Celebrating the arrival of the railroad to Tucson

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Dozens of Tucsonans spent the day downtown celebrating the arrival of the first southern pacific railroad train 131 years ago. It was all part of the Silver Spike Railroad Festival.

A tribute to the old locomotive kicked off the Silver Spike festival, right before a modern day train roared by.

Mayor Bob Walkup led a tour through historic locomotive 1673.  Thanks to newly installed stairways, visitors can now get an up close look at the machinery that rolled through Tucson more than 130 years ago.

"So it just totally transformed everything and as as result it transformed the economy and the way we did things," said Gene Caywood of the Old Pueblo Trolly / Southern Arizona Transportation Museum.

It turns out history almost took a dramatic turn.  If not for the first train, Tucson simply would not be Tucson.

"The other option they were talking about at the time was Florence, if the railroad had gone through Florence, conceivably Florence would be the size of Tucson today," said Caywood.

Silver Spike also boasts the pride of railway service, an industry with deep roots in our community.

Carolina Castillo Butler and nephew Melesio Perales, Jr. come from a long line of railroad workers who have served Arizona for 120 years.

"It started with our great grandfather filipe castillo and he was born in mexico in 1859," said  Carolina Castillo-Butler.

Castillo is seen in this picture.  His legacy has been passed on through five generations.

"We're putting double track from casa grande all the way to prince road and i'm in charge of that," said Melesio Perales, Jr.

Sunday railroad workers are still building the cities and towns of Monday.

Year after year, the Silver Spike festivities are meant to mirror the same celebration that took place on march 20, 1880.