Bridge Fire Temporarily Severs Arizona & California Railroad

Arionza & California RailroadA dramatic late-night fire damaged significant portions of the historic Arizona & California Railroad bridge across the Colorado River at Parker, Ariz., on September 14, severing its route between Cadiz, Calif., and Phoenix. The cause of the fire and the extent of the damage are under investigation. The fire appears to have started on the Arizona side of the river. Crossties midway across the river were still in flames the next day due to their inaccessibility for local firefighters, but bridge ties just west of the blaze were removed to halt its progress.

A spokesman for the Genesee & Wyoming-owned shortline said they hoped to have the line reopened in as little as two weeks, barring more serious damage than initially expected. Alternate routing is being sought for its customers, all of which are located on the Arizona side of the river.

The bridge was built in 1908 by the fledgling Arizona & California Railway. The geography of the area favored a crossing in the middle of the Colorado Indian Reservation, so a square-mile of the land was deeded to the railroad by an act of Congress. Santa Fe took over the line in 1910 and developed Parker as its operational headquarters at the midpoint between Phoenix and the mainline through Cadiz.

The line saw heavy use during construction of the massive Parker Dam in the 1930s, followed by a boom in agricultural loads thanks to related irrigation projects in the region south of Parker. Much of that traffic shifted elsewhere by the 1980s, prompting Santa Fe to shed the route. The railroad was reborn as the independent Arizona & California Railroad in 1991 when ParkSierra Railgroup bought the tracks from Matthie to Cadiz from ATSF, with trackage rights into Phoeniz. Arizona & California Railway was acquired in 2002 by RailAmerica, which in turn was acquired by G&W in 2012.

—Eric Berger, Railfan & Railroad

This article was posted on: September 16, 2019