The Tombstone & Guaymas Railroad

Re-thinking Again

On June 28th, 2005 I received the first three volumes of Railroads of Arizona by David Myrick. After reading the first volume I have to revise some of my thinking.

It is very hard to justify a successful, long-haul narrow gauge line in Southern Arizona. A narrow gauge line between a mine and the mills makes sense. A narrow gauge (3 foot only) line through to link up with the Colorado lines makes sense. Any line that aspires to either be trans-continental or even carry freight traffic to/from the trans-continentals needs to be standard gauge in Southern Arizona.

The reason is simple. The Southern Pacific (the second trans-continental line) built across Southern Arizona in 1877-1880. Southern Arizona had very little population and very few active mines prior to 1877 so almost any line that was built would already know of the proposed rail lines across Southern Arizona before they built their own road.

It would not make economic sense to unload/re-load shipments for such a short run and if you could use transfer tables then you could also run standard gauge trackage which would cost less in the long run.

The El Paso & Southwestern (which originated out of Bisbee, AZ) is a good example of how a successful long-haul railroad would be built in Southern Arizona. It was standard gauge.

I can easily justify a narrow gauge line from the Tombstone mines to Contention City and/or Millville on the San Pedro. I can justify a line from Tombstone or the mills to Benson that could be narrow gauge. I can even justify a line from Millville to Bisbee.

An immediate problem though is that Fairbank (or at least the name Fairbank) would not exist. It was built and named (originally Kendall and then Fairbank) by the AT&SF as part of the NM&A line to Nogales. Even if this same area (it is the most logical spot) were used to tie Contention City and Millvile together, it would not be called Fairbank.

If the T&GRR beat the AT&SF to the Fairbank area, a narrow gauge line would not satisfy the aspirations of the AT&SF so they would have either built a parallel line or bought up and regauged the T&GRR through the Fairbank area. Either way, the AT&SF would have built southwest toward Nogales and therefore the T&GRR would have scrapped plans for the line or been bought out.

The only way to have a narrow gauge line to Nogales and on to Guaymas is to ignore large parts of history. My line relies on the idea that a line got built that never existed and that it competed successfully for traffic. To ignore the other lines that did get built breaks that model. It is possible that my line got built and therefore another line wasn’t needed, or even that my line out-competed with another line and absorbed it or it was abandoned. What is not possible is that lines that were part of corporate strategies were not built just so that my line could be built.

It is clear that if my line still goes to Mexico, it doesn’t go through Nogales.