Part 2: Verde Canyon Railroad Tour


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The Trip

Kathleen is into trains in any form and she saw that there was a railroad tour in the Cottonwood area.  The outcome was a foregone conclusion so we got tickets in their first class seating and settled in for the ride.  The Verde Canyon Railroad (VCRR) travels from Cottonwood to Perkinsville and back on a daily basis on standard gauge track.  Full-size track means full-size rolling stock, so the cars were really big.  Back in the day, the railroad was constructed to service the extensive copper mining industry in the Cottonwood/Jerome area.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

The passenger cars were wide and long.  The first class car had a bar, food and comfortable seating.

There were some colorful passengers along for the ride.  Tattoos are common these days, but the geometric patterns on the skull were a bit over the top for me.

This overpass carried another rail line that serviced the local smelter.  The line carried molten slag from the smelter to the dumping area.

The freight/passenger line pre-dated the smelter so when they started dumping slag, steps were taken to prevent the slag from encroaching on the freight line's right-of-way.  In this case, pipes and sheets of corrugated sheet metal were used to form a barrier until the molten slag hardened.

Most of the pipe and sheet metal has been removed, but the pattern of the metal has been imprinted on the slag for all time.

The VCRR travels upstream along the Verde River and passes a number of native ruins built into the canyon walls.  The fertile land of the valley floor provided crops for the natives and the steep canyon walls provide places of shelter.  The small white dots in the photo above are not artifacts or bad pixels in my camera.  They are bright white cottonwood seeds drifting in the strong breeze, much to the dismay of our noses.

This ruin would not have been easy to get to, even under normal circumstances, so it clearly provided a defensible position for the occupants if they were under attack.

Much higher on the cliff walls were other overhangs that were used as well.

It seemed that every available location was utilized either for dwellings or as granaries that stored the harvest and kept it safe from rodents and moisture.

Close to Cottonwood, the Verde valley is wide and the path of the river meandered through the flat terrain of the river bottom.

The VCRR line has a number of bridges that span side canyons.  This bridge is called "turntable bridge" because the main span of the bridge is built out of an old locomotive turntable.

Further up the line we encountered a side canyon bridge built with standard (custom) components.

As the track got higher in the Verde River canyon, the river has cut through thick layers of volcanic basalt resulting in nearly vertical canyon walls.

In the distance, the high canyon walls of the inner Verde River canyon became visible.

To the left of the train were basalt cliffs.  Further on, the rail line cut through a large monocline.  Note the curve of the bedding in the cliff walls.  The red rock is sandstone which is sedimentary.  Basalt is volcanic and the result of outflows from nearby volcanoes millions of years ago.

The columns in the basalt form as a result of slow cooling that allows very large crystal structure to form in the lava resulting in what is known as "columnar basalt".

On the opposite side of the canyon the layers of the basalt flows are clearly visible.

Higher in the canyon the red sandstone cliffs took over the show.

A number of the sandstone outcroppings were quite impressive.  Steep and tall, the outcroppings consisted of layers of multiple shades of red.

Another cave-based cliff dwelling was visible in the opposite canyon wall.

As the train pulled into the "station" at Perkinsville, we could see the old railroad ties that were removed from the track during periodic maintenance and left to wither in the strong Arizona sun.

Perkinsville had a siding that allowed the locomotives to switch ends of the train.  As it rolled past us we got a good view of the engines.  These motors are FP-7s built in 1953.

On the return segment, the sun was behind us allowing the more subtle colors of the cliffs to present themselves.  Note the vertical notch in the cliff face in the center of photo above.  This was the result of a large collapse of the cliff wall.

The VCRR line passes through a 600+ foot curved tunnel.

The persistent flow of the Verde River supports lush stands of Cottonwood and Arizona Sycamore trees in the river bottom.

The return segment provided us a better view of the tall cliffs of the canyon that line the tracks.

Significant amounts of cliff material had to be removed to make room for the tracks.

A parting view of the Verde River canyon and the tall basalt cliffs.

The Verde River canyon was very scenic and to be truthful, it exceeded my expectations.  The first class car was nice, air conditioned and had comfortable seating.  They provided snacks, but we brought our own sandwiches so we never tried the food.  All in all, a very pleasant four hour tour.  If you are in the area, it is worth considering as it is the easy way to see some beautiful country.

After the VCRR tour, we returned to Cottonwood for some Thai food and a new-and-improved campsite at Dead Horse State Park.

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