Arizona and California Railroad
|Arizona and California Railroad|
|Locale||Mojave Desert - Phoenix, Arizona and branch to Blythe, California|
|Dates of operation||May 9, 1991–present|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)|
|Length||297 miles (478 km)|
|Website||Arizona & California Railroad|
The Arizona and California Railroad (reporting mark ARZC) is a short line railroad that was a subdivision of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF). The ARZC began operations on May 9, 1991, when David Parkinson of the ParkSierra RailGroup purchased the line from the Santa Fe Railway. ParkSierra Railgroup was purchased in January 2002 by RailAmerica, the former owner of the ARZC. The Genesee & Wyoming railroad holding company became the current owner in early 2013. ARZC's main commodities are petroleum gas, steel and lumber; the railroad hauls around 12,000 carloads per year.
At Cadiz, California, the railroad begins with the interchange with the BNSF Railway and continues southeast across the Mojave Desert to Rice, then east to cross the Colorado River Arizona/California state line at Parker, Arizona. The railroad continues east to Matthie (near Wickenburg, Arizona). At Matthie, ARZC has trackage rights over the north-south BNSF line that connects Phoenix to BNSF's mainline at Williams. It also has a branch that runs from Rice south through Blythe, terminating at Ripley.
Arizona & California operates tracks that are 297 miles (478 km) long consisting of the following segments:
- 190 mile (306 km) mainline from Cadiz, CA (BNSF interchange) - Parker, AZ - Matthie, AZ (BNSF interchange).
- 57 miles (92 km) of trackage rights over the BNSF Railway from Matthie - Phoenix, AZ.
- 50 mile (80 km) former branch line from Rice - Blythe - Ripley, CA. Shortened to be used as a spur for freight car storage.
The mainline now used by ARZC was originally constructed between 1903 and 1907 by the Arizona and California Railway. The line between Matthie, AZ, and Parker opened in June 1907. By 1910, the line had reached Cadiz, California.
As late as 1937, there were several daily passenger trains on the line: #170-117 and #118-181 operated daily between Phoenix Union Station and Cadiz, with connections to Los Angeles and San Francisco; mixed trains #210-233 and #234-209 operated daily between Phoenix's Mobest Yard and Parker; and mixed trains #25 and #26 operated daily except on Sunday or Monday connecting at Rice for Blythe.
Rice to Ripley branch
In 1911, the Southern Pacific Railroad was considering a branch line from Niland or Glamis to the Palo Verde Valley as the northwestern part of the valley hosts gypsum deposits. The line was planned for completion by 1912. W.F. Holt, from nearby Imperial Valley and others, were involved in the planning. Santa Fe, at that time, was closer to the valley. When Holt resigned from the Palo Verde Land and Water Co., Southern Pacific decided to not build the branch line.
Other lines were proposed including the Santa Fe, Blythe and Western Railroad, the Southwestern Pacific Railroad, which would connect Grand Junction, Colorado to Arizona following the Colorado River, then enter California near Blythe to Niland, and eventually, Seeley, CA, leading to the San Diego & Arizona Railway, the Niland-Blythe Railroad Association, which would connect the two namesake towns by an electric railroad, and the Parker & Colorado River Railroad, with a rail line southward to Ehrenberg, Arizona, reaching Blythe via a bridge. None of these projects commenced due to the onset of World War I.
In 1914, the California Southern Railroad (not to be confused with the earlier railroad linking Barstow and San Diego) was incorporated to build 42.2 miles from a point known as Blythe Junction (Rice) to reach Blythe via a passage between the Big Maria Mountains and the Little Maria Mountains. In March 1916, the railroad purchased No. 127, a 4-4-0, as the railroad's first locomotive, originally Atlantic & Pacific Railroad No. 89. Later in 1916, the railroad finished its construction to Blythe. In 1920, the railroad extended the branch to Ripley, followed by a first train celebration. In November 1921, Santa Fe leased the line. In 1942, the line was fully acquired by Santa Fe. Seasonal trains carried perishables out of the valley to Chicago via Needles, California. The railway also provide inter-modal services on the line to connect with the railroad's trucking subsidiary in Blythe. In August 1988, this service was considered unprofitable and the railroad stopped operating the branch. However this decision was opposed by the California Public Utilities Commission, which considered the operation as necessary. 
In 1991, David Parkinson purchased the line and the Cadiz-Matthie line from Santa Fe and began the ARZC. The new railroad operated inter-modal containers carrying Sudan grass bound to Long Beach, where it was shipped to Japan. Many new freight opportunities such as gypsum, agriculture, and machinery shipping had been possible until the embargo of the line.
On March 12, 2009, citing declining revenues and worn out track structure, the ARZC petitioned the Surface Transportation Board to abandon all but the first four miles of the Ripley branch line. No trains have run over this line since late 2007 and the cost to repair the branch line would be significant. The Surface Transportation Board ruled on June 30, 2009 to grant the ARZC petition. A Blythe area committee formed to oppose the petition found a customer willing to purchase the line, namely the BG&CM Railroad of Idaho.
On January 14, 2010, the Surface Transportation Board terminated the offer of financial assistance for the railroad. San Pedro Trails, Inc., a trail company, subsequently negotiated with ARZC for converting the right-of-way into a rail trail, while saving the rail line for possible reactivation for rail service. The rail line was scrapped in late May 2011, although a portion of the line and crossing signals were donated to the city for possible use as a proposed tourist attraction.
- "RailAmerica's Empire". Trains Magazine (Kalmbach Publishing). June 2010.
- "City, residents dispute piggyback closure". Palo Verde Valley Times. December 1, 1989. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=37Fl7vPTsUIC&dat=19891201&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
- "Fee Received". Retrieved July 21, 2013.
- "Offer of Financial Assistance". Retrieved October 26, 2011.
- "City works to save small stretch of railroad history". Palo Verde Valley Times. August 2, 2011. http://paloverdevalleytimes.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubsectionID=1&ArticleID=15806
- Myrick, David (2001). Santa Fe to Phoenix, Railroads of Arizona Volume 5. Wilton, California: Signature Press. ISBN 1-930013-05-1.
- Official ARZC Webpage
- Pictures of early ARZC trains
- Movies filmed on ARZC
- BNSF Railway Shortline Partner ARZC Profile[dead link]