Cochcise Western Model Railroad Association

Ask any CWMRA long timer about the history of Cochise Western Model Railroad Association (formerly Cochise & Western Model Railroad Club) founded in 1972, and they can tell you about how the club started, what locations they were in and all of the changes over the years. After all, when you are almost 50 years old, you have a lot of history, right?

One interesting piece of history that remains slightly more obscure is the club’s tagline ‘Route of the Saguaros’. This tag line long since been adopted by CWMRA, has been printed on various club items and is prominently displayed as part of the Association’s logo.

Cochise Western Model Railroad Association Logo

But what does it mean? Shelly Short, the newly elected CWMRA social media manager decided to find out. Not knowing any better, she did what everyone does and went on a Google search expedition to find an actual route with that name. When that turned up nothing but some very interesting references to an old local El Paso & Southwestern (EP & SW) train route that ran from El Paso to Benson back in the late 1800’s, she asked some of the more seasoned members about the history of that phrase.

It turns out that ‘Route of the Saguaros’ was first coined a long time ago by one of the original founding members, Charles Cole. Because Charles is no longer with us, the rationale behind this interesting tag line has faded a little and left us to wonder about it. But if we consider a group of people with long ties in Arizona who also have a genuine love of model railroading, we don’t have to think about it too hard.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that has traversed the Grand Canyon State, our saguaros are not only incredibly unique and beautiful, but also a very prized anomaly. As we Arizonans know and are quick to tell everyone, they are mostly only naturally found in Southern Arizona and part of Mexico in the Sonoran Desert. The majestic Saguaro National Park near Tucson is just a short ride away from the city of Sierra Vista. A quick look around to see the design of our license plates and our plentiful regional art, further establishes the appreciation of the saguaro. The reality that many people have moved here because of their deep love of the Arizona landscape, gives the tagline more depth than a simple casual reference to a tall prickly plant.

Superstition Mountain with Saguaros, Photo by Shelly Short

Of course a tag line for a model railroad club must have some reference to trains, which brings us back to ‘Route of the Saguaros’. There is still a possibility that this tagline is at least a partial nod to that old EP & SW route. Many people mistake model railroading as grown-ups enjoying child’s play. However, watched carefully enough, they will find that this hobby is steeped in history and it takes a lot of time, effort and money to replicate historic railroading. Something Arizonan’s also love is their history, which is as much part of this Southern area of the state as the desert landscape and old West tall (or short) tales!

More philosophically though, ‘Route of the Saguaros’ perhaps, is the route all of the CWMRA members and avid model railroad enthusiasts took to get to this off-the-beaten-path city called Sierra Vista. Due to its size and proximity, it can be assumed that most of the city’s population is not originally from this area. Many have either been placed here in service to the military at Army base Fort Huachuca, or have consciously decided to move or retire here. The “route” they took, often brings them from much larger cities like Phoenix, or from farther away around the country or world. Many were looking for a smaller and more relaxed community. Undoubtedly, our members passed through those mighty saguaros on a new and exciting route, ready to disembark and fill as many days as possible with the joys of building and running model railroads. And it’s at this place that Cochise Western Model Railroad Association sits on the stop of the Route of the Saguaros waiting for all those model train lovers. Welcome.

Cochise Western MRA HO Scale Layout Train Depot, Photo by Shelly Short

If you are like us and are interested in model railroading, contact us at for more information about Cochise Western Model Railroading Association. Like and Follow us on facebook @CochiseWesternMRA for club updates.

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