Railroad Exhibit Opens at Museum

Consider “Meeting the Four O’Clock Train,” the featured exhibit located inside the Lawler Exhibit Center on campus. For almost a century, rail service to Prescott was a critical element to town’s and the county’s existence.

Focal point of this featured exhibit is the HO-scale model train layout of the Prescott rail yard and nearby train depot depicting the 1920s and 1930s, created by the Central Arizona Model Railroad Club (Prescott, AZ).  You’re not going to want to miss seeing this historical perspective of railroading with an emphasis on bringing train travel to Prescott.

FW Tritle, first train to Prescott
The F.W. Tritle was the first train to reach Prescott on the Prescott & Arizona Central Railroad, begun in 1886, but became lost in the history of Territorial lore.

For almost a century, railroad service to Prescott was a transportation mainstay providing either freight service or passenger transport. While it ended in 1983, the lure and lore of train travel continues to pique the interests of visitors and locals.

A railroad line across the northern Arizona Territory was a long-sought dream finally realized in 1882. To the dismay of Prescott residents of the time, it went through Ash Fork – about 50 miles too far north! A spur line finally brought freight to town via the ill-fated Prescott and Arizona Central Railway, and passenger travel was a bonus feature.

The Museum’s new train exhibit chronicles the local boom-to-bust railway legacy – from the Yavapai County bonds that paid for one of the lines and almost kept Arizona from becoming a state, to the many train wrecks and washed out tracks.

A distinct feature of the exhibit is a 12 ft. by 20 ft. HO-scale model depiction of early Prescott and its iconic Depot. Push a button and watch scale-model trains traverse the flatlands and Dells en route to the miniature downtown station and nearby roundhouse. The Central Arizona Model Railroad Club created and produced the train layout on display.

Part of the Prescott & Arizona Central Railroad right-of-way heading north through Willow Lake Park, northwest of Willow Creek Reservoir. (Photo courtesy A. Odell, 2013)

Passenger service to Prescott along the Peavine Trail and skirting Fort Whipple ended in 1962; freight service shutdown about two decades later.  The lore of rail service to the Highlands, however, remains a featured mixture of greed, power, politics and perseverance – all portrayed in the ‘Meeting the 4 O’Clock Train’ exhibit with its interactive games, artifacts and displays. These special features will delight children of all ages.

Admission to the exhibit is included in the daily admission to the Museum, and found in the theater of the Lawler Exhibit Center. Sharlot Hall Museum is located at 415 W. Gurley Street, Prescott (two blocks west of the courthouse plaza). For more information, call the Museum at 928-445-3122.

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