Climbing out of Holbrook, AZ the evening of August 5th, 2010 on the way back to Snowflake.

(Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, The Republic of California, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Apache Railway (reporting mark APA) is an Arizona short-line railroad that operates from a connection with the BNSF Railway at Holbrook to the Snowflake Mill near Snowflake, Arizona, 38 miles (61 km). The APA was acquired by Catalyst Paper from Abitibi Consolidated in 2008. The Snowflake paper mill shut down permanently on September 30, 2012. In late 2015, the railway was purchased out of bankruptcy by a group including Aztec Land & Cattle Company and Midwest Poultry Producers, L.P., thereby avoiding a shutdown and scrappage of the line. The railway continues to operate, and its revenues are driven primarily by car repair and storage. The railway's freight revenues have not yet recovered from the shutdown of the Snowflake paper mill then owned by Catalyst, although efforts to enhance them continue.


Apache Railway Alco RS36 900 at Snowflake, Arizona, October 25, 1974. Photographer: W L Hammond.

(Craig Garver, Public domain,

The Apache Railway is a lumber railroad running south from Holbrook, Arizona, on the Santa Fe mainline, to Snowflake, where the mill is. For a lumber carrier, Snowflake is located on a broad plane with virtually no natural trees! Lines used to extend into the White Moutains to the south and to Show Low. They were all Alco, except for a FM H-12-44. They owned three of these units, numbered 700, 800, and 900. - Craig Garver


The Apache Railway was incorporated in 1917, when it began construction of a rail line from Holbrook south, reaching Snowflake in 1918. It was extended south to McNary in 1920.

From October 1, 1931, until 1936, amid the Great Depression, the APA was placed in receivership.

A tourist railroad, the White Mountain Scenic Railroad, operated steam powered passenger excursions over the Southwest Forest Industries-owned line from McNary to the logging camp of Maverick, AZ, beginning in 1964. As track conditions deteriorated, the excursions were cut back in later years to a point about halfway to Maverick. In the final years, it operated north from Pinetop Lakes to a place called Bell Siding on U.S. Route 60. In 1976, the White Mountain Scenic Railroad ceased operations and moved its equipment to Heber City, Utah to be used on an excursion there known as the "Heber Creeper." The line from Maverick to McNary, with some elevations exceeding 9,000 ft (2,700 m), was removed in 1982 after the McNary sawmill closed.

By the 1980s, the Apache Railway was Arizona's only remaining logging railroad. The track from Snowflake to McNary was abandoned in 1982.

In July 2012, the owner of the railroad and an on-line paper mill, Catalyst Paper, announced that the mill and railroad would shut down and be sold later in the year. In December, Catalyst agreed to sell the railroad and mill to Hackman Capital. Hackman planned to dismantle the railroad along with the mill, but local officials who wanted to retain rail service formed a non-profit foundation to purchase the railroad from lenders, using a federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan, which was denied in November 2014. Hackman took over control again and put the railroad into bankruptcy in May 2015, while local officials attempted to secure a rural economic development loan from the USDA. A bankruptcy court ruled on September 1, 2015, to postpone the sale deadline of the railroad, which the court valued at $7.2 million, until November 30.

After several dispositive hearings before the bankruptcy court, the Aztec Land & Cattle Company agreed to pay Hackman the amount due. In 2015, the Apache Railway’s stock was passed to a holding company that is owned and controlled by both Aztec and Midwest Poultry.


Apache Railway Alco C420 82 at Snowflake, Arizona, July 23, 1985. Photographer: Peter Arnold.

(Craig Garver, Public domain,

Built as Tennesee Central 400, part of a two-unit order, TC 400-401. It became Louisville & Nashville 1318 in the merger of 1968. It was retired in November, 1979, and acquired by Apache in 1980. Alco 3438-01, March, 1966. - Craig Garver



1996 figures: 16,000 cars per year

  • recycled fiber
  • pulpwood
  • wood chips
  • coal
  • paper
  • chemicals
  • grain

2018 figures: Apache Railway has evolved into car repairs, wet and dry cleaning, and railcar storage. In April 2018, the railroad opened itself to repairing tank cars followed by an immediate onslaught of business. Approximately 10% of total revenue comes from actual freight haulage while the remaining 90% consists of railcar repair, cleaning, and storage.


Apache Railway Alco C420 83 at Snowflake, Arizona, July 23, 1985. Photographer: Peter Arnold.

(Craig Garver, Public domain,

Built as Monon 516, part of the final order for 12 units, Monon 507-518. It became Louisville & Nashville 1333 in the August, 1971, merger. It was retired in November, 1979, and acquired by the Apache in 1980. Alco 3490-10, August, 1967. - Craig Garver


Passenger service

The Apache Railway offered passenger service until the 1950s. In July 1954, the mixed train operated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, departing McNary at 7:15 am, arriving Holbrook at 12:15 pm, departing there at 1:30 pm and returning to McNary at 7:00 pm.


Apache Railway Alco RS11 901 at Snowflake, Arizona, February 16, 1981. Photographer: Peter Jobe.

(Craig Garver, Public domain,

This unit was built as Southern Pacific 5856 in May, 1959. It was renumbered SP 2921 in the 1965 general renumbering. It was acquired by the Apache in the late 1970's, and was scrapped when it was retired in 1981.  The Apache also bought three other SP RS11's, all of which were in fairly bad shape.  Those units survived and were sold to Cementos Portland Nacional in Hermosillo, Sonora, in 1986. - Craig Garver


Motive power

The Apache Railway uses ALCO Century C420 and C424s.

Current Roster:

APA 81 - C420

APA 82 - C420

APA 83 - C420

APA 84 - C420

APA 97 - M424

APA 98 - M424

APA 99 - M424


Route in 1930.

(Missouri Pacific Lines, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



  • Holbrook (interchange with BNSF Railway's Gallup Subdivision/formerly Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway)
  • Blair
  • Snowflake Pig Farm
  • Tours
  • Snowflake Junction
  • Apache Railway Shops
  • Snowflake Paper Mill (Catalyst Paper)
  • Snowflake Junction
  • Snowflake


Abandoned routes

Abandoned in 1980.

  • Snowflake (interchange with the now defunct Standard Lumber)
  • Taylor
  • Silver Lake
  • Bell Siding
  • Sponseller (with several lumber spurs into the forest to the east)
  • Pinetop Lakes (with several lumber spurs into the forest)
  • McNary (interchange with Southwest Forest Industries)
  • Camp 28 (with several lumber spurs into the forest)

In addition, a 2 to 3 mile (3–5 km) section of track used to run from south of Tours to Snowflake. Today's line runs from Tours to Snowflake Junction.


Current map.

(No machine-readable author provided. NE2 assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



Headquarters: Snowflake, Arizona
Reporting mark: APA
Locale: Holbrook–Snowflake, Arizona
Dates of operation: 1917–
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

Phone: 928 536 4696



See Also:

Railroads A-Z