Monday, June 24, 2019

A Whistle-Post on the Railway: Arntz, Arizona

Follow the railroad tracks best of Holbrook, and just a few miles outside of town you'll pass a bare patch of land where a railroad station once stood. You'll know you're there because the Arntz Road crosses the tracks there from the north before veering sharply east. The station took its name from Werner Peter Arntz, the railroad roadmaster for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. Arntz may never have even lived in the settlement that took his name. In June, 1921, Arntz succeeded H. C. Storey as the train master on the Phoenix - Ash Fork Line of the railroad upon Storey's death, and resided in Prescott. There he stayed until he received a promotion in November, 1922, when Arntz returned to California to work at the Terminal Division in San Francisco.

Born in January, 1873, in Wisconsin, Arntz was the son of a French-born father and a German-born mother. In 1895, he married Hannah; census records show their children included Jeraldine and Julian. A lifelong railroad employee, Arntz was Chief Clerk at the AT & SF RR by 1915, when he lived in San Francisco at 3727 25th Street.

Arntz moved around as necessary for his railroad job. Just prior to moving to Arizona, he was Chief Clerk at Fresno. Arizona, at the time, was considerably less lively than his California residences. Perhaps the highlight of Arntz's Arizona career was traveling with the popular Sells-Floto Circus when it traveled by rail across the southwest. In September, 1922, Arntz was responsible for ensuring the bigtop and its entourage were safely moved. He joined them from Prescott to Ash Fork, where he left them to make their own way on the train to Winslow for their next show.

In April of that year, the papers were proud to announce the arrival of "high officials" of the AT & SF RR. Traveling in a special five-car train to tour the Santa Fe lines, the lofty executives were joined in Prescott by Arntz himself. His Arizona career, though brief, had its challenges: railroad labor unrest divided communities, and as workers pitted themselves against the railroads, Arntz found that he and his employee could find nowhere to eat in Parker (Arizona) in August, 1922. Four restaurants they tried to eat at closed their doors to the railroad men, hanging signs up saying, "We are not feeding scabs."

As for the tiny way station called Arntz, it remained humble. Its biggest news was excitedly reported by the Holbrook (Arizona) News on November 24, 1922. Calling it "a whistling post" seven miles east of Holbrook, the paper announced that Section Foreman William Melton and a section hand named Liberado Flores were arrested for having "materials and machinery" for the "manufacturing of the product so obnoxious to Mr. Volstead." Volstead, students of American history will know, was Mr. Andrew Volstead, whose name was given to the act establishing prohibition - the 18th Amendment. Melton and Flores were bootleggers, although the newspaper delicately avoided giving them such a scandalous name. The newspaper was more concerned with the fact a place called Arntz even existed: "So it is that Arentz breaks into fame, and we must confess that up to this time we ourselves had been entirely ignorant of its existence."

As for Werner P. Arntz, he and Hannah continued to move around in California after the Prescott office he'd held was abolished November 15, 1922. They lived, in 1932, once again in San Francisco; by 1939, in San Jose; ever moving along the tracks as needed by the railroad. His name remains in Arizona, though, a pin-prick on a wind-blown lot with just a tree-break still remaining along the tracks outside of Holbrook.


  1. Thank you for posting this. Vern is my paternal great-grandfather.

  2. Wow! That's very interesting. I'm glad you saw the post!
    Best wishes,