Report and Photos by Russ Jackson
Originally published in the April 2010 “Tracking the News”
In the June, 2007 issue of the Western Rail Passenger Review this writer described the pitiful condition of the places where Trains 1-2 “flag stop” at these three small communities between Tucson and El Paso.
At Deming there were two garden benches chained to a fence and a lonely sign pointing the wrong way.
At Lordsburg, a small railroad shack with benches inside and a sign “Lordsburg” on the outside, but no signage saying this was a train stop.
At Benson it was somewhat better: there was a shack with the word “Amtrak” on the outside, but still no other information.
So, what has changed? At each of the small stations there is now a basic sign saying “Amtrak Train stops here, Board at this location,” and gives the 800 number. That’s an improvement, but gives little detail.
At Benson the shack is still there with an asphalt path to the track. The Sunset Limited stops there, having to be on the “south” track, and if sleeping car and coach passengers want to get on-off the train must double or even triple stop. In FY 2009 Benson sold $141,682 tickets to 1,098 riders. Benson is the “gateway” to Tombstone, and to the Kartchner Caverns State Park one of the few such remaining open.
At Lordsburg, the shack is gone!, replaced by only the (different) signs but still no path to trackside. Nevertheless, 404 riders spent $42,891 that year to ride.
At Deming, the sign is in a better location and a new shack has been built replacing the garden benches, so there is some shelter for people waiting for the train. There still is no path from this building to trackside, though; riders still must board from the street crossing. Deming had 844 riders who spent $42,891 in FY 2009.
NOTICE the grade crossing at the Deming “station.” It is protected by concrete barriers to 1) prevent autos from trying to “beat the gates,” and 2) prevent autos from turning into the Union Pacific/Amtrak lot. These barriers make great sense, and there are many of them unused but available for similar duty in other states.
BTW, all but two “rest stops” on I-10 are now closed in Arizona. To save money, the state says, but what are the problems that decision has created? Long distance truckers, who are required to park for their rest, now must go to a commercial truck stop. Aha! Got that? Back in the 70’s this writer attended a Kiwanis meeting in east San Diego County that heard a presentation from Caltrans on rest stops in California. Attending that meeting were Kiwanians from El Centro, who complained that the new rest stop on I-8 was built too near their city so travelers “would not have to stop and patronize businesses.” Looks to me who won that battle in Arizona.