The Verde Canyon Railroad takes passengers on a historic trip through a wonderful Arizona landscape. The Verde Valley Railroad was built to help promote the United Verde Copper Company. The railroad had the nickname “Verde Mix” because of its diverse uses of the rail, both people and products road the line. The railroad was financed by Senator William A. Clark and was operated by the Santee Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad. Then in 1953 the copper smelter closed down and so did the line.
Today, the restored route begins at the town of Clarkdale and proceeds to Perkinsville. Then it makes its return trip back to Clarkdale. The three-hour forty-mile round-trip ride takes passengers through the Sycamore Wilderness Area along the Verde River. The path of the train follows the Verde River, through two national forests and the wilderness area. Visitors see steep rock formations and diverse plant life.
The historic train has Pullaman Standard coach cars built in 1946. The cars are pulled by a FP7 engine, of which there are only 12 such models left in North America. The Electro-Motive Division of General Motors built the engines in 1953 for the Alaskan Railroad. It takes two engines to pull the train at a speed of 12 miles an hour. There are beautiful eagle paintings gracing the outside of the engines, which were painted by Doug Allen, a wildlife artist.
The highlights of the trip are a ride into a 680-foot man-made tunnel and viewing the ancient Sinagua Indian ruins. The vintage train rides the old rails and crosses over old fashion trestles. You will be amazed at the unique sights that can be seen depending on the season of the year. During the spring there are wildflowers spread across the land, the summer blue herons stretch their wings, in the fall the leaves change colors and in the winter bald eagles can be spotted.
Visitors are encouraged to arrive at the train depot at least an hour and a half prior to departure. This early arrival will give you enough time to eat a picnic lunch at the outdoor picnic table area or purchase a lunch at the Copper Spike Café in the depot to take aboard. The train usually boards 15 minutes before departure.
Visitors will want to make sure that there adequate time to go through the exhibit at the depot. The exhibit explains the history of the railroad. The exhibit includes photos and items from the railroad’s past. There is the Boxcar Gift Store that has something to remind you of your journey.
There is a food and beverage service available on the train and at the depot. The train does request that no coolers or hard-pack containers, strollers or large carry-ons are brought on board. There is no smoking on the train or in the depot area.
The Verde Canyon Railroad offers several travel packages including lodging and train tickets. There are accommodations for special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, reunions, birthdays, private parties, cookouts or company parties. If you have a party with more than 20 individuals, be sure to ask about a discount. There are occasional moonlight rides. You will have to contact Verde Canyon Railroad for dates and precise times.
There are several forms of accommodations on the train depending on the price of the ticket. Coach offers Pullman-style seating with two seats on each side of the center aisle. There is a snack bar available. First Class provides living room-style seating, complimentary appetizers, beverage service, a cash bar and a cozier atmosphere. All cars have restrooms and access to the open-air viewing cars.
The price for a coach adult is $35.95, coach child is $20.95 and coach senior over 65 is $32.95. The cost for first class is a flat rate of $54.95, no matter what your age. Refunds will only be made, if reservations are canceled at least 48 hours in advance of departure.
Please make sure you call in advance for the latest update on departure times and to place the required reservations. You may call 1.800-293-7245 or 520-639-0010.
You can get the Verde Canyon Railroad from Cottonwood by heading north on Main Street, past Tuzigoot. When you see the large green sign reading “Train Depot”, head straight across the bridge and park in the lot. If you are coming from Phoenix or Tucson take Interstate 17 north out of town. Continue on Interstate 17, until you reach exit 287. Turn left after taking the exit and head west on State Highway 260. Travel for approximately 14 miles, until you reach the third traffic light. At the light turn left onto Main Street, past Turzigoot. When you see the large green sign reading “Train Depot”, head straight across the bridge and park in the lot. It is approximately two hours from Phoenix. If you are coming from Flagstaff take State Highway 89A south out of town. Continue on to the town of Cottonwood and stay on Main Street and go through the old town of Cottonwood. You will go past Tuzigoot. When you see the large green sign reading “Train Depot”, head straight across the bridge and park in the lot. It is approximately one hour from Flagstaff. If you are coming from Jerome, you will take 89A east out of town to the town of Centerpoint. Here you will head toward the Clarkdale, where the train departs. You should look for signs directing you to the parking lot. The exact address is 300 North Broadway, Clarkdale, Arizona.
This railroad trip is a great way to see the sights. It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.