El Paso and Southwestern
Railroad Company

     It began as a 36-mile long railroad from the Copper Queen Mine in Bisbee, Arizona to a connection with the Santa Fe’s Arizona & New Mexico Railroad located at Fairbank, Arizona.  The initial name of this railroad was the Arizona & Southeastern Railroad, built in 1888-1889 by the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co. a subsidiary of Phelps Dodge Corp.  Its main purpose was to be able to transport copper anodes from a smelter in Bisbee to a refinery in El Paso, Texas.  To further reduce transportation expenses, in 1894 Phelps Dodge Corp. extended the railroad another 19 miles to the north to a connection with the Southern Pacific Railroad at Benson, Arizona.
     Around the turn of the twentieth century, the country was increasingly turning to the use of electricity, causing a great demand for copper.  To meet these demands of the copper industry, Phelps Dodge replaced the smelter at Bisbee with a new, larger one at the newly formed town of Douglas, Arizona, named after Dr. James Douglas, a prominent figure with the Copper Queen Mine.  This town was located on the flats southeast of Bisbee on the Mexican border.  In 1901 the Arizona & Southeastern extended its line 25 miles southeast to Douglas to provide transportation to this new smelter.
     On June 25th, 1901 the Phelps Dodge Corp. formed El Paso & Southwestern Railroad Co., and transferred over the properties of its Arizona & Southeastern Railroad.  Plans were to extend this railroad across the extreme southern portion of New Mexico and into El Paso, Texas.
     The railroad was continued laying rails in an eastward direction from Douglas into New Mexico, passing through the small settlement of Animas.  Construction continued around the north end of the Little Hatchet Mountains, just north of the mining community of Hachita, and into the wide valley just east to the present site of Hachita.  This location was chosen because of ample water supply.  The mining community became known as “Old Hachita”
     The crews continued eastward to a location where the town of Hermanas was built.  In June 1901, construction crews began grading a road from Deming, New Mexico, over a 31-mile, level route to Hermanas.  The two crews connected the lines in February 1902 and this gave the El Paso & Southwestern a connection to the Santa Fe railroad in Deming.
     Construction also continued east from Hermanas, through the Mimbres Valley to the small border community of Columbus, New Mexico, The railroad then followed along the Mexican border to the Rio Grande Valley and into El Paso, Texas.  With completion of this railroad, El Paso, and Tucson now had two railroad routes to follow, The Southern pacific, built in 1881, and the El Paso & Southwestern, completed in November, 1902.  The EP&SW crossed the continental Divide at 4,694 feet,  (155 feet higher than the SP) but the grades were less than that of the SP. With the completion of the EP&SW railroad into El Paso, the EP&SW now consisted of 291 miles of mainline from El Paso to Benson, and 40 miles of branch lines.
     Growing copper demands led to more and larger smelter operations for Phelps Dodge corp.  This generated a growing need for coal and coke to operate these smelters.  On July 1st, 1905 The El Paso & Southwestern bought the properties of the El Paso & Northeastern Railroad that had lines from El Paso, northeast to Tucumcari, New Mexico and branches from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft and Russia; Carrizozo to Capitan; and Tucumcari to Dawson.  This gave Phelps Dodge Corp rail connection from the coalfields around Dawson, New Mexico, and its smelters located in El Paso and in southern Arizona.
      Additional branches were acquired over the next few years.  A Branch to Tombstone was built in 1903.  The mainline was extended from Benson to Tucson in 1912.  Another branch line was constructed to Tyrone in 1921.  A merger with the Arizona & New Mexico Railroad was finalized on January 1, 1922, including the old Lordsburg  & Hachita Railroad.
     Not much activity took place on the portion of the El Paso & Southwestern between Douglas Arizona and El Paso, Texas due to low population. The towns of Rodeo, Animas, Hachita grew to become farming and ranching communities as well as stations and water stops for the railroad. Columbus was still a sleepy border community with a port of entry into Mexico.
A U.S. Army camp was established at Columbus, In March 1916, Pancho Villa raided the village.  Activity increased in the area when General Pershing increased troops in an effort to capture Pancho Villa.
     Following World War I, the price of copper began to drop, causing activity at many of the mines in the area to cease or reduce their operations.  Traffic on the El Paso & Southwestern was drastically reduced.  This put a great financial strain on the Phelps Dodge Corp. whose primary product was copper.  In an effort to focus on the copper production, Phelps Dodge Corp. made the decision to sell the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad.  By this time, consisting of over 1,200 miles of road, the Southern pacific Co. offered to purchase the railroad for about $ 64 million dollars, payable in a combination of cash, stock and bonds.  The ICC approved the sale and the SP took control of the El Paso & Southwestern on November 1, 1924,
     In 1955, in an effort to simplify the corporate structure, the Southern Pacific Co. made several internal mergers collapsing several of its acquired railroads under one name, including the El Paso & Southwestern.  The portion of the line from El Paso to Douglas became known as the “Southline” because of its southern route opposed the “Northline” given to the original Southern Pacific route that went through Deming and Lordsburg.
     Over the years traffic was decreasing on the “Southline” due to lower population and a slightly longer distance (29 miles) than the “Northline”.  Studies indicated that very little traffic originated east of Douglas.  Even with the additional mileage used to ship copper anodes from Douglas, through Benson to the refinery in El Paso via the “Northline” a significant savings would be realized with the abandonment of the portion of the railroad” from Douglas to Anapra (6 miles west of El Paso).  Following ICC approval, this portion of the “Southline” ceased operation on December 20, 1961.  Pending litigation, the tracks and facilities remained in place until 1963
     During the years to follow, the rails were pulled up, ties removed, and many of the townsites along the route became ghost towns when the railroad employees pulled up their roots and moved elsewhere. 
 
 

This page is part of the "Ghosts of the Southline" website, a site describing the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad and many of the abandoned towns along its route.  

Photographs and documentation found on this website are the property of Lloyd W. Sumner
This site was created and is maintained by Lloyd W. Sumner 

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