EAC donates 1898 “Rattlesnake” steam engine to Arizona Railway Museum

Courtesy photo Lowering the “Rattlesnake” boiler onto a flatbed truck.

THATCHER – With a long history of service, the Arizona Copper #7 steam locomotive, more affectionately named the “Rattlesnake,” built in 1896 for the Arizona Copper Company, was abandoned on a lonely Morenci mountainside in 1923, when the Coronado Railroad ceased operations.

The 20” narrow-gauge Porter engine, one of three abandoned engines rescued in late 1990, was donated to the “Museum of Discovery,” now the Eastern Arizona College Discovery Park Campus, in 1993. Two of the three steam engines are on display, one in the Phoenix area and the other in Clifton, next to the old jail. The “Rattlesnake” has found a new home at the Arizona Railway Museum in Chandler, with the promise of being restored and displayed for visitors to learn about its remarkable history.

The transfer was made difficult as the engine had been disassembled in an earlier effort to restore it. After collecting the pieces from around the campus, Steve Whisel, vice president and director of the Arizona Railway Museum, Pete Cook, author of “Locomotive Displays in Arizona” and volunteer Jim Byrn took three truck and trailer loads of the heavy iron parts, many weighing several hundred pounds. After a brief hiatus because of the Covid pandemic, the final load was the large boiler, weighing approximately 8,000 pounds. United Rental salesman Jimmy Pearson came to the rescue and coordinated the use of a United Rental 10,000-pound reach fork to load it on a large fifth-wheel trailer.

EAC is excited for the future of the “Rattlesnake” and the opportunity to share this illustrious part of Eastern Arizona mining and railroad history at the Arizona Railway Museum in Chandler. 

For more information on the Arizona Copper # 7 “Rattlesnake,” contact the Arizona Railway Museum at (480) 821-1108 or EAC’s Discovery Park Campus at (928) 428-6260.