In a partnership trial-run between Arizona Eastern Railway, Apache Gold Casino Resort and the Historic Globe Main Street Program, “Spike” was here for a limited time .......
April 30th was the last remaining service weekend of “Spike”, as the 90-day feasibility test reached its end and the leased M-55 Motor Car returned to its owner in New Jersey. Discussion is underway about bringing The Copper Spike Railway into a service again in Autumn 2006.
How did it start? The Historic Globe Main Street Program made contact with Arizona Eastern Railway in July 2005 regarding the future use of the historic 1916 Depot Complex, located in downtown Globe. These discussions led to a “what if?” consideration beyond the mere structures themselves, and into a 90-day proposal of test-running of excursion railway in the region. The resulting partnership resulted in the combined strengths of the Historic Globe Main Street Program, Arizona Eastern Railway and the Apache Gold Casino Resort. Arizona Eastern provided the gratis use of the historic freight office, the only building of the complex not tied up in an extended lease, and secured the lease of the 1930 M-55 Motor Car from New Jersey, absorbing the expenses of insurance and transit to Globe. The Apache Gold Casino erected a depot platform adjacent to their facilities and rolled promotion of the endeavor into their existing marketing. The Main Street Program took the tasks of coordinating and organizing the overall project, provide volunteer staffing during operation of the test study, and foremost, take the freight office building and transform it for use again. This was made possible by generous donations of materials, fixtures, supplies, salvaged architectural elements and over 500 hours of volunteer labor. From being given the keys to the building the first week of September, the new “Copper Spike Station” was ready the second weekend of November and ready for the arrival of the 1930 M-55, now known affectionately as “Spike”.
The test period was postponed initially because of two challenges: regulatory and mechanical. Although “Spike” debuted to a waiting crowd of 350 children in November, by bringing Santa Claus into town (from the North of course!), it was unable to technically carry passengers until January, when a second engineer could arrive from Florida to meet state regulations on rail service. Everyone had faith that “Spike” was the conceptual “little engine that could”, but unfortunately he was equipped with the little engine that just quite couldn’t. The decision was made to bite the bullet and replace the entire engine and consequently a second new transmission, making the test-run possible but much more costly.
Come February, passenger service began at last and the 90-day endeavor took off. Service was Thursday-Sundays during day, to be off the track in time for the freight operations. Round trips took passengers originating from either the Casino or downtown Globe on a passage through the unspoiled high desert in-between and the length of downtown Globe. “Spike” would reverse directions upon the historic trestle bridge over Broad Street and puzzle many motorists on Highway 60.
The overall partnership was strong and rewarding, and among the first of its kind to connect regionally the attractions of the Casino and downtown district together. Ridership, feasibility and enthusiasm exceeded expectations. “Spike” traveled 33,447.60 passenger miles, carrying just over 2500 passengers, and by mid-test, faced sold-out weekends and turned riders away. 25% of riders were from outside the area, with only two deliberate efforts to promote outside the immediate region. This occurred despite the mechanical snafus (additional days lost to additional woes with the transmission), a record snow, and closure for two track repairs and reconfigurations. Recovering all costs was not anticipated from the beginning, given the limitations of a 90-day operation, however the mechanical upgrades further increased the costs of the test-run. This investment in community was made by Arizona Eastern Railway.
Since the end of the test-run on May 1, The Copper Spike Railway’s impact is positively coming forward. Currently, the Copper Spike Railway is awaiting a proposal from Edwards Rail Car Company for lease of a 1927 Sykes Car for a repeat of the test-run service in late 2006 into Spring 2007. If the numbers are attainable, the Copper Spike Railway will return next season. Preliminary meetings have been held to explore incentives for how this would mean basic transportation for residents in an area that does not have adequate public transportation and how this could be tied in by shuttle to services and the centrally located medical center, as well as the forthcoming Old Dominion Mine site trail parkway.
The economic impact of the depot facility has had many a ripple effect. The transformation of the freight office was instrumental in obtaining funding to purchase the lease of the adjacent original passenger station from the current holder. Come this autumn, the passenger station will be held by the Historic Globe Main Street Program for a year to serve as Centennial Hall for the City of Globe’s Centennial Celebration in 2007. In addition, the renewed vitality of the freight office and passenger station has coincided with the City’s continued efforts to rebuild the fire-damaged third building of the complex and plans are again moving ahead for this structure. Freeing the main building from the lease has also reopened discussions for the closure of Sycamore Street to create a municipal park adjacent to the complex and awakened the sleeping giant of the University of Arizona’s 1992 conceptual design for the “Pinal Creek Linear Park”, a pedestrian and biking system through the downtown district with connection to both Gila Pueblo Community College and Besh-ba-Gowah Archeological Park in the adjacent Six Shooter Canyon area to the south. The City has already included the budgeted repair of the 1918 Kinney Park pedestrian bridge (immediately behind the depot) in anticipation for an incremental development of the overall design.
These advances would simply not have taken place without the Copper Spike Railway test endeavor. Had the freight office alone continued to sit ignored and abandoned, none of these encouraging discussions would be taking place. Yet, what is more, the little engine that could, “Spike” came and carried people on a 15.2-mile journey. That was the basics of the “ride” itself, but the charm of the Copper Spike Railway has been how it has transported people to a new perspective.
If you have comments or questions regarding "Spike", we can reached through The Historic Globe Main Street Program at firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters supporting the continued vehicle shuttle service at Apache Gold can be sent to Nativehandwash@hotmail.com, attention Paul.