Doing research on the three big floods that hit Bisbee in 1908, came across a minor item about a dust-up on a passenger train in Naco, Sonora, and, of course, as one thing tends to lead to another . . . .
There was trouble in Naco, the Bisbee Daily Review reported in its Aug. 5, 1908 issue, as a conductor on the Yaqui River railroad put a troublemaker off the train and was arrested by a local cop for his effort.
Datelined the prior day, the story said that Victor Bennett, “a well-known passenger conductor” on the road, the full name of which was the Cananea, Yaqui River and
Pacific Railroad, was arrested by a Mexican police officer for putting a Mexican passenger, who refused to pay his fare, off the train.
“For a while there was much excitement over the arrest and it required the conciliatory efforts of Superintendent H.J. Temple of the Yaqui River railroad to keep Conductor
Bennett out of jail.”
The man who was put off the train was armed when he was ejected and was arrested later by Constable Ellis (presumably of Naco, Arizona), but he had gotten rid of his six-shooter, so he was not charged.
By the time of this story, the copper-mining city of Cananea was growing apace with the Bisbee/Douglas complex and needed a railroad to bring in supplies.
It connected across the border with the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad (Copper Queen or Phelps Dodge ownership) and was as instrumental in in Cananea’s growth
as the railroad into Bisbee in 1889 had been to that town’s future.
A 1904 issue of The Railway World magazine said that the CYR&P had been completed from Naco to Cananea and the government (Porfirio Diaz’ regime) wanted it “immediately”
extended south some 200 to an undeveloped deep-water port near what we know today as Ciudad Obregon.
A major reason the government wanted it developed was for military purposes, in case there should be an outbreak of hostilities by the Yaquis in that area.
Railway World speculated that the Southern Pacific would get involved, with its Arizona Eastern Railroad (not to be confused with the former name of the EP&SW, which was
Arizona & Southeastern) linking to the line at Naco.
Railroads deep into Mexico
The ultimate goal of SP was a line directly from Kansas City to the port at Topolobampo on the Sea of Cortez. (That link would’t be made until the 1950s, when the famed Copper Canyon railroad over the Sierra Madres was finally built.)
Movement was slow on getting the road south from Cananea. The Boston Even Transcript in 1909 was still talking about how it might happen, with an E.H. Harriman line planned to
continue south from Cananea all the way to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. (That was the locale of a proposed Atlantic-Pacific train “canal” before the Panama Canal was completed in 1914. The United States took over work in 1904.)
The 1909 Transcript article pointed out that several state governments in Mexico had granted concessions for 800 miles of the CYR&P line down to southern Mexico. Along
with those concessions came 10 million acres of “choice” lands along the line. (These kinds of concessions, as you might suspect, played no small part in the soon-coming Revolution and then in the new Mexican Constitution of 1917. But that’s a whole bunch of different stories.)
The Transcript also said that “it is expected that the federal government will donate a liberal subsidy for the building of the proposed extension.” The state concessions
called for building several branch lines to interior points, with the total proposed trackage being more than 1,000 miles.
Anyhow, this has taken us from a minor dust-up in Naco to a multinational plan that played into a major revolution. Not bad for a quick glance at headlines in an old newspaper.