject to learn about. I had the opportunity to talk to one of the founders of the Arizona Railway Museum in Chandler, Arizona a few weeks ago. I also talked to the events coordinator regarding the Arizona Railway Days. It sounds like a really interesting event to attend to learn more about the history of Arizona’s railways.

Celebrate the history of Arizona railways March 1

Published Feb. 15, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

The Arizona Railway Museum will celebrate Arizona Railway Day by offering the public an opportunity to view a large collection of Arizona specific railroad equipment that are rarely available to visitors.

The celebration, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, will also mark the museum’s 30th anniversary.

“It’s fun for all ages,” Special Events Coordinator Mark Redmond says of the event. “You really get a chance to see what it’s like to travel back in the early 20th century. Everything will be open, all the railroad cars, including the private cars and locomotives.”

The Arizona Railway Museum has a true Arizona classic on display, a woodside caboose. The caboose, which ran from Ajo to Gila Bend, was built for the Phelps Dodge mine in 1944. Individuals can view this caboose during the Arizona Railway Day on Saturday, March 1, at the Arizona Railway Museum. Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

The Arizona Railway Museum has a true Arizona classic on display, a woodside caboose. The caboose, which ran from Ajo to Gila Bend, was built for the Phelps Dodge mine in 1944.
Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

By walking through the cars, the public can get a better understanding of private cars.

“I’m very happy to announce that, for the first time in the Valley, we have the Amtrak Visit Train,” Redmond explains.

The train was originally used for Amtrak’s 40th anniversary and now it travels throughout the country to explain how it was created, where it’s been and where it’s going. It will be available for viewing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 2.

The locomotive engineer from Legend City, an amusement park in Arizona from the 1960s to the 1980s, will also attend.

For the youngsters, there are opportunities to enter a real diesel locomotive and blow the air horn, and step inside a steam locomotive and blow the steam whistle. But children should be forewarned.

“There are no guarantees (it will) blow every time because it takes a lot of air,” Redmond says.

There will be extra parking available during the event with a hay wagon shuttle service courtesy of the Chandler Lions Club, which will provide food and drinks for purchase.

Although the museum is asking for donations, admission is free.

Founding the museum

Bart Barton, a founding member of the Arizona Railway Museum, says the idea to open a museum blossomed from a rail photo trip he took with colleagues to Nogales to photograph old railway equipment. Because the closest railing museum, the Orange Empire Railway Museum in California, is about 300 miles away, it made sense to the founders to bring a facility to Arizona.

“We would drive over there (California); we were volunteers over there,” he says. “We got the idea that we should have a museum in Arizona.”

Five guys, all local rail fans, wrote the bylaws for the museum and established a nonprofit status in 1983. The goal was to open a museum near railway tracks so organizers could bring in equipment.

“We talked to the City of Phoenix, Gilbert, Mesa and went up to Glendale and ended up in Chandler,” he says. “(The City of Chandler has been) very receptive and absolutely wonderful partners.”

The museum has grown beyond the founders’ original expectations 30 years ago.

“We are in our new home in Tumbleweed Park and still growing,” Barton says. “We are looking for those particular pieces of equipment that has history with Arizona.”

The Arizona Railway Museum, which sits on 6 acres on the west end of Tumbleweed Park, has approximately 50 cars, passenger and freight, three locomotives and numerous artifacts on display.

“We are home to six private railroad cars that are Amtrak certified,” Redmond explains.

The collection also includes the PCC Trolley 4607, which came from the City of Phoenix Transportation Department. Although the trolley no longer operates, Redmond says it has been restored.

Union Pacific has donated a good amount of equipment to the museum, which includes railroad crossing equipment that will be put on display.

“We are always trying to get rolling stock and locomotives in,” Redmond says about the costly and time consuming process.

The Arizona Railway Museum is located at 330 E. Ryan Rd., Chandler. The museum is regularly open 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekends between Labor and Memorial days.

For more information call (480) 821- 1108 or visit http://www.azrymuseum.org.

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