We're tossing out the news articles that usually appear up front so we'll have room for two full-length features. Both are timely, even though they revolve around Tucsonans who passed away some years ago.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the Weekly's resident Irish lass, Margaret Regan, has gone digging through the diaries of an Irish immigrant named Mary Eileen Murphy Walsh.

"Mim," as she was called, and her husband arrived in Southern Arizona just before World War I, and remained here until their deaths well into the Kennedy administration. Although they initially found the landscape desolate, they managed to surround themselves with enough Irish culture to feel at home. Because of people like the Walshes, when Tucson was a one-horse town, at least the horse had the fascinatingly mottled look of an Appaloosa.

The railroad brought the Walshes West, and was integral to our region's development and character. Venerable steam locomotive #1673, long incongruously displayed in Himmel Park, was recently moved to the right side of the tracks downtown. Next week there will be a public meeting to announce the engine's spiffy new display area.

This week we're pulling into the station a bit early with a story by Dave Devine about that engine and an old engineer, Connie Weinzapfel, who worked to preserve the railroad's heritage in Southern Arizona.

If you want to understand how Tucson turned out the way it did, you need to read about ordinary, interesting folks like Mary Walsh and Connie Weinzapfel.

More by James Reel

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