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By Gordon Wilson, TCA #76-10233

Arizona is many things. Standing tallest among its many attributes is its beauty. First and foremost is the Grand Canyon . Lesser known by name, but equally stunning, are the Verde Canyon and Monument Valley, the latter being the site of many John Ford cowboy movies. On the western border of the state there is the Colorado River Valley , and to the south and east of our state is its best-known mineral, copper. If Arizona were not called The Grand Canyon State, it surely would be called The Copper State.

One of the outgrowths of these natural beauties and mineral deposits has been railroads, railroads to bring in tourists and railroads to haul out the minerals. Yes, the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Santa Fe railroads plied their way throughout Arizona for the better part of 150 years. In 1971, the TCA came to Arizona in the form of the Desert Division, which also included The Land of Enchantment ( New Mexico ) and the 12 most western counties of The Lone Star State ( Texas ).

The very first Desert Division Commemorative car, a colorful McCoy Standard Gauge Box Car

Such beauty and history have not been lost on members of the Desert Division interms of developing and issuing commemorative pieces of railroad rolling stock andrelated items. The first of these was McCoy Standard Gauge Box Car in bright yellow, green, and red. It celebrated the topography of the entire Division, from El Paso on the extreme southeast to Lake Meade and the Hoover Dam on the northwest. Since the prototype's assigned number was politically incorrect, the year of the Division's founding – 1971 – was ultimately selected to appear on the side of this, the first of its kind, issued through the Desert Division. Among the McCoy cars, this is one of the hardest to find, as only 100 were produced.

For whatever reason, it wasn't until 1996 that the next limited edition offering made its appearance. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Division, a truly unique piece was selected. Up to now, throughout TCA's Divisions, all commemorative offerings had been static. LTI had just introduced their On-line Step Vans. We were able to contract with Lionel for 240 of these “newbies,” but the ones from the Desert were quite different. First of all they were made of gray plastic. All other consumer and club issues (LCCA) were either orange or blue. The front side doors, rear doors, and license plate were all laser engraved with lettering and numbers, so they could never be confused with any other factory release. To top them off a holographic three-piece decal was affixed to the van's sides and roof. These are truly hard to find today – a birthday present to ourselves and anyone in TCA who wished to order one.

The On-Track Step Van in GRAY made to celebrate the Desert Division's 25th Anniversary in 1976

A rear view of the same van, showing the serial number 44 and the laser engraved numbers on the rear door and license plate

With the dawning of 1997, the Division went into overdrive, making available a plethora of offerings to celebrate not only Arizona , but the fact that the Desert Division was hosting its first ever National TCA Convention.

The Grand Canyon started things off with the first ever HO scale train set for a TCA Convention. Two Harriman style passenger cars and a Water Car, the same as the ones used on the Grand Canyon Railroad, were offered in a boxed set of three pieces and manufactured by Con-Cor, a Tucson , AZ based company. Heading north of the Grand Canyon toward the Utah border, a Marx hopper with coal load was another celebratory offering. The Black Mesa and Lake Powell Coal Company services the Navajo nation and coal mines between Window Rock and Lake Powell . It is a fully automated electric railroad whose blue and silver graphics are very stunning, especially when a long line of them pass by Monument Valley .

A TCA first was this HO offering depicting cars from the Grand Canyon Railroad

New Marx Black Mesa & Lake Powell Coal Hopper

Between Phoenix and Tucson runs the Southern Pacific Railroad line. The right o' way parallels Interstate 10 for nearly the entire 120 miles between Arizona 's two major metropolitan areas. Virtually any motor trip between these two Desert cities will allow the traveler to see at least one long freight. If one is really lucky, and in the right place at the right time, Amtrak's crack passenger train, “The Sunset Limited” might happen along while its' way to “The Big Easy” or “The City of Angels.”

An Arizona "Icon,"The RED ROCK Water Tower along Interstate Highway 10, near Marana



Down the way is a classic railroad icon – The Water Tower at Red Rock, just outside of Marana. Rich-Art made a copy of this “icon” for the Division, and it was the highest selling TCA Standard Gauge offering, EVER. Still, today, it maintains that status.



Superstition Mountain Line LIONEL operating Gondola with character depictions of The Dutchman, Jacob Waltz, and his burro who is running away with all of the Dutchman's Gold Nuggets


Another first for the Division was its fund raising car, the operating Superstition Mountain Lines operating gondola. This is one of Arizona 's most sought after legends, as it depicts Jacob Waltz, the Old Dutchman miner who found gold, chasing his burro, who is running away with the valued nuggets. To this day, expeditions are still launched into the Superstition Mountains in search of the Lost Dutchman's Mine. Of all the many operating gondolas, the various guidebooks rank this one as the hardest to acquire, as fewer than 300 were produced.

The American Flyer AT & SF Box Car, with Santa Fe 's Route Map on the side, thus the name, "Map Car"

American Flyer collectors were rewarded in 1997 with a never-before produced S gauge boxcar. In the '40's and '50's, thousands of AT&SF boxcars displayed the full Santa Fe Railroad system on their sides. They became known as “map cars” and were famous as “The Chief” and “ El Capitan .” Lionel liked it so much that the same car appeared in their 1998 consumer catalog.

The " Phoenix " diner, part of the TCA's 40th Anniversary Set


Naturally there was a TCA 40th Anniversary Passenger Car bedecked in orange,black, and silver. It was a Dining Car, named after the most populous state capital city in the USA . Didn't know that, did you? Yes, Phoenix , the fifth largest city in the country, was the name on the side of this car.

Moving to the Copper Country, we were most fortunate to have the full cooperation of one of the nation's premier Copper Smelting Companies, Phelps Dodge. K-Line made a custom Flat Car, quite similar to the ones Phelps Dodge uses to transport their Copper Ingots. The company aided us by making miniature Copper Ingots to fit on to the custom built car. In 1997 it was one of the most popular offerings made to the TCA members. Even as miniatures, however, this is a very heavy car, best left on a siding or a shelf for display.

The Phelps-Dodge especially constructed flat car with Copper Ingots

A better view of the miniature copper ingots; replicas of the real type made for the Desert Division by The Phelps-Dodge Corporation in Arizona


Celebrating the Western and Cowboy Heritage of Arizona, Pride Lines produced a special edition Cowboy figure with a Sahauro Cactus and Prickly Pear Cactus on either side of him. Arizona is still home to many working cowboys. The Earp Brothers, Doc Holliday, and Johnny Ringo were honest to goodness western cowboys and gunslingers, who were later popularized in the movies .Such legends movie stars as Tom Mix, Gabby Hayes, Gene Autry, Roy Rodgers, and of course John Wayne, all made their home in Arizona at one time or another. John Wayne owned a ranch about mid way between Phoenix and Tucson , where many movie stars would come to enjoy the wonderful Arizona sun. “Arizona Cowboy Joe,” thanks to Pride Lines, represented all of these Western and Cowboy Icons of the past.

The final offering presented for the '97 Convention took everyone to the western border of Arizona in the city of Parker , located in the Colorado River Valley . K-Line made a partial set consisting of an MP-15 locomotive, a boxcar, and a gondola with crates. This was a prelude to the Convention offering of a Crane and Boom Car duo. All of them were decorated in the livery of the Arizona and California Railroad. This set has a bit of irony to it. A month after the Convention, I received, as Desert Division President, a letter from the AZ& CA RR asking for permission to paint their plain black Bucyrus-Erie Crane Car the same way as we had decorated ours. Isn't that “Life Imitating Art?”

The MP-15 Diesel Locomotive that pulled the CA & AZ K-Line set

A CA & AZ gondola with LCL crates that was part of the Set offering

The "Regular" issue of the CA & AZ Box Car. It came in the K-Line Set

The "Reverse" color CA & AZ Box Car. It was a Convention Banquet. Table Prize and less than 150 were made

CA & AZ Crane and Boom Cars, a Division Convention offering

Now here we are some nine years later, and the Desert Division is once again going to Celebrate the Natural Wonders of Arizona. It is a set of two 6464 style box cars, made by LIONEL, that will be decorated in the colors and logos of the Verde Canyon Railroad and the Grand Canyon Railroad. Today, these are two of the most popular Tourist Railroads in the Western United States . The Verde Canyon box car will come in a baby blue and cream and feature their logo which is a picture of one of their spectacular vintage F-7 diesels. The Grand Canyon Railroad car comes in a vivid red with their colorful logo in a prominent place. The cost for these two beautifully decorated boxcars will be only $95, including shipping and handling.

Verde Canyon Boxcar
Grand Canyon Railroad Boxcar

Do you have ALL of the Desert Division offerings since 1978? If not, start now and order this 2006/2007 exquisite two - pack. Then go to the Desert Division website of and see about getting one of the few remaining 1976 Step Vans. The current two car selection must be ordered by February 14, 2007 , which coincidentally is Arizona State 's Day, the day Arizona became the 48th state of the USA .



- Fill out the bottom of this form completely and enclose it with a check/money order for the total amount payable to the: TCA Desert Division

- Mail form and check to:

TCA Desert Division

25375 N. Feather Mountain Rd.

Paulden , AZ 86334-2713


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