Friday, October 18, 2013
Last Train to Clarkdale is a very special tribute to my one-time home town, to the past as my brother and I lived it years ago when we both became avid rail fans and to the rebirth of the little Santa Fe spur line into an incredible scenic excursion that I feature in this tale.
Just for fun I typed in "Last Train to Clarkdale" into a search engine a few days ago and I was amazed what all popped up! Of course there is that great old song, the Monkee's first hit, Last Train to Clarksville and I do pay homage to it in my story. I also learned there is a Clarksdale, Mississippi which was the home town of blues legend Muddy Waters.
But as far as I can find, there is only one Clarkdale. It is in central Arizona and was named for a one-time politician and investor in the Verde Valley mining industry whose name was Clark. There is plenty of history involved in the paired communities of Jerome and Clarkdale, which were the mine and smelter towns of the past century and even before just as several more pairs of towns were in Arizona. Mines happen where the ore bodies are found but smelters have to have a certain type of terrain and usually rail access to handle the heavy industrial process and transport of the raw material and the purified metal, usually in ingot form. I may visit some of the others later and my alter-ego Gwynn Morgan is working in the preliminary stages of a historical novel about building the narrow gauge railroad into Jerome back in the late 1800s. So you are likely to hear more but for now, let's focus on the upcoming tale and the inspiring little railroad.
If you would like to learn more about the Verde Canyon Train they do have a website! The URL is www.verdecanyonrr.com There's also at least one U-Tube video about a couple's experience on the excursion, an article about an Elks Lodge in Havasu City, AZ which organized a trip on that special train for some returning and recovering veterans and more. What fun!
Anyway I have loved trains forever. My first trip was a solo one in December of 1965 when I took the San Francisco Chief from Flagstaff, AZ to Stockton, CA and spent the holidays visiting relatives in Sacramento, CA. During my college years I took several more train trips including one west from Flagstaff for the holiday break when the rails were the only thing rolling during a huge blizzard! Those big, powerful diesels could shove through quite a bit of snow. As it was, the trains were running hours late but highway and air traffic in northern Arizona was at a total stand still. By the time I got back to campus after the holidays, a total of nine feet of snow had fallen and melted/settled to about five or six feet still on the ground! Come to think of it, that could make a pretty good story setting too...
Posted by Gaye Morgan-Walton at 2:26 PM