On March 20,1880, the railroad changed life in Tucson as did no other entity. Its ribbons of steel connected the ancient and honorable pueblo with the rest of the US and brought tourists and new residents. With the coming of the railroad came increased commerce and tax revenue. Brick and lumber,mining machinery and the horseless carriage all arrived by train.
Celebrating Arizona's Centennial, the Union Pacific initiated the statehood festivities in dramatic fashion. In November 2011, UP's steam locomotive No. 844 roared into Tucson and was welcomed by thousands of cheering residents including the incoming mayor. The outgoing mayor was onboard and for the first time at a public occasion, the two mayors shook hands and greeted one another on the platform at the Historic Tucson Depot.
Recently, the Union Pacific Railroad awarded a UP Cares grant to Tucson for reducing accidents and fatalities in the downtown Tucson corridor. A task force was formed by the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum that brought together for the first time, senior level representatives from the the University of Arizona, the mental health community, members represesnting the homeless community, the Mayor's Office, the police, the Downtown Business Assoc., UP Security and Operation Lifesaver. The group continues to meet regularly and has developed a campaign aimed at targeting students, the mentally ill and the homeless populations in reducing rail crossing accidents through education, equipment and enforcement. The community connectivity and crossover education is tremendous and has had a significant impact in utilizing Mental Health and Police (crisis intervention) Training.
The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, thanks to a UP Foundation Grant, continues to provide education and entertainment for students, seniors, families and tourists with a focus on oral and video history of railroaders (many are UP retirees). The grant has provided cultural awareness through its recognition of Tucson's birthday, the Holiday Express for children, the Spring Lecture Series and the Silver Spike Festival with the original spike of 1880 and descendants reenacting the historical event of 1880.
As advancing technology brought changes to railroading, the Union Pacific kept pace and today, working in partnership with the Port of Tucson, the city is becoming a major hub in intermodal transportation.