The Arizona and Utah Railroad/Western Arizona RR.
By: Frank Carroll
© Frank Carroll Photography
GPS: 35°24?52?N 114°11?58?W
In the early 1860’s, with the Civil War blazing in the east, the mining camps of the west were flourishing, including the new camp in western Arizona called Chloride. The town began because of the discovery of silver chloride in the Cerbat Mountains, which also contained gold, copper and lead.
The US soldiers stationed at Fort Mohave, located on the Colorado River near the present day location of Bullhead City, AZ, accomplished much of the early mine exploration. However, the
threat of attacks by the Native American Indian tribes of Mojave’s and Hualapai’s limited the amount of mineral development in the area. Ironically, many of the soldiers from Ft Mojave were more
interested in the mining than protecting the miners. A large influx of miners from Nevada and California in the late 1860s helped reduce fear of attacks and large-scale mine development began in
By 1870 the towns of Cerbat, Chloride, and Mineral Park supporting the hundreds of mines established in the region. Although little remains of either Cerbat or Mineral Park, both
served as the county seat of Mohave County, at different times. From 1870 to 1898 the Butterfield Stage served the growing communities along the west side of the Cerbat Mountains until
1898, with the arrival of the Arizona and Utah RR. Prior to the arrival of the A&URR, the ore moved by wagons and stages to the Colorado River, then transferred onto river steamers, and onto to
San Francisco by ship. To make the processing of the ore more cost effective, Mineral Park and Needles CA. built ore processing mills, and the Arizona and Utah Railroad was constructed to
connect the mining interests in the area.
The first attempt at a railroad in the area was the Sacramento Valley Railroad (from Hancock siding to White Hills, AZ), but due to financial problems, it was quickly superseded by the Arizona and Utah RR. With financial backing secured and with largely the same principals, the Arizona and Utah Railway constructed a rail line from McConnico (west of Kingman along the Santa Fe line) to White Hills. This line only reached a point near Grasshopper Junction on US 93 in Arizona
Construction of the standard-gauge line began on May 15, 1899, and completed on April 25, 1900; with a total mileage of 23.4 miles, had a maximum grade of 2% and with 45 pile and frame
trestles. A right-of-way map shows 5 stations along the line, not including the stations at McConnico and Chloride; with two locomotives; an 0-8-0 and a 4-6-0.
As noted in a newspaper clipping of the day (no reference available): 1899 – “The Arizona and Utah Railroad is completed and is making runs daily (except Sunday) to Chloride. It became so frequently used by the citizens of Kingman and the other communities along the line that it was referred to locally as the CB&F RR or “Chloride Back and Forth Railroad.”
REA sign on station.
The Arizona and Utah Railway went into receivership in 1905, being incorporated as the Western Arizona Railroad in January of 1906. Then leased to the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe as a non-operating subsidiary. The railroad immediately abandoned the 3.5 mile stretch west of Chloride. The mines began to play out and people left the area. The population of Chloride was 2000 in 1900 but had shrunk to only 500 just nine years later. The line hung on but operations eventually ceased in 1931 and the line was officially abandoned in 1933.
The depot in Chloride remains, along with several nearby sheds, most in fair condition and standing.
On the main street of town there are several other buildings which have survived including the post office, and stores, plus a bar, and two gas stations. Several of the residences appear to be of the original period, and there are other possibly historical structures around the community.
Mining has continued in the area, with a few hail and hardy miners eking out a minimal living. The town of Chloride is a living ghost town with a population of approximately 250 year round residents,
some of whom are famous artists. There is an influx of winter residents to the area who are mainly retirees.
It is interesting to note that the Arizona and Utah Railroad never made it to Utah, as many other railroads of that era never made it to the Pacific Ocean, just in name only.