Magma Arizona Railroad
Magma Arizona Railroad Engine No. 6
|Dates of operation||1920–1997|
|Previous gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge; originally 3 ft (914 mm) gauge|
The railroad was originally built as a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge line, but was converted to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge in 1923. Originally headquartered in Superior, Arizona, the company primarily hauled cattle and copper on 30.2 miles (48.6 km) of standard gauge track to and from the Southern Pacific mainline in Magma, Arizona, between Florence and Queen Creek.
The Magma was the last industrial short line railroad to use steam power.
The railroad has since changed hands and is currently owned by Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of London-based Rio Tinto Group. Exploration in 2001-2003 resulted in the discovery of a large copper ore body some 7,000 ft (2133 m) beneath the surface of lands just three miles (5 km) east of Superior. If the mine is eventually reopened, it is highly likely the Magma Arizona will be revived to transport the one billion tons (907 million tonnes) of ore to off-site smelters. Discussions with representatives of Resolution indicate the Magma Arizona name will be kept if the mine and railroad are both reopened, which may occur after feasibility studies are completed in 2009.
- Engine No. 5, a 2-8-0, was the only standard gauge locomotive acquired new by the Magma Arizona.
- Engine No. 6 is a Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 built in October 1907 and operated until 1960. It is now on display at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, Arizona.
- Engine No. 7, a Baldwin 2-8-2, was built in 1917 for the Tremont and Gulf Railroad, who sold it to Magma in 1954. It was featured in the popular epic film How the West Was Won. The engine was purchased by the Texas State Railroad in 1974 and rehabbed in 1978.
- Engine No. 8, a Baldwin S-8, was originally built for the Medford Corporation in 1952. After Medford suspended railroad logging operations in 1961, the locomotive was sold to Magma Arizona in 1968. Its generator failed in September 1992 and was sold to The Southern Oregon Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, who rehabbed it for use on the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad. It is the only Baldwin switcher built with dynamic braking.
- Engine No. 10, a Baldwin DRS-6-6-1500 was built in 1950 for the McCloud River Railroad as their No. 29. It was purchased in 1969 by Magma and renumbered to Engine No. 10 and operated on the Magma line from January, 1970 - 1991. In 1994, it was donated to the Arizona Railway Museum in Chandler, Arizona, where it is largely functional.
Chappell, Gordon. Rails to Carry Copper: A History of the Magma Arizona Railroad. Boulder, Colorado; Pruett Publishing Company, 1973. Includes over 200 photographs, maps, and scale drawings.
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