Magma Arizona Railroad

The temperature forecast for Sunday August 21, 2011 promised to be another warm one here in the valley of the sun with temperatures expected to hit 107. Having been cooped up for a few hot weekends I decided to plan a morning trip over to Queen Valley. The forecast was for partial clouds so I figured that I might get some relief during the morning hours. The goal of the trip was to snap a few shots of the Magma Arizona grade north of US 60. This section is the most interesting as the grade leaves the desert floor and heads up into the hills. Before we get started though, I should provide a little background.

The Magma Arizona Railroad operated between 1915 and 1997 and has been idle for several years now. The line started out as narrow gauge road to save on construction costs but was converted to standard gauge in 1923. According to the stories, the narrow gauge continued to operate parallel to the new standard gauge line during its construction. The line was constructed by the Magma Copper Company for their mining interests in Superior. It extended approximately 31 miles to a Southern Pacific connection to the Southwest. In the earlier days, cattle was also one of the items shipped from the grazing that took place in the Superstition area.

The most familiar equipment from this line to me is Magma #6, a 2-6-0,  which is on display in Scottsdale at the McCormick - Stillman Railroad Park. This locomotive started life on the eastern side of the state on the Arizona & New Mexico Line. It was retired in 1960 and seems to get pretty good care at the railroad park.

An excellent reference on this line is Gordon Chappell's "Rails to Carry Copper" copyright 1973. A detailed map of the line is included and was drawn by Ernest Robart. My copy shows a list price of $11.95 but the typical price today for a less than pristine copy is in the $35 - $50 range these days.

Scottsdale Railroad Park Exhibits

Magma Arizona #6 on display in Scottsdale on January 16, 2000. This locomotive was originally on the Arizona & New Mexico roster as number 26. It was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and completed in October of 1907.

The trip started about 8:20 with a drive over to Queen Valley Road (temperature is about 95).  The grade crossing at US 60 was visible just east of the Queen Valley turnoff. I decided to start my photo log a little further Northeast at the intersection of Queen Valley Road and Hewitt Station Road. This would get me off of the main road and onto the less traveled side road. The first shot is looking to the Southwest as the grade curves towards US 60 (where I just came from). MP 16 was just beyond the curve in this view. The narrow gauge grade was to the left of the present track in this view.

A complementary shot looking towards the Northeast from the beginning of the Hewitt Station Road.  The question that I have from these two shots is if the original NG line was right next to the present tracks. There is quite a bit of level ground on one side of the tracks as shown in these two photos. I don't know enough about the original alignment to know whether it was really close or maybe was along one of the side roads. It does look like there is some climbing to do ahead. Further research reveals that the narrow gauge was to the right side of the present grade. Possibly that ridge in the trees on the other side of the road at the far right in this shot.

Just a little further down around the bend is the first long tangent along the Hewitt Valley Road. This shows the level ground on the left side of the track that could possibly have been the original NG alignment. Note that there are also various pipelines that follow the grade so this could just the result of burying a pipe. The narrow gauge grade was to the right side of the track in this shot. The flat ground to the left of the track is a buried pipeline.

Not too far down, Hewitt Road crosses the rail for the first time. This view is looking back to the Southwest and you can see that a train hasn't been through here in quite a while. The brown sign to the right of the rail warns about a buried pipeline. The narrow gauge would be to the left of the track in this shot and to the left of the road that parallels the track.

A few to the Northeast as we head a little closer to the hills. The sky and clouds have a nice affect in this shot. In this view the narrow gauge coincides with the road beyond the curve. This is approximately MP 16.4.

I figured I should throw in a shot of the old crossing sign. It appears to have a few bullet holes like everything else out here. There is no crossing sign for the other direction of travel.

Magma Arizona Railroad (page 2)