While I was immersed in reading various accounts of the Tombstone area, I kept looking at my three engines. After all, Model Railroading is about modeling and running equipment, not reading about the Southwest. A local train show just happened to be scheduled at about the time I was spending less time reading and more time playing choo-choo on the floor. At the show I found an unbuilt 2-6-0 51″ driver Roundhouse Old-Timer and a HOn3 2-8-0 Outside frame Old-Timer. I have always felt that the Roundhouse Old-Timers were under-valued by most modelers. The only serious problem with them is the height of the boiler and it is less than one hour’s work to correct that. Anyway, I bought them both.
I had no idea what I would do with the HOn3 unit since I was a standard gauge modeler but I just couldn’t pass it up. I did think ahead enough to also buy a three foot section of HOn3 flex track to use as a test track.
Now I had a couple of models that needed to be built so research went into hibernation and modeling returned. The first order of business was something to use as a test track. I’d love to tell you that I built some wonderful modular or portable layout but the truth is I built a simple 4×8 test setup. It was nothing more than a sheet of 4×8 plywood with a 1×4 box frame screwed to it and set on three sawhorses. It had four power blocks, a few different radius curves, and a few snap-switches all built with Atlas code 83 sectional track. The idea was to build equipment and test it at this point. The layout was on hold. I also laid the HOn3 flex track in the middle of the “layout” to test the narrow gauge Consolidation.
Once I had a test track, I needed to acquire something for my locomotives to move. I started going through my collection of rolling stock, which was ridiculously large, and picked out equipment that could be converted. I had a few Roundhouse old time freight cars that just needed a new paint job and a few detail changes to put them back into the 1880s. Other than that, no dice so I put together small collections of equipment that held no special appeal to me and traded them at a local train shop for equipment that no longer appealed to its original owner. It didn’t matter whether my model or the model I wanted to acquire was better, it was always a two or even three for one swap but I figured that “a model on the layout is worth two in their boxes”. In this way I put together a small but workable fleet of 1880s rolling stock and gained a little modeling clarity and a fair amount of storage space in the process.
I spent most of the next year modifying equipment and generally playing with trains. The only notable work was converting a Roundhouse Old-Timer into a real old timer. As supplied the Roundhouse Old-Timer can be dated back to about 1910 but not much earlier. After a lot of fiddling around I decided that by changing the pilot and pilot deck, they made a pretty good 1890s engine. By cutting off the smokebox extension and changing the running boards, air pump, domes, and tender you were easily in the 1880s.
My “givens and druthers” list had expanded nicely during this time. Here is the list just before things took a sharp right turn:
The Tombstone and Tucson Railroad
- Prototypes: Virginia and Truckee, Southern Pacific, El Paso and Southwestern
- Locale: Southern Arizona
- Cities: Tucson (interchange with Southern Pacific), Tombstone (interchange with mines), Charleston (smelters and stamp mills). Possibles: Fairbank, Benson, Contention City, Millville, Bisbee, Fort Huachuca
- Type: Branch-line, mainline, or short line
- Era: 1878 – 1900
- Time of Year: Late April/Early May
- Train service begun: 1877-1885
- Scale/Gauge: HO Standard Gauge
- Size: < =100 sq. ft. including staging, excluding aisles
- Other Features: Two staging areas – 1 EB and 1 WB, passenger and freight
- Benchwork: Portable (sectional) truss-beam and foam
- Control: DCC – Digitax or Lenz
- Design tools: 3rd PlanIt, Bryce, Mr. SID
- References: Deserts, Historical Atlas of Arizona, Catch the Stage to Phoenix, Shrubs and Trees of the Desert Southwest, Southern Pacific web site, Tombstone: The Early Years, ARIZONA AS IT IS; OR, THE COMING COUNTRY, Arizona Military Installations: 1752 – 1922
- Possible References: Arizona Railroads volumes 1 and 2, Santa Fe, Prescott, & Phoenix Railway
- Abridged RR History: Southern Pacific (1877), Atlantic & Pacific (1879-1880), Sante Fe Pacific (1897), New Mexico and Arizona (1881-1882), Prescott and Arizona Central (1886), Arizona Narrow Gauge (1886), Maricopa and Phoenix (1887), Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix (1893), United Verde and Pacific (1894), Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa (1895), Maricopa and Phoenix and Salt River Valley (1895), Prescott and Eastern (1989), Congress Consolidated (1899), El Paso and Southwestern (1901),Tombstone and Southern (1905)
- Scenery: High Sonoran Desert
And here is what the area in question looked like in 1895:
This gives you a better idea of what the terrain looks like but it still doesn’t show just how rugged and varied the terrain really is. Between those mountain ranges are flats, mesas, dry washes, the San Pedro and tributaries, canyons, bluffs, etc.
You’ll also note that Tombstone still has no railroad but two rail lines (the New Mexico and Arizona and the Arizona Southeastern) pass through Fairbank. The route the Southern Pacific took must have been a pretty good one because it is still the major route through Southern Arizona. Interstate 10 parallels the old SP line through most of the state. The picture I took on the way back from Las Cruces, NM Fairbank, AZ Module II was taken near where the San Pedro crosses the SP line.