Apache Railway

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Apache Railway
Apache Railway system map.svg
Reporting mark APA
Locale Holbrook-Snowflake, Arizona
Dates of operation 1917–
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Snowflake, Arizona
Apache Railway train, just south of Holbrook, Arizona, 2010
0.0 BNSF junction, Holbrook
9.3 Blair
27.4 Tours
Snowflake Junction
Shops, Paper Mill
34.8 Snowflake
37.5 Taylor
44.9 Silver Lake
54.8 Bell
61.7 Sponseller
72.0 McNary

The Apache Railway (reporting mark APA) is an Arizona short-line railroad that operates from a connection with the BNSF Railway (BNSF) at Holbrook to the Snowflake Mill near Snowflake, Arizona, 38 miles (61 km). The APA was acquired by Catalyst Paper from Abitibi Consolidated in 2008. The Snowflake paper mill shut down permanently on September 30, 2012.[1] In late 2015, the railway was purchased out of bankruptcy by a group including Aztec Land & Cattle Company and Midwest Poultry Producers, L.P., thereby avoiding a shutdown and scrappage of the line. The railway continues to operate, and its revenues are driven primarily by car repair and storage. The railway's freight revenues have not yet recovered from the shutdown of the Snowflake paper mill then owned by Catalyst, although efforts to enhance them continue.


16,000 cars per year (1996 figure)[citation needed]

  • recycled fiber
  • pulpwood
  • wood chips
  • coal
  • paper
  • chemicals
  • grain


The Apache Railway was incorporated in 1917, when it began construction of a rail line from Holbrook south, reaching Snowflake in 1918.[2] It was extended south to McNary in 1920.[2]

From October 1, 1931, until 1936, amid the Great Depression, the APA was placed in receivership.

A tourist railroad, the White Mountain Scenic Railroad, operated steam powered passenger excursions over the Southwest Forest Industries-owned line from McNary to the logging camp of Maverick, AZ, beginning in 1964. As track conditions deteriorated, the excursions were cut back in later years to a point about half way to Maverick. In the final years, it operated north from Pinetop Lakes to a place called Bell Siding on U.S. Route 60. In 1976, the White Mountain Scenic Railroad ceased operations and moved its equipment to Heber City, Utah to be used on an excursion there known as the "Heber Creeper." The line from Maverick to McNary, with some elevations exceeding 9,000 ft (2,700 m), was removed in 1982 after the McNary sawmill closed.

By the 1980s, the Apache Railway was Arizona's only remaining logging railroad. The track from Snowflake to McNary was abandoned in 1982.[2]

In July 2012, the owner of the railroad and an on-line paper mill, Catalyst Paper, announced that the mill and railroad would shut down and be sold later in the year.[3] In December, Catalyst agreed to sell the railroad and mill to Hackman Capital.[4] Hackman planned to dismantle the railroad along with the mill, but local officials who wanted to retain rail service formed a non-profit foundation to purchase the railroad from lenders, using a federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan, which was denied in November 2014.[2] Hackman took over control again and put the railroad into bankruptcy in May 2015, while local officials attempted to secure a rural economic development loan from the USDA.[2] A bankruptcy court ruled on September 1, 2015 to postpone the sale deadline of the railroad, which the court valued at $7.2 million, until November 30.[5]

Passenger service[edit]

The Apache Railway offered passenger service until the 1950s. In July 1954, the mixed train operated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, departing McNary at 7:15am, arriving Holbrook at 12:15pm, departing there at 1:30pm and returning to McNary at 7:00pm.[6]

Motive power[edit]

The Apache Railway uses ALCO Century 420 (C420) and C424s.


Abandoned routes[edit]

Abandoned in 1980.

  • Snowflake (interchange with the now defunct Standard Lumber)
  • Taylor
  • Silver Lake
  • Bell Siding
  • Sponseller (with several lumber spurs into the forest to the east)
  • Pinetop Lakes (with several lumber spurs into the forest)
  • McNary (interchange with Southwest Forest Industries)
  • Camp 28 (with several lumber spurs into the forest)

In addition, a 2 to 3 mile (3–5 km) section of track used to run from south of Tours to Snowflake. Today's line runs from Tours to Snowflake Junction.


  1. ^ "News Brief". Paper Industry (August/September 2012). Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Arizona town fights to save Apache Railway". Trains Magazine. 9 July 2015. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Apache Railway to shut down". Trains Magazine. 31 July 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "Catalyst Paper accepts bid for Apache railway, Snowflake paper mill". Trains Magazine. 19 December 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "Embattled Apache Railway gets breathing room". Trains Magazine. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  6. ^ The Official Guide of the Railways: 937. July 1954. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Robertson, Donald B. (1986). Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: The Desert States: Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers. p. 65. ISBN 0-87004-305-6. 
  • Stindt, Fred A. (1996). American Shortline Railway Guide (5th ed.). Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 0-89024-290-9. 
  • Walker, Mike (1995). Steam Powered Video's Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America - Arizona & New Mexico. Kent, United Kingdom: Steam Powered Publishing. pp. 11–12. ISBN 1-874745-04-8. 
  • Carr, Wes (2004). "Apache Railway - the Southwest Railfan". trainweb.org. Retrieved March 17, 2006. 
  • Cloud, Karol; Komanesky, John (2005). "Apache Railway motive power". TheDieselShop.us. Retrieved March 17, 2006.