Winslow Depot MP 285.5

 

The Winslow depot, at 4852.9 feet, is exactly the lowest point between two major divides on the Santa Fe. To the east, topping 7227.3 feet*, is the Continental Divide at Gonzales, New Mexico, and to the west, at 7354.4 feet, is the Arizona Divide at Riordan, Arizona (6 miles west of Flagstaff). Both divides offer near continuous climbs, with the westward ascent to Riordan being the harder of the two. The climb to the Continental Divide never exceeds 0.6% grades and gains 2375 of elevation in 155 miles for an average of 15 feet per mile. On the other side, the climb to the Arizona Divide has sustained grades of 1.42% and gains slightly more elevation, 2502 feet, but does it only in 65 miles, for an average of nearly 38 feet per mile, over twice that of the Continental Divide.

Because it is a low point and a flat spot on the Colorado Plateau, Winslow seemed a logical place to change crews and reduce tonnage. As such, the town, which was created by the railroad and named after Gen. Edward F. Winslow, president of the St Louis and San Francisco RR, and half owners of the Atlantic & Pacific, has always been an important place on the Santa Fe. At one time Winslow boasted a large hotel, a depot, a divisional office, as it was home for the Albuquerque Division, an ice deck, cattle pens, a 1571 car yard and a large roundhouse, which has the distinction of being the first Diesel roundhouse in the country.

But like most railroad facilities, Winslow peaked during World War II and then entered into a slow decline. The first to go was a building that was never built. The Santa Fe wanted to construct a large Diesel-only facility during the War, but a dispute between the railroad and the city resulted in the shop being built in Barstow instead. Then after steam was retired and freights no longer changed power, the roundhouse suffered huge job-cuts and part of the roundhouse was torn down. Then the La Posada hotel closed. Fortunately, the railroad elected to move the divisional offices and dispatchers into the hotel and demolished the old headquarters, thereby sparing the Mary Colter designed gem of 1930. The ice deck, ice house and cattle pens fell when the traffic either dried up or was replaced by mechanical reefers and trailers. Finally, in the 1980s the yard closed, the dispatchers, as well as most of the divisional staff moved to Albuquerque. The only thing that remained was a skeletal shift at the roundhouse, the depot, which served Amtrak, and the crew change, which still used the hotel. The hotel was completely abandoned when the crew change point was shifted to the west end of the yard on the site of the old ice-house. Winslow was now truly at a low point, not only geographically, but also spiritually.

Since the dark days, the complex around Winslow has experienced a bit of a renaissance. The La Posada is restored and reopened as a hotel in the Harvey House tradition. And the yard, which originally functioned as a place to reduce westward tonnage and build Phoenix line trains, has reopened with a yardmaster and a herder. Apparently, the practice of making on-line set-outs and pick-ups for Phoenix trains was tying up the mainline to unacceptable levels. The only constant throughout the changes to Winslow has been the depot. The depot has been the depot since 1930 when it was constructed alongside the hotel. By the way, the Winslow depot is the official dividing point between the 2nd and 3rd Districts.

* The railroad is grade separated at the Continental Divide, with the westward main reaching7249.7 feet.