Silver Spike Festival Celebrates Railroad’s Arrival in Tucson

February 28, 2013

Philadelphia has Independence Day. Tucson has the Silver Spike Festival, the event that essentially celebrates the beginning of modern Tucson.

The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is celebrating the 133rd anniversary of the arrival of the railroad into Downtown Tucson with the Silver Spike Festival on March 17 at 9 a.m.

This free, family fun historical event will display the original silver spike that was used in the original ceremony commemorating the arrival of the railroad on March 20, 1880. The Tucson we know today stems directly from this day in 1880 when the Southern Pacific Railroad gave Tucson a rail link to Los Angeles, and three years later, to New Orleans.

Locomotive No. 1673 is the big attraction at the Transportation Museum.

Locomotive No. 1673 is the big attraction at the Transportation Museum.

The Transportation Museum, 414 N. Toole Ave, is the building closest to Toole Avenue at the north end of the Historic Depot.

Watch as direct descendants from the Ochoa Family and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild perform the reenactment of that historic occasion. Listen to the sounds of the 4th regiment Cavalry Band play and look at the vintage Model T’s and the Surry Wagon with the fringe on top.

At the finale, the mayor will get into a 1917 Model T Depot Hack that was used to transport folks from the train to the hotel and motor to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Jim Click will bring his 1946 Ford Woody Station wagon for display and there will be several Model T Fords. In addition, plans are to display the Surrey with the fringe on top and the Ochoa Wagon.

This annual event will take place in front of Locomotive #1673, which was featured in the movie “Oklahoma.”

Honorees this year are Bruce Beach, CEO at BeachFleischman, as Benefactor of the Year; Robbie Carpenter, first female yardmaster, as Railroader of the Year and Anthony Haswell, advocate rail passenger, as Volunteer of the Year

This free family event will include display of the original 1880 Silver Spike; the 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment Band; a proclamation by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild; and display of historic modes of transportation.

An annual Sunday lecture series with three talks at 3 p.m. will lead up to the Silver Spike Festival.

Sunday, Feb. 24– “Historic Arizona Bridges and Their Engineers” will be presented by Jerry Cannon of Cannon Consultants, LLC. He will talk about a variety of historic bridges in Arizona and the engineers who were responsible for designing them

Sunday, March 3 – “The Copper Basin RR and the 1993 Gila River Flood” will be presented by L.S. “Jake” Jacobson, President of the Copper Basin Railroad. He will talk about the 1993 flood along the Gila River and its effects on the Copper Basin RR.  He will also talk about his and his employees efforts to keep the railroad from complete destruction.

Sunday, March 10 – “Railroads of the Sulphur Springs Valley” will have Richard Dick talk about the two railroads that were built in the Sulpur Springs Valley, one by the Southern Pacific Railroad and the other by the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad – both of which at one time served Downtown Tucson.