Pima County Railroad

Guide to Arizona's Miniature Railroads


Pima County Railroad

The Pima County Railroad

Defunct Railroad

          Unfortunately the Pima County Railroad is no longer in operation

The Pima County Railroad in Tucson, Arizona

          A longtime favorite with residents of Southern Arizona, the Pima County Railroad is a 16 inch gauge railroad located on the Pima Country Fairgrounds at 11300 S. Houghton Road in Tucson, Arizona. A beautifully rebuilt "1865" model S-16 locomotive originally built by the Allan Herschell Company provides the motive power for the railroad while three of that company's carnival style coaches carry the many passengers. The steam-outline engine easily pulls three fully-loaded coaches on their tour through the expansive fairgrounds.

Orange S-16

Loading passengers onto the S-16

Red S-16

Awaiting passengers

          The approximately 2600 feet of track is configured in dog bone fashion and utilizes a spring switch in the loop on each end of the layout. A short spur also exists for storing additional cars and equipment or for making mechanical repairs if needed. A small, but railroad-themed ticket booth, park benches and old-fashioned street lamps all add to the railroad ambiance.

Ticket Booth

Ticket booth

Front View

Front view of the S16

Benches and Lights

Park benches and old fashioned street lamps provide ambiance

Booth and Lights

Ticket booth and street lamps

          The ticket booth is located just inside the main entrance on the northeast side of the fairgrounds. The rail passes just behind the ticket booth and waiting area and then ventures north and west across the large fairgrounds complex traveling past several exhibit buildings, livestock areas, display area of stationary steam engines and picnic area before returning to pick up its next group of enthusiastic passengers.

Passing an Exhibition Building

Passing an exhibition building

Viewing the Grounds

Viewing the grounds

          The vintage railroad equipment from the early sixties is always clean, neat and well-maintained. Each year the train sports a brand-new colorful paint theme for the county fair. The engineer who also serves as conductor is 70 year old Tom Schmitt of Hutchinson, Kansas. Looking very much the part with his bib overalls and hat, Tom always provides a smooth ride for the passengers of all ages aboard his PCRR. The ride takes about 6 minutes to complete and allows the passengers to view many of the other sections of the fairgrounds and make decisions as to where they want to visit next.

Circling the Grounds

Circling the fairgrounds

Returning Towards the Booth

Returning towards the ticket booth

          The Pima County Railroad runs on a part-time, but relatively consistent basis. The PCRR operates during the Pima County Fair which usually stretches ten days over two weekends and is the third week of April each year. The railroad also operates on a handful of other weekends each year when major activities are underway in one of the exhibit buildings on the fairgrounds. Tickets to ride on the Pima County railroad are $2.00 for adults and $1.50 for children.

Peparing to Depart

Preparing to depart

Delighted Passengers

Returning with delighted passengers

          Sadly, at the time of this writing, the continued operation of the railroad appears very much in doubt. The beautiful S-16 locomotive and its cars are headed to a new home where they will operate daily at the zoo in Hutchinson, Kansas. The fairgrounds in Tucson is searching for a new operator to purchase the track in place from Tom Schmitt and operate the Pima County Railroad for years to come. If a buyer isn't located quickly, the rail will be removed and used by Mr. Schmitt in his myriad railroad operations in Kansas.

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