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Zephyr

Photo by Jim Headley

Ever see a Zephyr fly? Thursday, one actually did in Maricopa.

Maricopa’s vintage California Zephyr streamline passenger car was moved down Casa Grande-Maricopa Highway to make room for the new State Route 347 overpass in the center of the city.

GoPro footage:

Shortly after 10 a.m., two large cranes carefully picked up the Zephyr and gently placed it onto a large semitrailer. It was chained down and driven about three blocks down the highway. Again, the cranes picked it up and placed it on its new rails, beside the former Rotary swimming pool.

The Maricopa Historical Society purchased the Zephyr from Pinal County for the sum of $1.

“They were interested in cooperating with us, the City and ADOT, so that this could be put here and be a community centerpiece going forward,” said Paul Shirk, president of the Society.

Funds for moving the Zephyr came from county funds garnered through the Arizona Department of Transportation’s purchase of the property where the railcar previously sat.

“Because of the overpass, we had to move the Zephyr,” Shirk said. “The county was the owner of the Zephyr at that time, so they put that fund up, so the citizens of Maricopa did not have to incur any expense to do this. Now we’re working with the City, and with the generous contribution of the land by John and Marylou Smith, the City can have a park here and we can have a place for the Zephyr.”

Moving a large train car might be a stressful operation, but Shirk disagreed.

“It was a blast. There is no tense, this is just fun.  Too many people say history is boring. Too much memorizing names and dates. We don’t do that. We tell a story in a fun way. Our meeting is every first Monday of the month over at the library. We spend a little time on business and then spend an hour-and-a-half on fun,” he said, adding, “We have a lot of history to tell.”

Shirk, who was a little teary-eyed when the car was lifted off its rails, said he arrived for the move at 5 a.m. and city personnel had everything organized and in place for the 10 a.m. move under Mike Riggs’ leadership.

“Everything just went according to plan. It just clicked,” Shirk said.

Riggs, assistant director of public works for Maricopa, has been putting together the Zephyr’s move over the past 30 days. He said the entire move went without a problem.

“It’s been a great experience,” Riggs said. “It’s great how the City all participated –  the police department and all the divisions jumped in to help. It has been an awesome 30 days.”

Riggs said the crane company that moved the Zephyr, Southwest Industrial Rigging, also moved it to Maricopa in 2001 and will “swing the bridge girders into place over the highway this weekend.”

Friday and Saturday night, the highway will be closed in that section from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the installation of the bridge girders.

“It was imperative that we move the Zephyr today,” Riggs said. “We have a great spot for the Zephyr to sit now for years to come.”

Mayor Christian Price said watching the Zephyr fly was truly an event.

“It was amazing to see it come off the track where it’s been sitting for the past decade plus,” said Price. “It was amazing to watch them thread the needle with that train between the two cranes.”

Price said Maricopa has great things ahead as the overpass takes shape to ease transportation.

“We have been working so hard for the past decade on trying to get through the recession and put things in place that will allow for quality of life. Now we are entering the next phase. That next phase is the explosion of Maricopa, from the standpoint of businesses, commercial and retail. That is what we are working towards,” Price said.

In its new home, near Maricopa Veterans Center, the Zephyr will “be a mainstay that represents Maricopa is welcoming to the community and to people who are visiting. We are going to welcome newcomers in and we’re going to make sure that we have a lot of good events for the people who live here,” Shirk said.

Mike Kemery of Maricopa’s VFW post was among veterans who turned out to watch the railcar move next door. He said the historical society was making its future parking around the Zephyr available to veterans for special events.

Rick Horst, Maricopa city manager, said moving the Zephyr in a safe and organized fashion represents the entire community’s structure.

“Many communities are so divided on so many issues. You just don’t sense that here,” Horst said. “That’s what makes this place feel like home. The future is whatever we want it to be. Our goal is to make sure we create a place where everyone can be successful, whether it is a single parent, a family, a business, a nonprofit, the educational system – whatever it is we want to create the environment that the true values of hard work will pay off in this community.”

Crews prepare the rails to be the new home of the Zephyr. Photo by Jim Headley

Placing rails from 1946-47, city crews prepared for next week’s moving of the Silver Horizon California Zephyr Friday morning to the former Rotary Park.

The Zephyr railcar has been in place next to the Amtrak station since 2001. Maricopa Historical Society purchased the car from Pinal County in 2017. The construction of the State Route 347 overpass across the Union Pacific tracks hastened the removal of the car.

Society President Paul Shirk said the Zephyr would be removed by crane on Jan. 10. The railcar, which weighs 116,000 pounds, will be hoisted onto a truck and driven east to its new home next to the old swimming pool. There, the cranes will again lift the car and place it on the newly installed rails.

By coincidence, the rails are the same age as the railcar. The California Zephyr ran the Burlington Northern route from Chicago to Los Angeles starting in the ’40s and retired in 1970. It appeared in the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor.

The removal of the Zephyr on Thursday morning will cause traffic restrictions on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and parking restrictions around the area. At 86 feet in length, it fits in the space of a basketball court, Shirk said.

“I went out there and measured to make sure,” he said.

The removal is slated to start around 10 a.m.

The Zephyr does not have electricity, a situation that will soon change. Shirk said the Society expects to have historical information on display inside and eventually use it to host events again.

The Zephyr needs to move now while there is still space for the required cranes next to the site of the overpass construction. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Concept for future landscaping at the home of the Zephyr. (City of Maricopa)

The California Zephyr being lifted into place in Maricopa in 2001. Photo courtesy of Maricopa Historical Society

The City of Maricopa and the Maricopa Historical Society have partnered to relocate the iconic California Zephyr railcar Silver Horizon to a new location at the site of the former community pool adjacent to the Maricopa Unified School District Offices.

The Zephyr railcar came to Maricopa in 2000 and was utilized as the Amtrak ticket station for the community from 2001 to 2003 before a larger ticket station was built closer to the railroad tracks. The Maricopa Historical Society then opened the car for public tours and history exhibits.

Originally owned by Pinal County, following the restoration efforts of Mike Ingram of El Dorado Holdings, Inc., the Silver Horizon was purchased by the Maricopa Historical Society In 2017.

“This makes so much sense to transfer the ownership to the non-profit, Maricopa Historical Society,” Pinal County District IV Supervisor Anthony Smith said at the time of the sale. “We are pleased to help keep alive this symbol of an era when Maricopa played an important role for rail travel in the United States.”

With construction of the State Route 347 Overpass taking place near the Silver Horizon’s current home, relocation was determined to be the best course of action to preserve the historical railcar.

The land that will now hold the Silver Horizon was donated to the City of Maricopa by John and Mary Lou Smith.

“We are extremely thankful to the Smith family for their generous donation of the land upon which the Zephyr will now sit, for our partnership with the Maricopa Historical Society, and for the ability to preserve and display this part of Maricopa’s proud history for generations to come,” City of Maricopa Mayor Christian Price said.

Upgrades and added features are expected to be built around the railcar’s new location.

“We are looking forward to upgrading the car, building displays that can be interchanged, add a research library along with holding special events and open houses for the public to see the railcar,” President of the Maricopa Historical Society Paul Shirk said. “We wish to acknowledge and thank Supervisor Anthony Smith, Mayor Christian Price, City Manager Rick Horst, and their staffs for the support and assistance in bringing this process to a successful conclusion.”

The Silver Horizon is currently projected to be relocated in January.

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A Maricopa icon was moved one step closer toward its new home Tuesday at the Maricopa City Council Meeting.

Council approved a measure which will guarantee $240,000 in relocation funds for the Zephyr railcar, which is to be moved as part of the State Route 347 Union Pacific Rail Road Overpass project.

The money was granted to the city by Pinal County as part of its contribution to the overpass project and will go to a contract awarded to Caliente Construction Incorporated to provide “preconstruction and construction services for the California Zephyr Relocation.”

The Maricopa Historical Society, with the hopes of turning the railcar into an operational museum of Maricopa history, took control of the Zephyr in July after purchasing it from the county for a symbolic $1.

Though the icon is not in the direct path of the overpass, it would end up so close to the grade separation that the historical society and the county decided the best option would be relocation.

Maricopa Historical Society President Paul Shirk said there are a few places they would like to move the Zephyr, but nothing is set in stone. When pressed on a likely home for the railcar, Shirk said he didn’t want to jinx it.

Possible areas mentioned at past historical society meetings include Edison Road near the proposed Estrella Gin Business Park, and a much closer location, just across Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway from its current home, in the Heritage District.

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Members of the Arts Task Force discuss ideas for a city Arts Committee. Photo by Mason Callejas

The city of Maricopa’s Arts Task Force met Wednesday to discuss plans for the formation of an official committee for preserving and promoting the arts in Maricopa.

Seven members of the task force met in the Cotton Room at City Hall to approve a final draft of their official Art Display application and to discuss the needs and goals of an Arts Committee, should one be formed.

Basic ideas were tossed around about an official mission statement, marketing plans and the hosting of public events. However, a more intrinsic and long-term concept was shared by several of the members – the integration of art into the city’s planning and development process.

Maricopa City Council’s liaison to the Arts Task Force, Peggy Chapados, suggested not only should art be deliberately integrated into construction, but that room should be made at most city properties to allow for art installations themselves.

“There should be art incorporated into [properties], and on and around them as well,” Chapados said as she added the idea to a large enumerated list of ideas posted on the wall.

City Hall is one such structure which already embraces this concept. The building itself is designed to reflect the city’s heritage and values, Chapados added. And gallery space has been reserved for area artists who can not only display their work, but sell it as well.

The city’s image was another topic of discussion.

“What do you think of when you imagine Maricopa,” Chapados asked of the group.

Icons like the Zephyr railcar and the horse statues on the southeast corner of Smith-Enke and John Wayne Parkway were mentioned. However, the overwhelming response was somewhat limited, leading some to suggest the creation of new icons such as marquees or unique identifying markers at each of the city’s four main inroads.

Paul Shirk, president of the Maricopa Historical Society and member of the Arts Task Force, said he hopes wherever the Zephyr is moved it will be largely visible to visitors.

The Zephyr’s current location near the Maricopa Amtrak station is great, Shirk said, but unfortunately the State Route 347 overpass will soon obstruct its view to travelers entering the city from the east, not to mention that the land it currently sits on is owned by the county.

By the end of the meeting, the task force members were well on their way to outlining goals and establishing the foundation of a future “Arts Committee,” though much is still left to discuss.

The group agreed to meet again, Aug 9, at 6 p.m. in the same location, to continue outlining their plans.

CAD instructor Patrick Ramirez (left) shows the scanning program to Maricopa Historical Society's Paul Shirk and Dorothy Charles. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The California Zephyr railcar received a serious scanning Friday.

Maricopan Patrick Ramirez, a journeyman plumber and a computer-aided design (CAD) and laser-scanning instructor with UA Local 469, brought fellow instructors and high-tech equipment to the historic car next to the Amtrak station to give it a three-dimensional scan.

Using Faro software and equipment – a portable laser scanner and a laser scanner on a tripod – Ramirez, Dustin Baker and Michael Trask took several minutes to record the Zephyr 360 degrees, inside and out, from the dome to the wheels. That work will create a 3D model like those they create of buildings for plumbing and other utilities.

So, why the Zephyr?

“I’ve always been interested in it,” said Ramirez, who has lived in The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado for three years. “I love trains. Every time I drive by this thing, I’d love to go inside.”

Ramirez brought his idea to Paul Shirk, president of the Maricopa Historical Society, which recently acquired the railcar from Pinal County. The Society is mulling relocating the car once the land lease runs out, and the 3D modeling could be helpful in a move and setup.

Shirk said Ramirez is a “founding member” of what is becoming the Zephyr Guild, imagined as a collection of local skilled workers willing to donate their talents and knowledge to improve the railcar and fit it for historical displays.

Ramirez wants to use it as a teaching tool for the apprenticeship program at the Pipe Trades Training Center. He said the scanning process “allows the student to get hands-on, real-life data.”

“If it takes something that we just looked at, and we walk around and we talk about it and propose different ways of gathering information about this and what’s around it, that’s a talking point. I don’t like talking points,” he said. “I like showing points. I like things that convey information.

“So, when I talk about this, I’m over here on the computer and bringing up the file and I’m telling the students you can walk around and get information. And sometimes it’s six months later that you need this little bit of information, and you can drive four hours or you can pull up the file on your computer.”

In pipe trades, Ramirez said, the accuracy level of laser scans must be between an eighth-inch and a half-inch.

Shirk said the equipment is enhancing the typical blue-color trades of plumbing and steamfitting to make them high-tech careers. He said the laser-scanning instructors would like to bring students to Maricopa to see the Zephyr and compare the 3D renderings.