The Legendary Verde Canyon Railroad Tunnel Grows?
A famed highlight of Verde Canyon Railroad’s itinerary, the all-encompassing tunnel, plunges passengers from bright Arizona sunshine into total darkness and back again. Blasted from solid rock back in 1911, this iconic element of the railroad’s “Wilderness Route” was carved by a crew of Swedish workers with plenty of DuPont black powder explosives, picks, shovels, mules, muscle and sweat.
For the past 30 years, the train staff has been touting the marvel of this 680-foot tunnel, but all were really stunned when they found that the tunnel length had been underestimated. It’s actually 734 feet from end to end!
“When information was passed down verbally from the previous operating crews on the train line, through assorted old-timers and retired engineers and conductors, the length of the tunnel became ‘fact.’ But it seems that the 680-foot length has become a 30-year ‘legend’,’” laughs owner Dave Durbano who purchased the line sight-unseen in 1988. “We’ve now got a longer tunnel to share with passengers over the next 30 years.”
Verde Canyon Railroad started its excursion operation in November 1990 and, for the past three decades, has welcomed well over two million visitors to its Clarkdale depot from all corners of the world. For most, the tunnel has been one of the highlights as they see daylight diminish completely and listen as their voices echo within the tunnel walls. With the train traveling only 12 miles per hour, nearly a minute is spent inside this historic passageway, burrowing deep between the steep inner canyon walls, 1800 feet downward on a gentle slope.
In recent years there had been some debate over the true length of this “wilderness subway.” To settle the discussion, Linda Durbano requested that the Maintenance of Way crew give us a true measurement of the distance from entering to exiting this thrilling corridor.
To the surprise of all, the tunnel was actually longer than the measurement that had been shared for so many years. The Verde Canyon Railroad’s exhilarating tunnel is actually 54 feet longer than was known before. It’s the same ride but with an extra 54 feet for delightful squeals, whistles, hooting, hollering and secret kisses!
With only a little over 30 feet on each end reinforced by timbers, this tunnel is indeed a marvel of early 20th century engineering, and for the millions of Verde Canyon Railroad passengers, it’s a memorable thrill at any length.
Known worldwide as “Arizona’s Longest-Running Nature Show,” Verde Canyon Railroad travels this historic line that was completed in 1912 to serve the copper mining boom town of Jerome and the United Verde Copper Company’s town of Clarkdale. Celebrating 30 remarkable years of service in 2020, this award-winning attraction promises rail passengers exceptional service aboard every journey. Visit Verde Canyon Railroad at www.verdecanyonrr.com or call 800-293-7245 to make reservations now.
Thirty along the Verde, We’ve Added to the Journey