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New downtown mural celebrates the railroad in Tucson

Posted: 1:26 PM, Apr 26, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-26 16:26:12-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson is well known for its amazing and beautiful murals. Now there's a new mural going up downtown with a more historic take.

The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, located at the train depot on Toole Avenue, has been the driving force behind this new mural.

Tucson artist Bill Singleton and his son Gabriel are painting a three panel mural depicting the railroad coming to Tucson in 1880:

"These are a little different than a lot of murals. This is really an historical illustration," says Singleton. "This event here was probably one of the pivotal events in Tucson's history. The railroad changed everything."

That pivotal event happened on March 20, 1880, when the train made its first stop in Tucson.

I recently profiled the man responsible for bringing the train to Tucson—one-time mayor James Toole—the namesake of Toole Avenue, which runs in front of the train station and this new mural.

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"We were on the right track with representing all of the different cultures here in Tucson," says Tucson historian Bill Kalt, who did much of the research for the mural.

In the first panel, he points out the Chinese-Americans so instrumental in building the railroad in Southern Arizona:


Also depicted is the Tully and Ochoa freight wagon and the Pony Express rider—soon to be obsolete as the railroad nears completion.

"Those two were outpaced by the railroad coming through," Kalt tells me.

The middle panel shows that historic 'Silver Spike' moment when the train pulled into Tucson in 1880:


The third panel flashes forward about 80 years.

"The bright future that the railroad brought," says Kalt.

It depicts the late 1950s and a surge in visitors to Tucson by way of the railroad:


Ken Karrels, Chairman of the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, led the efforts to get this mural on the side of the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum.

"The idea here is education, but through entertainment," says Karrels.

He hopes to make this area along Toole Avenue a gathering spot for people to enjoy the historic mural—what he calls a pocket park.

It also makes the Transportation Museum a lot more visible.

"Now it's the place that has the mural in front."

It takes Bill Singleton and family about a month to do each panel. He says they'll soon start the third panel, and should be done around the end of May.
The Museum is located at 414 N. Toole Ave and is open every day except Mondays.


Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.