(This is a continuation of Mike Anderson's story. Mr. Anderson is a Bisbee historian. This is Part II of a three-part series. Read Part I of the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad story here. )
The newly named El Paso & Southwestern railroad would carry passengers as well as copper, coal and other freight, necessitating the construction of large depots in Bisbee and Douglas. Other depots of varied sizes were built at a number of stops along the line. They usually included waiting rooms, a baggage room, a telegraph office and workspace for the station agent. At many of the stations, living quarters were available upstairs.
Selected stations along the road had engine houses where simple repairs and maintenance could be carried out. Roundhouses and large shops for doing major repair work, modifications or overhauls on locomotives and rolling stock were located in Douglas and El Paso, and later, in Tucson. The railroad also provided housing along the line for its train crews through arrangements made with local hotels.
A network of smaller stops was constructed all along the line from Bisbee, through Douglas and on through southern New Mexico. Those stops included switches and sidings, water pumps and storage tanks for the steam locomotives, coaling facilities and small depots. Soon after, stores, houses and corrals would be built nearby. Because the EP & SW railroad surveyors had usually done such a good job of selecting the best routes – often the only routes through difficult terrain - highways constructed a few years later usually paralleled the railroad right of way.
Rodeo, New Mexico
Rodeo, NM, founded in 1902 was a typical EP & SW railroad town. It served as a section headquarters and the railroad was THE principal employer in Rodeo. That wasn’t unusual for the time - the Southern Pacific was the largest employer in Tucson during the early 20th Century and the EP & SW was the second largest employer (after its parent company Phelps Dodge) in Douglas.
Railroad workers in towns such as Rodeo included a depot agent, freight agent, signalmen, telegraphers, section hands to maintain the track and others. Because railroads were a 24-hour, 7 day per week operation, some of the jobs required three operating shifts with relief personnel available to fill in as needed.
Housing for railroad employees was located in Rodeo on the west side of what would become NM State Route 80, across the tracks. Loading chutes for cattle were built to enable ranchers to get their livestock to market cheaply and quickly. Although the Rodeo depot was torn down long ago, the depot in Columbus, NM – nearly identical to the Rodeo depot – still exists.
Arizona Approves Prohibition
Arizona voters approved prohibition in 1914, and the state officially went dry on January 1, 1915. Many Arizonans weren’t happy with prohibition and found ways to circumvent the law. Enterprising persons set up a number of saloons and liquor warehouses – estimates put the number at 18 or 20 - in Rodeo.
The New Mexico bootheel was very sparsely populated by ranchers, cattle rustlers, smugglers and miners before the arrival of the railroad. Animas became a center of commerce for the Animas Valley. Hermanas, located at the junction of the EP & SW and the spur line from Deming, never amounted to much more than a depot, stock corrals, a small store and a few houses. Nothing remains today other than foundations and the corrals.
“New” Hachita was founded in 1902 as a junction linking the EP & SW with the Southern Pacific in Lordsburg. It served as a coal and water stop and was also a stopover point for train crews. The original Hachita was a mining town located a few miles to the west of the newer town in the Little Hachet Mountains. By 1900 the original Hachita had all but disappeared. At its height in the early 1920s, “New” Hachita had a population of almost 2,000 residents and was the largest community between Douglas and El Paso.
Columbus, NM was the only other community of any size in southern New Mexico. It was located about four miles north of Palomas, Chihuahua. From Columbus, all the way to El Paso, the EP & SW ran through sparsely vegetated desert that was populated only by struggling ranchers and railroad employees at nine sidings.
The copper that had been smelted in Douglas was delivered to the refinery located on the west side of El Paso. The final stop for passengers on the EP & SW line was Union Station, located in downtown El Paso. From there they could make connections on other railroads to points anywhere in the U.S. as well as in Mexico. El Paso was also the site of the most important maintenance shops as well as the administrative offices for the EP & SW.
The long, lonely segment of NM State Route 9 that runs today between Columbus and its intersection with the Pete Domenici Highway at Santa Teresa, NM was built directly on top of the EP & SW roadbed running from Columbus east, several decades after the rail line was shut down in the early 60s.
In 1910, Phelps Dodge president Dr. James Douglas decided to expand the railroad westward by building a direct connection between Benson and Tucson. Much of the work of creating the necessary cuts was done with steam shovels. Human and animal labor still did most of the work of grading and track laying.
The EP & SW Depot in Tucson
The extension was completed October 31, 1912. A large passenger depot and an equally impressive freight depot were constructed on West Congress Street. An eleven-stall roundhouse was built a mile to the south. The passenger depot, empty for decades, is located between Interstate 10 and the federal courthouse. It had become redundant in 1924 when the Southern Pacific Railroad absorbed the EP & SW. The building eventually became the home of Carlos Murphy’s, a Mexican restaurant, in the 1980s. It is currently unoccupied except for one business office.
Construction of the EP & SW facilities also stimulated the development of Menlo Park, a stylish neighborhood located west of the Santa Cruz River. Other businesses that profited from the location of the EP & SW soon lined West Congress Street.
See Part III: The Rest of the Story next week. If you would like to subscribe to our newsletter you can get Part III: The Rest of the Story, in your mailbox.