The Tombstone & Guaymas Railroad


The Tombstone and Guaymas Railroad, or at least that is its current working title, is my fictional On30 railroad set in the 1880s. It is scheduled to connect the cities of Tombstone, Arizona Territory and Guaymas, Mexico.

When I moved to Arizona I sold lots of bits and pieces but I kept most of the rolling stock and of course my books. All of my rolling stock was Eastern HO scale except for one Rivarossi 4-4-0 of the V&T Reno (with a blown motor) a generic 2-6-0 63″ driver Roundhouse Old-Timer, and a generic 2-8-0 Roundhouse Old-Timer.

Since I moved into a small apartment in Phoenix, all of my “train stuff” went into a pleasant storage facility down the street. Browsing through my train stuff at the storage unit in summer was one of the best weight-loss programs ever invented. There is just something about hanging around in a dusty metal box in 110 degree heat that prevents extended trips down memory lane. There it sat. Model Railroading was strictly an armchair affair.

Sometime in 2000 we moved to a rented house and I decided it was time to build a new layout. Naturally, I started my new layout plan in HO but I moved it to Arizona and decided it would originate in Tombstone because, at the time, I was intrigued with the different accounts of the various goings-on in that town. Since the only rolling stock I had that was “Western” was from the turn of the century and I enjoy studying the 1880s anyway, it made sense to set the era sometime between 1870 and 1900.

I also knew that I wanted Tombstone or at least the area surrounding Tombstone to be part of the layout. So there were the beginnings:

  • Locale: Around Tombstone, Arizona Territory
  • Era: 1870 – 1900
  • Scale/Gauge: HO Standard Gauge

I knew from what reading I had already done that Tombstone started in 1877/1878, grew rapidly to the point that in 1884/1885 it was considered by some to be the largest town between New Orleans and the West Coast, and was nearly a ghost town by the end of 1886.

I also knew the the Southern Pacific entered Arizona at Yuma in 1877 and headed East reaching Tucson in 1880. By then Tombstone was a thriving city with aspirations of becoming the Territorial Capitol. The Southern Pacific did not build through Tombstone however, instead they built a railroad town at the San Pedro named Benson, about 30 miles North of Tombstone, and then continued East toward New Mexico. Tombstone did not get a railroad until 1903, long after Tombstone had dwindled to a minor town.

To add insult to injury, The Atchison Topeka and Sante Fe built a line from Benson South to Fairbank, one of the mill towns that grew to support Tombstone, and then headed Southwest toward Nogales, again leaving Tombstone railroadless.

My, admittedly very naive, assumption was “what if the town fathers of Tombstone raised the funds to incorporate their own railroad in 1878 or so and built a road to Tucson to meet the SP when it arrived?”

At the time I knew nothing of the Pacific Railroad Surveys of 1853-1855, the congressional politics, territorial politics, town politics or even political party influence that shaped our nations rail lines.

My working theory was that if Tombstone had a direct rail link to the West Coast in 1880, and to the mills along the San Pedro, ore processing costs would be lower; bringing in the huge pumps necessary to clear the mines when they started flooding would have been quicker and less costly; and other peoples would have migrated to the city building more of a non-mining infrastructure. As it was Tombstone was a popular stop on the way East or West because of its cosmopolitan nature. This would all help Tombstone to thrive even with the mines shutting down. By my theory the mines would likely shut down starting in 1887 or 1888 and not really die off until the mid 1890s by which time the town infrastructure would maintain it.

The pages that follow (eventually) will document the line.