The railroads of north central Arizona were built to support Arizona's richest copper mine, which was located in the town of Jerome. The first rail line, the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, was completed in 1882 and connected Jerome to Ashfork.
The Verde Canyon Railroad (formerly the Verde Valley Railroad, operated by the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad), was financed by Senator William A. Clark for a hefty $1.3 million. A miracle of engineering, the 38-mile line was built in just one year, from 1911 to 1912. It took 250 men using 200 mules, picks and shovels and lots of Dupont black powder explosives to lay these rails. Today, the same railroad would cost in excess of $38 million.
The smelter, which initiated the construction of the town of Clarkdale, named after Senator Clark, was located just below the Jerome mines. Used until 1952, the smelter had its final 400-foot high stack blown in 1962, signaling the end of an era and an industry on which a community had been built and prospered.
During the last century, the railroad, laid from Clarkdale to Drake, Arizona was often referred to as the "Verde Mix" because it carried such a diverse mixture of products and people. Today, the same transportation corridor still hosts both freight and excursion trains on its rails.