Historical Precedents in Arizona
In the past, both light rail and regional rail have flourished in Arizona.
Streetcars and Light Rail
The Phoenix Street Railway offered local service within Phoenix, and ran until a carbarn fire in the late 1940′s.
This historic Phoenix streetcar may be seen at the Arizona Street Railway Museum just west of the Central Library across Central Avenue in Phoenix. Phoenix Street Railway car #116 was built by the American Car Company, St. Louis, Missouri, November 1928 for the City of Phoenix; cost $13,700; entered service December 25, 1928; was renumbered 508 in later years; and was one of the last three to operate. See also: Phoenix Street Railway (Wikipedia)
The City of Phoenix owns Toronto PCC (Presidents’ Conference Car) #4617, purchased from Toronto in the 1990s. With a relatively small amount of work (to re-gauge the trucks to the standard 4’8.5″) as has been done in Dallas, this car could also operate on light rail tracks. For now, however, it sits behind a fence as a display at the new Central Bus Station. (photo: Frank Hood)
Tucson today enjoys the Old Pueblo Trolley, running on restored trackage in that city.
Bisbee, Douglas, and Prescott also once had electric streetcar systems. Tempe had a horsecar street railway.
In the early 1900s, both Southern Pacific and Santa Fe offered rail service designed for commuter travel in the Phoenix area.
The 1950s saw as many as five daily through trains in each direction on the S.P. lines through southern Arizona.Â In 1951, four trains a day connected Los Angeles via Phoenix to Tucson, with a fifth train operating via Maricopa. Although mostly oriented toward long-distance travel, commuters could ride Train #44 which departed Buckeye at 6:57am, Litchfield at 7:15am, and arrived Phoenix at 7:45am; train #43 departed Phoenix at 4:50p, arriving Litchfield 5:15pm and Buckeye 5:35pm.
Until their discontinuance in the late 1960s, Santa Fe’s #42/#47, nicknamed the “Hassayampa Flyer,” arrived Phoenix in the morning and left in the early afternoon, and was often used by students from Wickenburg or Glendale commuting to school in Phoenix.
In 1980, a Salt River Flood Relief train, the “Hattie B.,” named for Governor Babbit’s wife, was a huge success.