The Bradshaw Mountain Railroad was a branch of the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad. It stretched for 35.6 miles through the mines of the Bradshaw Mountains. This railway was incorporated on February 6, 1901. This line had two branches.
The first branch of the Bradshaw Mountain Railway was the Poland Branch. The Poland Branch originated a mile south of the main line of the Prescott and Eastern Railroads in Huron. It ran along Big Bug Creek for about 8 miles. Here it led to the very successful Poland Mine. Much of the current road follows the rail bed. This branch of the railroad was almost as difficult as the other branch and was also very expensive. Building in this area was difficult due to the rugged mountains. Drilling and blasting was needed to create a 200 foot long tunnel and two trestles. The construction crew had a shortage of people when laborers began to realize they could leave there $2 a day wage and find gold only a few inches down. When gold was found during blasting, more men were lost. At this
time, gold was valued at $30 a ton. While many left the rail crew, few were successful in the prospecting industry due to lack of knowledge of how to find gold. Another delay came when workers celebrated for a whole day at the completion of a half of the rail on the line. Finally, on April 21, 1902, the railroad reached the Poland Mine.
Construction of the second part of the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad, the Crown King branch, was now underway. This 25 mile line was very expensive and difficult to build. When crews worked through Cedar canyon (between Mayer and Cleator) they had no difficulties. They crossed the ranching country west of Cordes Station (now Cordes Junction) along the Black Canyon Stage Route. About 12 miles from Mayer, construction crews reached Crazy Basin, the toughest part of the line. Crews established a construction camp at the north end of Crazy Basin, below the DeSoto Mine. This camp had a turntable and station and was named after George Middleton, the owner of the DeSoto Mine. The railroad changed the name of the station to Middelton and it later became the main camp for the Bradshaw Railroad and the powerhouse of the DeSoto. Nearly 600 men were needed to finish the line. Work was hindered during the winter of 1903-1904. Crews had to deal with snow, blizzards and intense cold. The last 13 miles of the line required numerous steep grades, switchbacks, trestles and a tunnel. Finally, in May of 1904, scheduled trains began arriving in the depot at Crown King. An interesting note: the location of Crown King was moved by the forming of the railroad from between the Crowned King Mill and mine to its current location. This occurred because of the busyness the railroad caused.
Proposals for other rail lines throughout the area were hampered by the economic conditions of the times. The lines once owned by the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railway came under the control of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company. However, by 1911, many mines throughout the Bradshaw’s closed boding bad news for the railroads. A daily train was now no longer necessary. World War I created a temporary need for certain minerals which made opening back up some of the mines, such as the DeSoto, profitable. Railroad traffic between 1916-1917 were unmatched by previous traffic. As WWI ended, so did the mines. In 1926, a final trip was made for friends and residents alike to say goodbye to the Bradshaw Mountain Railway. In 1927, the tracks along the Crown King Branch were removed. On November 30, 1932, the Poland Branch was partially closed and later on April 10, 1939, it was closed completely.
Much of the old railroad bed is used for Crown King Rd. (Forest 259 Rd.). In fact before the trestles were removed, brave drivers would drive over these in order to get back home to Crown King. However, when they were removed, the road was modified to make the road drivable. A collapsed tunnel is the site of an observation spot of Hell’s Hole, with views up to 50 miles. This trail is a very scenic and amazing trip filled with a lot of history!
A train on the Crown King branch of the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad*
A current picture of the switchbacks along the Crown King branch A wooden trestle along the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad*
"Bradshaw Mountain Railroad." Wikipedia. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradshaw_Mountain_Railroad>.
Gilley, Eleanor. "Railways into the Mountain and the Fall of the Peavine." Sharlot Hall Museum: Days Past (1999): n. pag. Web. 18 Jun 2010. <http://sharlot.org/archives/history/dayspast/text/1999_01_31.shtml>.
Wilson, Bruce. Crown King and the Southern Bradshaws: A Complete History. Chandler, Arizona: Crown King Press, 1990. 64-68. Print.
Photos with a * were taken in the Crown King Saloon.