This morning passengers flooded the Old Depot in downtown Globe, Az to board the Copper Spike for a special VIP trip to Miami and back. Over 150 people, made up of mostly local media, area merchants, and political and community leaders found seats throughout the train’s five passenger cars.
The ride was free this morning. It’s intent to drum up enthusiasm and local support for extending the excursion rail line to Miami.
While this idea has floated around for decades, it seems the combination of Globes’ success in restoring their old Depot and drawing ridership from all over the State, plus the support of Mr. Ellis who owns Arizona Eastern and operates both the freight line and excursion train in this region, and the political will of those in charge at both the City and County levels may just move this idea from pipe dream to possible.
According to Arizona Eastern engineer Steve Torrico, who is working his 3rd season with the Copper Spike and makes his home in Miami during the Nov-May season, this latest incarnation of bringing rail service to Miami began with the Genesis Group out of Miami, now headed by Susan Hansen, the Miami City Council, Kip Culver of Globe’s Main Street program and the Arizona Eastern Railroad.
To do so will cost approximately 1.5 million which includes rebuilding ten miles of railroad to enable the train to go 25 miles per hour. This would reduce the time between towns over what passengers experienced today on older track. (Avg speed was closer to 15 mph). The railroad would need to build a 50 car siding to replace the storage area currently used by the freight trains (which are the bread and butter of any rail operation.) Just HOW it all gets paid for has not been determined yet, but Torrico indicated that funding could come from a combination of City, County, Az DOT, Arizona Eastern, the Federal Railroad Association and grant monies.
If the local group can get this idea off the drawing board and into production, Ellis, with the Arizona Eastern has indicated he would restore a steam engine similar to the one which sits in Globes’ City Park, and would add this to the line.
Torrico adds that “…once we have these tracks rehabilitated, it’s possible to run regular transit service.”
While this is still just one of those ideas floating around, it has merit when you look at the gain to both communities and the railroad itself to provide easy (and entertaining) access to both communities via a rail line.With a train depot and departure located in Miami, the Copper Spike rail line is 20 minutes closer
Phoenix and offers more opportunities for the two communities to share tourist traffic during events hosted by either community.
As Ken Bitten, with Arizona Eastern noted, tourist dollars brought in by an operation of this nature offer low impact and high return to communities looking for ways to generate income without adding a great deal of infrastructure. In today’s economy that adds up to a winning combination.
Today’s event showed the local community just how far this idea of rail service to Miami has come. Thanks to the vision and volunteer efforts of a handful of people….
A passenger train pulled into the station in Miami for the first time in 77 years.
It probably won’t be the last time.
You can catch the piece done on today’s event by Channel 15 news tonight at 10 and see more photos of the day’s festivities by checking out GMT’s Facebook Page.