New steam train excursion to operate between Parker and Cadiz, CA


A company that captures groundwater from its property in the Mojave Desert near Route 66 is teaming up with the Arizona & California Railroad Company to run a new steam railway excursion service.

Cadiz Inc. announced that it has entered into a new trackage rights agreement with the Arizona & California Railroad “that will facilitate the development of regularly schedule steam train excursions through the celebrated Mojave Desert between Cadiz, CA and Parker, AZ, which would be one of the longest steam train excursion routes in the United States.”

The company says the proposed new steam train operation, named the Cadiz Southeastern Railway, will be powered by water made available from the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery & Storage Project, by which native groundwater – which would otherwise be lost to dry lakes in the desert – is recovered and made available to use at rates of up to 50,000 acre-feet per year.

Cadiz, CA is located near Route 66 south of I-40 between Barstow and Lake Havasu City.

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“The steam train is an original fixture of the Cadiz area – an important historical asset intimately connected to the local culture – and offers a rewarding way to invest locally and promote the unique desert environment,” said Scott Slater, Cadiz President. “As a 30-year member of the Mojave Desert community, we have long appreciated the area’s majesty and appeal and are proud to diversify our business with this exciting new venture.”

The CSER will operate on existing tracks along an 85-mile portion of the ARZC between Parker, Arizona and Cadiz, California with water stops in desert locales of Milligan, Chubbuck, Rice and Vidal. This Mojave Desert Route, which is located just off historic Route-66, provides sweeping views of the vast desert wilderness, mountainous terrain and the Colorado River.

“The CSER route is nestled between the bustling desert tourist areas of Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, the Colorado River, Lake Havasu and Phoenix, Arizona,” noted Rob Mangels, a veteran of the steam locomotive industry and Senior Manager of the Cadiz Southeastern Railway operation. “As one of the longest, scheduled steam train operations in the U.S., the CSER will create a new magnet for tourists and railfans alike, adding new dollars to the desert tourist economy.”

The company says the operation will be an entertainment-based attraction offering both traditional excursion and themed rail rides. The museum and cultural center planned for Cadiz will serve as the operation’s educational hub. Visitors to the center, who arrive via rail or vehicles traveling along Route-66, will learn about the historical development of the area and the region’s connection to the railroad industry.

Cadiz, California was developed in 1883 as a small rail siding for transcontinental railroads heading west. According to historical accounts, Cadiz became a key watering stop for steam locomotives during the West’s expansion as railroad traffic to Los Angeles continued to increase. The ARZC route became operational in 1910 serving as shortcut for freight and passengers moving between Los Angeles and Phoenix as well as serving towns and communities along the line. Steam-powered locomotives relied on water at Cadiz until the mid-1950s, when the railroads shifted to diesel-electric locomotives.

The CSER operation will employ historic steam locomotives and vintage passenger railcars that will be modernized to incorporate current environmental and mechanical technologies. As CSER prepares its facilities and equipment, it intends to work with the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society, which maintains a 1927-built steam locomotive, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe number 3751, which came through Parker, AZ several months ago, to operate limited runs of the 3751 on the route.

The company also wants to build a museum and cultural center in Cadiz.


  1. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado, a highly scenic mountainous narrow gauge railroad, is only 45-miles long.

    Many riders take that train only one-way and return by bus because the steam trip is grueling and ingesting the steam engine’s emission is toxic and the soot is nauseating to breathe as it floods through the open windows. A one-way trip for the experience is sufficient. A 170-mile round-trip Cadiz steam engine trip over the hot/cold desert won’t be popular.

    To be authentic, this proposal should provide water by local wells and water railcars. If a water pipeline is deemed necessary, a 2-inch line running 12/7 would be far more than necessary for all the stops.

    The demand for such a rail service will probably fill less than one train each week, if that frequent. The Grand Canyon Railway struggles to make a profit and it has the Grand Canyon as its destination. Cadiz offers a blazing hot/cold desert farm.

    This rail project is probably planned to go broke immediately after Cadiz, Inc. acquires its water pipeline permit. It’s going to be interesting to see if the government is so dumb as to permit this pipeline scheme.

  2. Book a trip for me, I can’t wait! I wonder if there will be a menu of sorts- sandwiches, beer, maybe a hotdog?

  3. Interesting comment by CadizWater. I think there may be a political “sour grapes” aspect here somewhere. Come on…how fun can this be for our winter visitors…we can use the attraction. Hope the support will be here…I think it will. Congrats and Good Luck!!

  4. When will the train begin to run?

  5. This would be so cool! Hope it comes to fruition.

  6. Cadiz is only interested in the revenue they will receive by draining an underground aquifer the size of Lake Mead. Can you imagine the impact on the surrounding desert plants and animals? Don’t be fooled, it’s just ruse to gain access to the railroad right of way, so that they can build a pipeline to Orange County!

    “Federal law specifically prohibits building a pipeline with the sole exception of it being “railroad related”

    there is no way this could ever happen even if one could get the permission. there are too many physical questions that need to be answered too: is the track strong enough for a steam train? how about the bridge over the colorado? who is going to operate the train? are there already passing sidings in place?

    it takes an large, specilalized crew to run a steam train.

    one big question is how often would this train run? one of the wikipedia articles on cadiz mentions the proposed rail line and suggests santa fe 3751 is a possibility for a limited number of trips. it is owned by San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society and is stored in los angeles. they are mentioned in the wall street journal article and it seems they are interested. will bnsf grant track usage rights to 3751 to go from LA to cadiz?

    “Under the terms of the Agreement, CSER will operate and maintain its own steam locomotives, passenger cars and terminals within ARZC property.”

    where are those engines going to come from? where are they going to be stored? who will be the maintenance crew? china is the only country running regular steam trains. maybe CSER can buy them from china.

    so it is tied to the water mining, which i don’t think is going to happen. too many environmental issues and lawsuits and what appears to be corruption in CA state and county government.

    as for the view. there won’t be much pristine desert left if the proposed renewable energy plans go into effect – all those wonderful views will be spoiled by solar plant and wind turbines. the map of the area energy companies want to build in is enormous and if i read one right, there is a plan to build in the preserve.

    as for the mojave national preserve, its boundary ends at highway 40, so there won’t be much, if any, view of the preserve from the proposed train. the track which runs from cadiz to parker az does not follow route 66.

    before any pipeline for rail-related water to be built, all those other questions have to be answered on the basic building and operations of a tourist steam railroad. unless it is just a ruse and once the mining operation is up and running the railroad just can’t be built.

    as the radio station KCDZ, Z107.7FM in 29 palms springs said, “” the town of Cadiz itself it located more than two hours away from Palm Springs or other desert destinations; essentially requiring travelers to drive out of their way, to take a ride on a train to nowhere.”

    the story also said “Visitors to the center, who arrive via rail or vehicles traveling along Route-66”

    how are they going to arrive via rail? there is no stop for the amtrak southwest chief between barstow and needles, certainly not in cadiz. the ride between LA and needles is mostly at night both eastbound and westbound. so i seriously doubt people are going to arrive at cadiz via rail.

    this sounds like a ruse. but kind of a funny one, especially when you see the artist rendition of the museum/depot/cultural center. what culture?

  7. Please take note: is a PROTEST website against the cadiz water project. The official website of Cadiz is

  8. I rode the 3751 steam excursion to the Grand Canyon in 2012, which traversed the exact same route of the proposed Cadiz steam train over the Arizona & California RR. All due respect to the good people and businesses of the Cadiz area, but the portion of Grand Canyon excursion between Cadiz and Parker, AZ, was miserablly boring after about 20 minutes. The high point wasn’t Cadiz, rather it was finally arriving in Parker and heading for the air-conditioned motel. I love the unspoiled desert and steam trains, but enduring blistering heat over relatively featureless terrain for hours does not an attractive steam excursion make. Operating and maintaining steam locomotives is a costly proposition, more so than most people realize. Why do you think the railroads were so anxious to get rid of them? One does not have to be a marketing genius to to see that attracting enough visitors to pay for this ride and make a profitable operation is highly unlikely. I suspect there’s some validity to the conspiracy theororists suspicion that this is really a ruse to “railroad” their way to the water.

  9. Lawrence Wallace

    Mary Hamilton is correct. is a ‘PROTEST’ website established to debunk the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery & Storage Project as an unsustainable water pumping scam.

    Despite Cadiz, Inc. not having had one profitable year of operation EVER since it was established many years ago, its officers have been collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in salary compensation.

    The proposed live steam tourist train operation is ludicrous simply based upon economics. One can forget the PR that the train route is “an important historical asset intimately connected to the local culture.” As Fairbanks Morse wrote, the barren desert is “miserablly boring after about 20 minutes.” Few people will take the trip for hours once the negative reviews come out.

    But then, it is unlikely that the train was never meant to go into regular operation; but only to promote the establishment of its true purpose, the Cadiz, Inc. water pipeline.

  10. This may take a little longer than expected to accomplish. It’s been over three years and the old historic Route 66 is still closed between Mountain Spring Rd. and Kellbaker Rd. In other words, you can’t even legally drive to Cadiz. If the state of California, and San Bernardino County can’t even fix flood damaged bridges on the National Old Trails Highway (Route 66) in three years, (and don’t even have a projected start date at this time) this whole project may go up in smoke, like the proposed steam engine. My guess is, just the fact that it’s in California means the whole project is DOA. Now if they were to turn Cadiz into a Pot farm, maybe?

  11. The existing Arizona & California Railroad route between Phoenix & Parker, AZ could provide a method of enabling either Amtrak or Brightline West to create a passenger train connecting Phoenix & Las Vegas. Additional 120 miles new right of way would be required: about 40 miles connecting Parker via Lake Havasu City to Topock, AZ. Use the existing rail bridge over the Colorado River and 12 miles of track from Topock to Needles, CA.
    This 12 mile segment is used daily by Amtrak’s SW Chief, in addition to BNSF’s “Transcon” freight route.
    Then an additional 80 miles of new track connecting Needles via Laughlin to Boulder City, NV. Continue on existing track from Boulder City to Las Vegas.

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