|Seligman History - The Railroad
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Seligman owes its inception and
name to the railroad that runs
through it. The reason for the
placement of the railroad goes back
to the late 1850s. This is when a
man and his camels originally forged
the route that travelers take through
Northern Arizona today. Lt. “Ned”
Beale surveyed along the35th
parallel attempting to find the best
transportation course through the
arid lands of the Southwest.
Camels were used to combat the
problems of traveling in the desert.
The Beale Trail ran close to where
the town of Seligman is today.
Houses were brought in and built for the railroad
workers based in the town. Seligman was also a
regular layover for railroad laborers working on
the trains between Winslow, Arizona and
Needles, California. Many residents of
Seligman built small rooming houses in their
backyards that helped temporarily house these
railroad workers traveling along the line. Some
of these “cottages” are still in many backyards
today being used as storage sheds.
As more and more people started traveling out west Fred Harvey, with his agreement with Atchison, Topeka,
and Santa Fe Railroad, decided to put one of his restaurant and hotels at the Seligman train depot. The
“Havasu” Harvey House opened around 1905 and significantly changed the face of the town. The Havasu
and the accompanying Santa Fe Depot and Reading Room gave the small town made up railroad laborers an
upscale train depot, a grand hotel, and fine dining restaurant. Trains such as the El Capitan, San Francisco
Chief, Southwest Limited, and Super Chief stopped in Seligman with passengers either staying at the hotel or
just stopping for a meal at the restaurant.
With the invention of the automobile and the arrival of highways, including Route 66 constructed along the
railroad tracks in Seligman, travelers used trains less and less. In 1971 Amtrak took over the nationwide
passenger train services in an effort to modernize train travel. Although Amtrak passenger trains still run
right through town they have not stopped in Seligman since 1984. Two passenger trains currently run
through Seligman daily, one eastbound and one westbound. The closest depots to board these trains are in
Kingman, Williams, or Flagstaff.
Currently the train tracks in Seligman are constantly in use with freight trains. The Burlington Northern
Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway was created when the long standing Santa Fe Railway merged with Burlington
Northern in the 1996. The sight and sound of passing trains is still very much a part of Seligman today as it
was when Seligman was founded over 120 years ago.
|One of many backyard rustic rooming houses built for traveling railroad laborers.
In 1866 the Atlantic Pacific Railroad obtained the right to build along the 35th parallel from Albuquerque to
California. Due to Lt. Beale’s efforts this was already known to be a fairly decent travel route. The St.
Louis and San Francisco Railroad, which owned the majority of Atlantic Pacific stock made an agreement
with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, also known as “Santa Fe”, to build the railroad through
Construction of railroad lines did not start in Arizona until the 1880s and presented problems due to rocky
ground, large washes, and lack of water and workers. But through much hard work by many laborers the
railroad through Arizona reached Flagstaff by 1881, Seligman by 1882, and crossed the Colorado River in
August of 1883.
Originally Seligman was called “Prescott Junction” because it was the railroad stop on the mainline with the
feeder line running to Prescott. Santa Fe placed depots approximately every 20 miles and at this time the
depots from Flagstaff to Kingman were: Flagstaff, Bellemont, Chalender, Williams, Ash Fork, Seligman,
Crookston, Prescott Junction, Chino, Yampai, Peach Springs, Truxton, Hualapai, and Kingman. The feeder
line from Prescott Junction to Prescott proved inefficient and was soon replaced by a line running from Ash
Fork to Prescott. Since the name “Prescott Junction” no longer fit the mainline stop the name of Seligman
was bestowed upon the budding town. In 1886, Seligman was named after Jesse Seligman, one of the
founders of J.W. Seligman Co. of New York, who helped finance the railroad lines in the area. Seligman lost
its place as the Junction to Prescott but because of its abundance of easily traversable flat land it became a
large switching yard consisting of many tracks and served as a large livestock shipping center.
|Image Courtesy of Cline Library, Northern Arizona University
|Santa Fe Station, Seligman circa 1916