Flagstaff and Middle Verde RR

Guide to Arizona's Miniature Railroads


Flagstaff and Middle Verde Railroad

The Flagstaff and Middle Verde Railroad

Defunct Railroad

          Unfortunately the Flagstaff and Middle Verde Railroad is no longer in operation

The Flagstaff and Middle Verde Railroad, Camp Verde, Arizona

          The Flagstaff and Middle Verde Railroad is a private 16 inch gauge railroad located in Camp Verde, Arizona. A project of Martha and Malcolm Mackey, the railroad recreates a narrow gauge line of the 1880's as it appeared during the depression era of the 1920s and 30s.

          The beautiful setting for the F & MV is high desert landscape. Mesquite trees, Creosote bushes and native grasses are abundant on the property. Great pains were taken to blend this railroad with the existing terrain and vegetation on the site. The famous "ghost town" Jerome clings to the mountain slope in the distance to the west and provides the backdrop for the railroad operation.

The Mackeys

Malcolm and Martha

Logging engine on the turntable

A desert shortline

          Ambiance of the "old west" is everywhere. Scale telegraph poles with green insulators parallel the rail of the F & MV as it works its way through the natural vegetation. New buildings and structures have been built with painstaking effort to appear more than fifty years old and to have barely survived the ravages of time and the elements... Railway Express service is advertised at Eden Depot, wooden grave markers and occupants populate Hilltop cemetery, rusty stub switches, piles of rotted 4 x 4 ties, used rail stacked along the right of way and old gears and equipment all add to the feel of a Colorado narrow gauge railroad trying to survive the Great Depression.

Eden depot

Eden depot (elevation 3187 feet)

Side view of the mine

The old mine

Stockyard pens

Stockyard pens


The trestle

          The traveler on the F & MV starts his journey at the open air Eden depot (elevation 3,187 feet). The rail passes the weathered headframe of the abandoned Story Mine and grass overgrown stock pens, traverses Gopher Gulch on a sturdy bridge and climbs through Mud Cut on its way to the high point on the line, historic Hilltop Cemetery (elevation 3199 feet). Passing Mulberry Spur on the downgrade, careful use of the brakes by Engineer "Velvet Throttle" Mackey prevents a runaway as the train drops down the 6% grade at Pullen Hill, passes the turntable and carbarn turn out, then travels through the maze of trackage in the rail yard before arriving back at Eden Depot.

Mud cut

Mud cut

Hilltop cemetery

The hilltop cemetery

Telegraph poles

Telegraph poles line the right of way


Switchyard leading to the engine house

          Other notable structures on the railroad include the gantry turntable cleverly crafted from an old garage hoist. The hoist not only allows the engines to "be turned", but can be raised to facilitate the loading or unloading of rolling stock from a trailer or truck of almost any height. The two stall carbarn, three stall engine house, compressor shed, track inspection car turntable, storage shed and other items of interest too numerous to mention line the railroad. Trackside signs announce the names of significant locations. The mainline is a quarter of a mile of 16 pound rail while the 600 feet of sidetracks and spurs are comprised of 12 and 8 pound rail.

Turntable side view

Side view of the turntable

Turntable end view

End view of the turntable

          In the tradition of the self-sufficient narrow gauge railroads of a century ago, the Mackey Shops fabricate all the Flagstaff and Middle Verde's rolling stock, switches, switch stands, equipment and many of its specialty tools. The present roster of rolling stock consists of a flat car, tool car, tank car, drop bottom gondola, Jordan Spreader (for ditches) and soon to be completed deluxe passenger coach.

Tank car

Tank car

Inspection car shed

Turntable in front of the inspection car shed

          Engine No. 1 of the Flagstaff and Middle Verde Railroad is the sister engine to No. 1 of the Arizona and Pacific Railroad and also entered service under the ownership of the Del Webb Corporation. In November of 1959 and again in January of 1960, Webb purchased S-16 "1865 model" locomotives from the Allan Herschell Company for operation at two of its sprawling Hiway House hotels in Arizona. The first unit purchased was used at the Phoenix location - see Arizona and Pacific Railroad and the second unit was installed at the Tucson Hiway House location at 1601 Miracle Mile (Oracle Road) in Tucson. The train traveled a large loop through the inner courtyard and passed the swimming pool and cactus garden, registration office, coffee shop and parking lot before completing its trip.

Del Webb Hiway House Tucson

At the Del Webb Hiway House in Tucson

Circling the courtyard

Circling the Hiway House courtyard

          In September of 1974, through an inquiry by his daughter Anna, Malcolm became aware the hotel was under new ownership (Hilton Inn) and due to the high cost of necessary repairs and maintenance and coupled with the desire to construct tennis courts, the railroad was going to be removed. Malcolm acted quickly and tendered an offer for the train, two crossing signals, rail and ties which was accepted. Early in the morning of Saturday, September 21, 1974, a nine person salvage crew consisting of family and friends arrived at the hotel. After a full day of backbreaking work, dismantling, cutting, carrying and cursing, they removed the engine, tender, crossing signals, one passenger coach and all the ties the trucks and trailer could carry. A later trip was made to transport the second coach and additional ties. With the exception of the engine, all the material remained in storage through March 1987.

          At the time of purchase, the engine was not operational and it appeared it hadn't run for several years. The exhaust stack was filled with rocks, glass on the gauges was broken, the gas tank was full of gravel, whistle was missing - you get the idea... The sheet metal, however, was in remarkably good shape considering it had always been stored outdoors. From October of 1974 through October of 1978, the locomotive and tender went through a gradual process of restoration. It re-entered service on the afternoon of October 22, 1988 on the partially completed F & MV and was officially designated as Flagstaff and Middle Verde Railroad engine No. 1865.

          Engine No. 1865 is currently joined on the F & MV locomotive roster by two other S-16s. One which was acquired in Cincinnati and another which was originally in service in New Mexico. Both were a mess when purchased and have required tremendous creativity and patience in their restoration. The former has been restored in a logging railroad theme and is in service; the latter awaits completion of its restoration at this time. The balance of powered equipment on the line is a track inspection car.

Two of the F&MVRR's three S-16 engines

The 3rd S-16 sits behind No. 1865

Logging engine

A view of No. 2

          Construction on the roadbed and track of the Flagstaff and Middle Verde railroad began in the Spring of 1987. Four years of construction resulted in the "completion" of the railroad and the "Golden Spike" ceremony on September 22, 1991. Malcolm, however, is like all the rest of us afflicted with the "train bug" and there is always another sidetrack or car or building in the back of his mind. Our railroads are never finished, only time, money and imagination are our obstacles...

F&MVRR ticket

Ticket to ride

          Engine No. 1865 and the Flagstaff and Middle Verde Railroad were featured on the cover of Live Steam magazine in April 1990. Please remember this railroad is a non-scheduled 16 inch gauge railroad on private property; drop-ins (uninvited guests) are not welcome. The operating guidelines in place on the F & MV are very straight forward "My railroad - my rules". Inquiries may be sent here and will be forwarded to the Mackey Shops.

Live Steam magazine

Live Steam magazine April 1990

          Before gracing the cover of the April 1990 issue of Live Steam magazine, the restoration of engine #1 of the Flagstaff and Middle Verde Railroad was featured in the December 1988 issue of Live Steam magazine.

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December 1988 Live Steam magazine article featuring restoration of engine #1.

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Page 2 of December 1988 Live Steam magazine article

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          A great deal of progress has taken place at the F&MV RR since the writing of this article in 2002. A third line now reaches the engine house. A first class passenger coach named "Verde Vista" has been constructed and put into service. Construction continues on engine #3 which is being patterned after a Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive & tender in Bumble Bee livery. Here are a few pictures taken in late 2007.

Verde Vista

Engine #1 pulls the Verde Vista passenger coach

3 lines to engine house

A third track now reaches the engine house (left)

Switchyard 2007

Switchyard in 2007

Back Doors Open

View of the engine house with the backdoors open

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